Alice Temperley’s temple of bloom
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“Alice is moving the furniture around again” is an old family joke that goes back to Alice Temperley’s childhood. One of the fashion designer’s favourite pastimes was to change the bedrooms all about. “I’d throw my siblings out of their rooms, get everything onto the landing and move myself in with all my belongings,” she says. It’s a habit – though doubtless annoying to her long-suffering sisters – that has stood her in good stead; this month she is moving into homewares.
There is no better display for her new collection, made in collaboration with the British fabric and wallcovering brand Romo, than Cricket Court, Temperley’s home for the past 12 years. The grade II-listed, 18th-century house, which overlooks the Somerset countryside, stands on an estate dating back to William the Conqueror and once hosted Churchill and Eisenhower in its library. The tone today, however, is a little different: there’s a classical statue of a naked man draped in a giant pearl necklace on the front steps and two enormous disco balls hang from the portico. The mood is dazzling and somewhat insouciant: the Bright Young Things would have had a riot.
Above: swatches of the Temperley London x Romo fabric in, from top, Effie, Lavinia, Lolana, Bonita and Fantasia, from £75 a metre
Temperley grew up on a cider farm in Somerset but always dreamed of old Hollywood. “I remember sitting in the hay barn in my wellies, thinking about a bias-cut dress and Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire,” she says. “I remember putting on the radio and pretending I was in that world.” She founded her fashion line Temperley London in 2000, a year after graduating from the Royal College of Art, and has since become known globally for her elegant boho look: floaty dresses in ethereal prints, artisan embroidery and military-inspired tailoring. Her high-street range for John Lewis, Somerset by Alice Temperley, became the fastest-selling brand in the store’s history at launch. Catherine, the Princess of Wales, wears her clothes, while her sister Pippa Middleton wore a striking emerald-green Temperley gown at the evening reception after the royal wedding in 2011. Celebrities including Keira Knightley, Beyoncé and Sarah Jessica Parker – in an episode of Sex and the City – have all worn Temperley. “The textures and colours of fabric are what excites me,” says Temperley. “Instead of hanging art, I’ve always loved framing fabrics or hanging up dresses.”
When she moved to Cricket Court she wanted to extend this idea and create more pieces for its interior. “Over the past 10 years I’ve been making quilts, wallpapers, handmade laces,” she says. “It’s been great to work with a company who can upscale it.”
The result is far less homespun than the above implies. With Romo’s design director, Emily Mould, she has created a collection (from £27.50) of richly glamorous wallpapers, fabrics, embroidered wall hangings and cushions that run the gamut from ’40s-style French florals through to art deco geometrics. Each has been inspired by prints or embroideries from past Temperley fashion collections or vintage textiles she has long loved.
A shawl inherited from her grandfather’s girlfriend’s mother – “kept in a box for about 70 years” and then displayed in Temperley’s various homes – is the basis for Lavinia, a big floral embroidery translated onto wallpaper, fabric and a wall hanging. Knitwear has been interpreted in velvet jacquard. An embroidered tulle Temperley dress inspired by folk art has become the bloom of Bonita, which features on cotton satin and velvet. Euphoria, with its parasol-wielding leopards and swinging monkeys, came from the print on a satin gown, while Gracie, an embroidered wide sheer linen, is reminiscent of handcrafted lace work found in Temperley bridalwear.
Above: Temperley x Romo wallcoverings in, from top, Bonita Rosa, Delilah, Bonita Lilac Ash and Lolana, from £150 a roll
“I didn’t want the look to feel like English chintz,” she says. “It needed to feel weighted from travel. So you can go quite boudoir-y or French masculine – with all the foil, darker wallpapers and beautiful dark velvet – or you can use these beautiful greens, with big palms, that you can imagine in Palm Springs.”
Romo had never created a leopard print before – which is anathema to Temperley, who considers the pattern an essential “neutral”. She has not only made velvet leopard wallpaper for the bathroom, to sit alongside her glitter ball-covered bath, but also, to the horror of her 14-year-old son, swathed her giant bed in the stuff. “He was shocked when he walked into my bedroom,” she says with glee, “but then his bedroom is black and covered in LED lights. It looks like a nightclub.”
No embroideries there, then, but elsewhere Temperley has free rein to play. “Our crystal print in velvet on those quite big sofas in the library has transformed that room. It’s amazing how a statement curtain can elevate and change the mood. Over the past few years of doing it up I’ve felt like I’m living in a new house.”
Much else has changed for Temperley over the past few years. She split from her husband and former business partner, Lars von Bennigsen, in 2012. And, following a pre-pack administration in 2021, she has since restructured the business and moved her headquarters to a Victorian building in Ilminster, where clients can go for fittings and to browse the 22-year archive.
She has also stopped working to the traditional fashion seasons and only delivers bridal and heritage collections to wholesalers. Otherwise, the company operates a direct-to-consumer model via the Temperley London website. “The biggest frustration I’ve had with the fashion industry is the cycle. Now we’re just going to make what we want, when we want, deliver the right product in the right month and work on extending our heritage collection,” she says. “What I love about interiors is that it’s not working with boobs and bottoms and a three-month sale cycle, which I think is the most crippling thing. In the interiors world, designs continue. You add, but you don’t change.”
Which is not to say that the look of Cricket Court is now fixed forever. With more developments in the works, the collection will grow. And no doubt some time in the not too distant future, Alice will be moving the furniture around again.