Fashion is important to a woman from a young age, but while we are more prone to experimenting with our looks when we are young, with age comes experience and knowledge of what body shape you have, what clothes & colours suit you and the innate understanding of what clothes and styles help enhance your looks. However fashion, as is beauty, is often driven by youth and while older women have a more significant income at their disposal, not many retailers and brands utilise women over 30 in their ad campaigns or design clothes with them in mind. Asquith was started by Alice Asquith in 2002 and in a way she was a pioneer of yoga and Pilates wear when they weren’t fitness and mindfulness buzzwords. The brand is still going strong, growing, changing and expanding and I thought it would be interesting to spotlight this leisurewear brand and the creative woman behind it.
Alice and I met at her home, which serves as her creative hub. A place with high ceilings where a woman who knows her style lives. Alice herself can serve as a model for her designs – she is tall & slim, with long, lean legs and beautifully flowing hair. Wearing clothes from her own collection, it’s as if from the beginning she wants to let you know that she is her brand and her brand is her – and after having spent some time in her company, I can see that she actually lives and breathes it!
With background in music industry and doing research for a criminal novel writer, Alice reached a point in her professional career where she felt that something was missing and decided to change the path. Her mother and grandmother designed their own clothes and when Alice showed me their black & white photograph, my immediate thought was that they could have easily passed as Vogue models. Initially Alice toyed with the idea of designing maternity clothes, but quite quickly changed her mind, after realising that expectant mothers don’t look to expand their wardrobe significantly during nine months. As Alice was and is a big fan of yoga and Pilates, life balance was innately important to her, as well as clothes that had an easy-fit, felt soft to the touch, were good quality, as well as looked elegant. In 2002 she used cotton and bamboo, now her preferred fabrics are organic cotton and bamboo or Bambor, which is a blend of both, as well as elastine, which helps clothes maintain the shape and reduce ‘pulling’ – fabrics that are natural, anti-bacterial, breathable and help to regulate your body temperature.
As we talked, I did tell Alice that while many sportswear brand are focussing on high-tech performance fabrics, in addition to high costs, many of those items actually end up smelling quite bad after exercise. Interestingly enough, in most cases you don’t get that when you wear a plain, cotton t-shirt. Asquith cloths are soft and comfortable, they hug your body in places you want them to ( for example, none of us want our t-shirts to ride up during a yoga inversion or Pilates pose, exposing our private parts for the class to see), as well as drape parts we want less focus on. Asquith t-shirts, tops and leggings also help to regulate your body temperature, as fabrics can feel cool or warm on your skin, depending on your activity or body temperature.
Alice designs for women aged 30++ but if you look at the current, SS16 Wanderlust collection, that was inspired by the vibrancy, beauty, energy and colours (rio pink, verbena, azure, satsuma paired with classic shades like navy, black, grey and snakeskin) of Brazil, there are also styles and colours that would also appeal to a younger women. Any woman, given an opportunity to wear colour that made her look beautiful and flatter her complexion, will wear that colour. Alice creates two collections a year, with spring/summer launching in February and autumn/winter in September. All the clothes are manufactured in Turkey and Alice always tries to achieve the balance between comfort, practicality, performance and style. Her clothes are meant to take you from a workout to a lunch with colleague or girlfriend, without compromising on style. Just change from trainers or Pilates grip socks into heels, add a piece of jewellery and you are good to go! We are all short on time and while time to clear out heads and workout is important, so is the sense that you are well-dressed and ready to face the world.
As Alice does regular fitness classes, varying what she does, so she doesn’t get bored, she also keeps an eye on what women wear, the fit, the detailing. As Alice showed me the pieces of her collection, it was clear that she is a perfectionist, who actually understands what women need. The little seven chakras details, the pleating, the fabrics that are relaxed but also pull you ‘in’ in the right places. For Alice sustainability is not an empty word and neither is the intent to run the business that has customer at its core. We wear clothes against our skin, so comfort is essential and Alice always looks around at women – how they wear things, what colours do they favour – by amalgamating this knowledge and attention to detail, she designs her new collections & adds new interesting twists.
Alice has a loyal & predominantly female team working with her, who have worked with her for many years and even though the team isn’t just London-based, every Christmas Alice gets everyone together for a celebratory lunch and an opportunity to catch up away from the office and work. Designing for confident women, who have a varied lifestyle is important to her, as she is also not the type of woman to rest idly. Our meeting is brisk and to the point, with Alice answering my questions but not treating me like lounge guest.
Asquith is affiliated with Pilates governing body, as well as British Wheel of Yoga and in addition to her own research, Alice talks to yoga and pilates instructors, as part of her research, always looking for answers to questions ‘what is missing’ & what can be improved when it comes to design functionality and comfort.
I recently read a review of the latest Lanvin collection by Robin Givhan on the Business of Fashion and something stuck in my mind: ‘fashion is difficult and defining a vision and crafting enticing garments to reflect vision is a high hurdle’. One needs an eye for proportion and creating clothes that fit just right – not loose, not tight. When it comes to good clothes they begin with quality fabric, that also has good colour choice and a visual that appeals – in many ways that is what you get with Asquith.
My own experience with wearing Asquith has been interesting. The first thing I noticed was how soft the clothes are and once you put them on, you hardly want to take them off. My Smooth You tee in satsuma is the cosiest t-shirt I have probably owned. I love wearing it when I work at home, when I exercise and I loved using it as a layer on my recent weekend getaway in Paris. The vibrant colour, peaking from underneath my cashmere cardigan, worn with jeans, is eye-catching and when Parisian women nod at the way you dress you smile. Zip It black Leggings are versatile and not shiny, so I easily wear them to the gym (I love clothes that don’t dig into your skin or rub against it when you workout, be it while doing yoga poses or a cycling class) or again, when working at home but equally they are great when worn with boots and a long sweater.
Alice offers women a lot of leggings choice, mine attracted me with a cute zipper detail at the back, that match the colour of my t-shirt, some women would love seamless styles and others will be drawn to the ones that have a little skirt, layered on top. Zip It Sweatshirt is a laid-back option for doing a school run, before hitting the gym, a great one for the weekend and looks smart when worn with jeans and a blouse peaking from underneath. I can also see myself wearing it with a colourfully bohemian chiffon skirt and white trainers on bare feet, once it gets warmer in the city. To me comfort and style need to go hand-in-hand and since my Asquith parcel arrived ( in a fuss-free, simple biodegradable bag), I love wearing each piece and will certainly expand my Asquith collection. After all, if I can buy pieces that are ethical, comfortable, stylish, practical and purchasing them won’t break the bank, I think it is as good as hitting a fashion bullseye!
To find out more about Asquith, go to their website here