Chloé Marlow is the founder of the London-based luxury accessories brand, Marlow London, where she sells her beautiful scarves and bags. I first discovered Chloé’s designs at an A Luxe Story event last autumn and instantly fell for her fun, fresh approach to fashion. A Luxe Story regularly hosts pop-ups featuring up-and-coming designers, and another pop up event is taking place in Hampstead until 14th May (details here). I highly recommend dropping by if you’re in the area, as there are some fabulous designers represented, including Chloé!
Marlow London only launched last year, but it has already attracted a huge amount of success, and I’m sure Chloé will keep on going from strength to strength. I managed to have a chat with her about her experience running her own company so soon after graduating and what it’s like breaking into the fashion industry today.
What made you decide on a career in fashion?
I was very lucky in that I always knew what I wanted to do. I recently found an old diary that I wrote when I was 14, and I’d scribbled all over it that what I wanted to be when I grew up was a fashion designer. I don’t think I ever wanted to be anything else.
You only graduated very recently! What led you to create Marlow London?
I graduated from Central Saint Martins last summer. I never anticipated that I’d launch an accessories brand so soon after graduating! It all came from my final year project, where I was looking at luxury branding and luxury marketing. I’ve always been inspired by luxury brands and the way they represent themselves. I decided I wanted to create a modern-day classic luxury brand.
After graduating, I began apprenticing in a studio, and at the same time I began freelancing for quite a big online fashion retailer. I was meeting talented crafts people at the studio, and I was asking them questions and learning from their experiences, and at the same time I was getting firsthand market research working with the luxury brands I was fascinated by.
Did you do any business studies before launching Marlow London?
No, I’ve never studied business; I’ve always been really creative. I didn’t really know what I was doing – I had to learn from other people. At the studio I apprenticed at, other artists were starting their own business, or had already been running one for a while, so I was asking them about stockists and costings. I was learning about how to work out the costings of a product from a piece of leather and working out how you can tell how many bags you could make and how much each square meter would cost. So I was learning as I went along. Some people might say you should get more experience, but I personally believe that if you want to do something, do it, and learn as you go.
You have quite a tongue-in-cheek approach to fashion. What is the message behind your designs?
I really enjoy merging fashion and art and to have a real context behind every piece I make. With this collection, I was really fascinated by luxury branding and marketing and by what makes an object valuable, be it the name, the craftsmanship, or the branding. I believe that throughout history wealth has been portrayed by what you’ll wear and what you won’t, and I don’t think today is so much different; people want the latest trend, the coolest brand, the limited edition. My collections aim to question these ideas and people’s perception of what is luxury in humorous ways.
So what does luxury actually mean to you? How do you like to inject a little luxury into your everyday life?
I think luxury is about exclusivity – something that not everyone else has. It’s also about the longevity of an object and the craftsmanship that goes into making it.
My day-to-day isn’t that luxurious! I’ll wear anything baggy, anything comfortable. I’m usually sprawled out on the floor, wearing two coats because my office is so cold! When I do go out, though, I always make an effort. I’ll take my time choosing my outfit and getting ready, and to me that really is luxury, as I’m treating myself.
What do you think are the top 5 items any woman should have in her closet?
It’s always good to have a flattering pair of jeans that fit really well. You need a good LBD – you can’t go wrong with that! A statement bag never gets boring and goes with every outfit. A tailored jacket too, as that makes you feel like a girl boss! And then my fifth choice would be an accessory like a scarf. I wear oversized scarfs, and a lot of the scarves in my collection are oversized. You can wear them in so many different ways and they really make an outfit.
What have been some of the highlights so far in your career?
I’m still at the beginning of my career, but first would have to be the evening that I told my boss at the studio that I wanted to quit, and that I wanted to become their client. That was the first step in really becoming my brand, so that was pretty huge! It took a week of my pep-talking myself to do that! Then, the evening I launched my website, it crashed due to too much traffic, which I didn’t anticipate, and my web designers didn’t anticipate it either, so that was a great feeling. Finally, getting my first stockist (Young British Designers) after being in business for less than 6 months was a real highlight.
Does it ever feel overwhelming when things are happening so quickly for you? How do you manage to stay calm?
It can feel very overwhelming! I’m very lucky that I work with my mum, and I bring her along to meetings. She’s always there to support me, and she’ll take some of the load off when I’m struggling to do everything all at once. My mum’s very creative, and I think I get a lot of my creativity from her.
What would your advice be to someone wishing to pursue a career in fashion?
It’s a very competitive industry, which I learn more and more. There are so many talented creatives producing so many incredible things. You need to find your niche, and when you do you need to be determined. A lot of people may say you’re aiming too high, or that you can’t do something, but if you know what you want to do, do it and aim high. I’d also say get as much experience as you can. My whole way through university, I interned in every break I had, and I was very fortunate to do that. Networking is really important too; it really is the contacts you make and the genuine relationships that you create with people in the industry that matter.
Thanks so much again to Chloé for her fabulous answers to my questions! If you’d like to see more of Chloé’s fun creations, check out her instagram feed. You can find Chloé’s beautiful scarves and bags on her website or at Young British Designers.
Don’t you love Chloé’s designs? Which piece would you most like to own? Are you tempted to drop by A Luxe Story pop-up in Hampstead?
Note: All photographs in this post courtesy Marlow London.