North Yorkshire brand Charlotte Lucy’s designs are inspired by the moors. Heather Dixon talks to founder Charlotte Hazell.
As Charlotte Hazell works into the small hours in the bedroom-turned-workshop at her home in Norton, meticulously sewing her latest one-off designs, her thoughts often turn to family. “I come from a family of people involved in textiles in one form or another,” she says. “My grandfather worked in a tailor’s shop in Leeds as a pattern cutter and my gran was a seamstress. My mum and her mum were also good sewers and I remember as a child watching them make curtains and repair clothes. As we were growing up my sister Beth and I were always making things.”
That creative seam has now blossomed into a thriving home-based business for Charlotte, who recently launched her Capsule Collection 2015 at the Great Yorkshire Show.
Her award-winning trademark is understated style with an individual twist. Her creations are one-off, hand-tailored pieces, inspired by the colours of the Yorkshire countryside, which will, she says, survive fickle popular trends and work for almost any occasion.
Charlotte, 28, the daughter of former jockey Richard Barker, aka “Dickie Mint”, established her own clothing label, Charlotte Lucy, in 2010. It followed top grade results in textiles at GCSE level and a four-year fashion design course at York College, when she won the M&S Dress Design Competition and, on graduation, the Merchant Taylors Award 2008 for her collection fortuitously called Beginner’s Luck.
“I loved every aspect of the course, from fashion history to technical details,” she says. “I like taking a garment from conception to completion, challenging myself to make things work.”
Charlotte was “too much of a home bird” to consider moving away, so she took a variety of day jobs, including waitressing, delivery driving and debt collecting, so she could fund her true passion and develop the ideas which would lead to the launch of her own design label.
“I try things out on the sewing machine to understand how they will work best. There’s a lot of trial and error,” says Charlotte, who spends every spare weekend and evening cutting patterns and hand-making her elegant garments. “I started out making bespoke occasionwear but now I make ready-to-wear garments aimed at clients who want something timeless and classic.”
Based on a work ethic reminiscent of The Elves and the Shoemaker, whereby she would sell one item to fund the next two, Charlotte gradually made enough to launch her first collection for spring/summer 2012.
“I wanted to test the water,” she says. “It was a big learning curve because I realised I couldn’t create enough, or earn enough, to do it seasonally, so I decided to launch one collection a year focusing on a few key pieces. These are not led by trends. I would like to think that they will still be relevant in 10 or 20 years from now.’
Charlotte is slowly but surely building up a loyal following of customers who value her commitment to quality and individuality.
“The brand has one aim,” she says. “To produce beautiful clothes which are the building blocks of any girl’s wardrobe. It is not a mass manufactured label – I create staple pieces and use luxurious fabrics such as silk crepe, soft cottons, linens and rich wool, alongside clean details. I realise it could take a long time to become properly established, but I’m prepared to let it evolve at its own pace,” adds Charlotte. “I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder.”
This year’s collection includes coats, skirts, a silk T-shirt and a handful of dresses, priced at between £100 and £500. Charlotte refers to them as investment pieces which transcend the seasons, each item taking at least a week to turn round.
She runs her design business alongside part-time work with the Nine to Eleven interiors shop in Malton, but life is likely to become even busier for Charlotte from October when she and her husband Wayne, a joiner, are expecting their first baby.
“I have big ambitions in the long term but my family and family life keep me grounded,” she says. “I have to be realistic and take it one step at a time.’
To order from Charlotte Lucy, go to www.charlottelucy.co.uk or call 078169 74494.
Photographer: Daniel Whittleston at Ginger Snaps Photograpghy, www.gingersnapsphoto.co.uk
Make-up: Victoria Farr, www.victoriafarr.co.uk