Susannah Warren talks to mother-of-many talents Pearl Lowe about her new collection for kids
Pearl Lowe is really quite remarkable. Not because she belonged to the notorious Primrose Hill party set in the 1990s, or because of her well-documented battle with drug addiction. But because of her seemingly endless creative talent.
A master of reinvention, she has gone from Britpop frontwoman to aspiring actress at LAMDA to interior designer, womenswear designer, author and, most recently, children’s fashion designer. “I can’t do things unless I am passionate about them. There has to be a burning desire,” she admits.Throughout this creative journey, she has also been a mother, first to supermodel Daisy, now 27, and later to Alfie, 19, Frankie, 16, and Betty, 10. “I’ve been a mother more than half my life – it’s all I’ve known,” she says. “I feel quite weird now that I don’t have little ones running around. But now I have the whole day to work, which I’m really enjoying.”
Her latest endeavour, which she does alongside her interior design business, is Petite Pearl Lowe. A luxury fancy dress collection for girls aged two to 10 years, it launched exclusively in Harrods last October and will pop up in Selfridges this Christmas. She is deservedly proud of it. “When I walk into Harrods and see the collection, I get a real buzz out of it,” she says. “I think, ‘Wow, this is so how I saw it.’”
What she had ‘seen’ was a whimsical collection of vintage circus-inspired costumes made in Britain using the highest-quality silk, tulle and sequins. Think harlequin-print leotards and dazzling capes. “It’s a bit fantasy, a bit fun, a bit dress-up.”
For SS16, Pearl has added five Lewis Carroll-inspired pieces to the original 20-piece collection. “Where I live in Somerset, it’s very magical – like Alice in Wonderland. And it’s that kind of magic I wanted to put into the costumes.” Highlights include the Queen of Hearts jacket and the Butterfly costume, which is her and Betty’s favourite. “We are obsessed with it!”
The brand is, she says, very much a reflection of her children, who are all born performers and were constantly in fancy dress outfits growing up. “They’re all quite eccentric. And that’s what the brand is about – performance as much as fashion.”
But what prompted the move into childrenswear? After her womenswear collaboration with Peacocks ended and her book, Pearl Lowe’s Vintage Craft, had hit the shelves, she was “at a bit of a loss at what to do”. So, she went looking for inspiration. “I found this pink sequined fabric and made a pair of rich, silk-lined cabaret curtains for Betty’s room,” she explains. “And it went from there. I had all these costumes I’d collected that Betty wouldn’t wear because they were too scratchy, so I started making patterns and doing my own interpretation of them using soft silks and sequins.”
Further inspiration came from Cecil Beaton, the English fashion photographer, who won an Academy Award for his stage and costume designs. “I got quite obsessed with him. On a Thursday afternoon, he was always in a soft-top car driving down to the countryside. He’d get everyone to dress up in circus outfits and take pictures. I think it’s such a great idea. I have got the best dressing-up box you can ever imagine and I always get Betty and her friends to dress up and then take photos of them.”
She is also heavily influenced by the vintage styling of traditional touring circus company, Giffords Circus, and is working on a new collection for boys this year that will feature fabulous top hats and ringmaster jackets. AW16 will see a range of teen and women’s leotards, too.
“[Vintage] has been my philosophy since I was a very young girl,” says Pearl. “I love it because no one else is going to be wearing it. I had a boiler suit when I was little and went to a party and there was another girl wearing one. I went home and said to my mother, ‘Never, ever am I going to put that on again!’”
Pearl also appreciates the way things were made in the old days. “They handmade dresses for women with boobs and bums,” she explains. “These days I look awful in designer stuff. I think that’s why my [Peacocks] dresses were so successful and still are on eBay. Dresses for real women, not stick-thin girls.”
Although Pearl was a latecomer to fashion, design has always been in her DNA. “My mother had a boutique in Covent Garden and I designed my first collection for it when I was 10,” she says. “I still remember the amazing feeling I felt when someone bought a piece.” She even had an offer of a place at Central Saint Martins at one point. Her mum – still an interior designer to the A-list – was desperate for her to go. But it fell on deaf ears. “I was rebelling and went off and joined this rock band. My mother was appalled. But I’ve come full circle now.”
It was the move from London to Somerset in 2005 that changed everything, “our whole being, our whole life – I knew I had to get out,” shares Pearl. “I lived this debauched, mental life and I knew, a) I wouldn’t be a good mother and, b) I wouldn’t have a career.” Fast forward to 2016 and neither is in any doubt whatsoever.