Fashion's Love Affair With Gail Elliott
The Insight Of Her Fashion Philosophy
What inspired you to become a fashion designer?
I was extremely fortunate to enjoy a very successful 24 year career as a model in the late 80s and 90s in which I developed an enormous interest in fashion and became to appreciate quality, luxury and the power of how beautiful clothing make a woman feel. From a young age at around thirteen years old, I remember saving my pocket money and loving to go into Chelsea Girl in London to buy my clothing. Having worked with all the major fashion designers, photographers, magazine editors, stylists, models, hair stylists and makeup artists as a model for so many years, I began to feel the need to express my learnings, fashion thoughts and feelings creatively. I’d walked the international runways in Paris, Milan, London and New York season upon season for every major designer you can name - Karl Largerfeld, Chanel, Azzedine Alaia, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, Valentino, Gianni Versace, Armani, Chloe and John Galliano to name a few and shot for all the prestigious international fashion magazines - Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, Elle, Marie-Claire and others. My first designs were very simple slip dresses and camisoles. Pieces I needed for myself and couldn’t seem to find in stores at the time and worked with my hectic modelling travel schedule. They were easy to pack, were perfect with that inner-wear as outer-wear look that was just starting to happen, they made me feel good to either sleep in or wear out, they could very easily be layered and worked well with other items in my wardrobe. I started with six silk slip dresses and six silk camisoles and six colours. My husband Joe Coffey who is the Co founder and CEO of our Little Joe Woman brand and I booked our first buying appointment with Browns Boutique on South Molton Street in London. We made an appointment with Mrs Burstein who knew of me from walking the fashion runways, she bought the whole collection and our business started from there.
What is it you like best about being a fashion designer?
I love that fashion is forever changing therefore there’s always something new and exciting happening. I also love how clothing makes you feel and can change your mood. One can feel powerful, professional, sexy, feminine or alluring simply by what one chooses to wear. I also love being able to design pieces that make women feel confident and strong.
Who or what are your inspirations for creating your designs?
I’m inspired everyday by my life, things I see, people I meet, the places I travel to and conversations and experiences I have. I design for myself, my friends and for my customers and gather information for the next collection months before we have to put it down on paper. Our collections feature bold animal prints, fringing, embroidery, leather, florals and lace. I love the look of a feminine silk slip dress teamed with a leather jacket and an ankle boot. It’s feminine and masculine at the same time, it’s classic, elegant, never dates and is one of our signature looks.
What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion is a wonderful way to express yourself - it’s a great way for me to connect with the women of the world. Our Little Joe Woman customer appreciates luxury. She has an elegant rock-chic vibe, she’s a busy person, she enjoys travel and loves life….just like me.
How does your fashion relate to New Zealanders?
We have group of customers from New Zealand who love and are very loyal to the brand. I find our N.Z customers are stylish, well travelled and well read women who enjoy fashion. They’re stylish and intelligent - some are CEO’s of companies and others own their businesses. I am also very strong on customer service and personally answer all inquiries and give styling advice to anyone and everyone who asks as I really am the most experienced and best person for this and our N.Z customers very much appreciate this.
How do you relax / feel luxurious?
I enjoy simple things to relax like having a cup of tea in a beautiful cup or taking our six dogs for a long beach walk with my husband. Sitting in a cafe people watching, having an afternoon by the pool or reading all make me feel relaxed. Owning a good quality cashmere scarf or blanket and always being well groomed by having a manicure, pedicure and blow-dry can make me feel relaxed, pampered and luxurious. I don’t need much, I enjoy simple pleasures.
What are some of your favourite brands?
I love Chanel, Hermes and Azzedine Alaia and still have so many pieces of clothing, handbags, shoes and jewellery gifted to me from the designers that I still wear and team with my current Little Joe Woman pieces.
Who is your style icon?
My style icon is a mix of Carine Roitfeld and Kate Moss. Classic, stylish and elegant.
What music is playing while you’re working?
I’m quite into a selection of music - Chet Faker, Amos Lee, Plan B, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Angus & Julia Stone and I love Post Malone.
What's your favourite piece that you've created to date?
I’d have to say our slip dresses and camisoles. We introduce new styles and colours into every collection and they’re always staples and our best sellers whether they’re with lace, minimal without, solid colours, printed, luxe silk tie-dyed, short, knee length or maxi. We started with these items and we’ve become known for them now and I also happen to live in slip dresses whether I’m heading to the office, taking a beach walk, meeting friends or simply being at home. They’re the simplest, most comfortable pieces and are flattering to all body shapes, they’re always current, easily layered with cashmere, leather, under a coat or even over slim pants - they’re perfect dressed up or down and make you look and feel feminine, polished and cool.
What is your best and worst fashion moment?
Every collection is an achievement I’m proud of and feels like a fashion moment. Having people purchasing our brand or seeing people in the street or on Instagram wearing something we’ve designed is something I feel proud of. Seeing everyone's individual styles is so interesting to me and seeing someone carrying a Little Joe Woman carrier bag or seeing the sales come through on the website is something that always makes me smile and appreciate how far we’ve come as a business. I don't think I’ve had a worst fashion moment yet - hopefully I’ll never experience one.
How do you stay up to date regarding fashion?
I don't know, it’s just something you have or you don't. It’s being connected to women, our customers and what I feel I and others will want to wear.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start their own fashion label?
I LOVE what I do and owning a business with my husband who lucky for me is also my business partner. I also love working in fashion and designing clothing that can make women feel beautiful and confident about themselves but it can be very exhausting when I have so much to do and wish there were 8 days in a week. When we started our Little Joe Woman brand I had no idea of what goes into making a brand work and be successful. To begin with it was easy because we were new and had a good story and designed pieces everyone wanted to wear and stores wanted to purchase the brand. But after a few collections stores wanted more categories, wanted us to design for more seasons and as we grew things got more complicated. It’s not just about designing pretty clothing you also need to understand fabric and trim prices and what that can do for a garment, sampling, production, retail margins, wholesale margins, shipping and delivery timing, staff, rents and so much more. Then there's the whole marketing side… so I would very much advise anyone who wants to start their own fashion label to learn as much as they can beforehand.
What will be the must-buy fashion item for next summer?
This summer I’m looking forward to wearing long flowing chiffon maxi dresses in our exclusive luxe-boho prints, silk slips and delicate camisoles with soft flowing pants, and lace, leather and fringe cocktail dresses. We’ll also launch a beautiful new embroidered crinkle cotton Resort Collection. I look forward to continuing to grow our brand and designing beautiful pieces for stylish, interesting women in New Zealand and all over the world.
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