Catherine Deane has a starry clientele of Beyoncé, Pippa Middleton, Lana Del Rey, Selena Gomez, Julianne Hough… but don’t kick yourself for not recognising her name... yet! The Hong Kong-based designer has been quietly filling a niche in the market – and that’s to create an evening-wear line that doesn’t require re-mortgaging – whilst putting her impressive little black book together. P-Middy’s been to plenty of weddings this summer, but it was her coral and navy Catherine Deane frock that got our stamp of approval. We caught up with Catherine – in between a spiritual retreat and her busy schedule as an ambassador for South African based charity, the Unlimited Child – to find out more…
Grazia Daily: How did you get into the fashion industry?
Catherine Deane: I grew up knitting jumpers, pressing flowers and embroidering napkins with my two grannies; at about the age of 12 my mum taught me how to use a sewing machine and I started making my own clothes.
After school, I went on to study fashion for three years in South Africa , after which I starting my career in fashion with my first business supplying clothes to South African stores nationally, for the following three years.
I moved to London in 2002, and worked for a start-up brand for the next 2 years , which was like doing my masters in international fashion, as I worked in all areas of the business from design , to manufacturing to sales. This set me up for starting my own label again in 2005, now in an international capacity.
And what led you to Hong Kong?
I wanted a ‘change of scenery’, I wanted to build my manufacturing & operations in Asia , and I really wanted to explore this part of the world.
How do you think the fashion differs between there and London?
There is a big difference, I think London has so much depth, layering and history - which is embraced and celebrated, and this is evident in the style and diversity in the fashion. There is quite literally something for everyone in London. HK is a great city, but more finance & business focused , which creates a more one-dimensional style.
You’ve stayed chicly under-the-radar despite dressing the likes of Beyoncé, Lana Del Rey and Kim Kardashian – how have you managed to maintain that mystery?
Our brand is now 6 years old, we have been quietly working to build our foundations and make real sales, I think it’s been a process really of putting the ‘horse before the cart’. This year marks a change for us with working on focused PR efforts in both the UK & US , I think it’s all about timing and we wanted to be ready for the next level of exposure.
And were you surprised to see Pippa Middleton in one of your dresses?
Surprised and delighted.
What’s been the best fashion moment of your career?
There are two. Firstly signing a deal with my now business partners FJ Benjamin which is allowing me to take this business to the next level and secondly, working with The Unlimited Child*. With the sale of every dress, commencing with the Autumn Winter 2012 collection, in stores this July & August 2012, Catherine Deane will donate a year’s worth of educational toys to a child in need in South Africa. This is a lifelong dream come true and I’m so pleased that our brand can contribute on a deeper level.
What is your earliest fashion memory?
I will never forget the beautiful dresses that my mum made for my sister and I when we were little girls. I have very clear memories of what I was wearing on specific days that marked important events in my childhood and most of those clothes were made by my mum.
Do you design pieces with your own wardrobe in mind?
Yes definitely, I have to say this has been the driving force behind the product since the onset – I make what I love to wear.
Are there any trends in fashion you don’t like right now?
Not really, to be honest I don’t worry so much about what doesn’t appeal to me , but rather focus my energy on what I find really inspiring. I love it that our product is not a ‘slave to trends’.
And is there something you’ll never tire of wearing or designing?
Do you have any guilty fashion pleasures?
Antique market finds, I can't seem to buy enough cream lace antique blouses.
*Read more about Unlimited Child at www.unlimitedchild.co.za