Brief Encounters: Natalie Kingham | South China Morning Post
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Brief Encounters: Natalie Kingham

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 June, 2014, 5:39am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 June, 2014, 6:43am

As head of fashion for, Natalie Kingham traces her love of fashion to her childhood in London. She tells us about her style icons and how the digital world has transformed retail and the role of the buyer

"I grew up in South London and for as long as I can remember loved clothes and dressing up - I was always interested in what people wore and loved looking at the way the women in my extended family dressed.

As a pre-teen I was taken to Portobello Market and was instantly drawn to the way people expressed themselves through their clothes - it was the early '80s and Notting Hill was a very different place to what it is today.

As a teenager I started going to clubs - in those days the club scene was underground and the way you dressed determined your entry or refusal, especially if you were underage. So my week was spent creating and styling my friends and my attire. It was such fun and from that instant I knew that I wanted to end up in fashion and set about trying to make that happen.

I applied for a place at fashion college, but you needed to have an art background and I was hopeless at drawing. Instead I tried my hand at photography and got a job assisting a photographer. I was also working in the Joseph shop at Brompton Cross, a major fashion hub at that time, and an incredible opportunity came up when (label founder) Joseph Ettedgui asked me to find interesting British labels for the store, which was so exciting. Patrick Cox was a favourite of mine, as was Alexander McQueen - I attended some of his first shows and bought the collection promising Joseph it would be a success.

I have also been a stylist, had my own line of clothes and wholesale collections. So I have had a diverse range of jobs within the fashion industry.

In my opinion, the most important thing for a buyer is to have a strong point of view and to keep things fresh and exciting. Retail has changed a lot and the customer lifestyle has also changed - women are on the move a lot more, multitasking all day between work, motherhood, travel and everything in between. Fashion has also become so viral that yesterday's secret is today's trend almost overnight, so being fully aware of all this is very important. Social media has transformed the way women dress and what they want to buy - a buyer needs to be very trend driven and always ahead of the curve.

We will increasingly shop in a digital way. As our lives become ever more busy, it will be essential to be able to shop in a way that works for the individual. Whichever way you choose to shop, whether in a physical or virtual space; on your phone while on the go; at your desk at work; on your lunch break; or at home, the processes will continue to get easier. In addition, the merging of commerce with editorial and virtual with physical will become increasingly important.

At we want all of our clients to enjoy the same immersive experience, whether in one of our 10 stores in London or on our international website, and we will continue to enhance how we merge the two.

We launched our holiday shop three years ago to service our increasingly global clientele who wanted to be able to buy luxe swimwear and holiday wear 365 days a year. Having a strong edit of holiday wear available all year has proved very popular with our clients. They look to us for a capsule wardrobe that works hard for them, and being able to buy items in one place that work for different cities, environs and climates is key.

From swimwear to cover-ups to sunglasses, hats, flats or sandals, our aim is to create a cohesive edit of the most desirable pieces from well-known brands such as Dolce & Gabbana to harder-to-find ones such as Thierry Colson.

I have many style icons, all of whom are strong independent women with an innate sense of self and style - Kate Moss, Chrissie Hynde, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Siouxsie Sioux, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Katharine Hepburn. Today, so many people in the public eye are styled so carefully that it doesn't feel real and I prefer to draw inspiration from real people with real style.

Everywhere has its own personality - New York has a clean and modern appeal, London is full of creativity and energy, Milan is very chic and polished and Paris has all those elements. I also really enjoyed visiting Hong Kong earlier in the year - I used to live there when I was younger and love the vibrancy of the city and the mix of styles and cultures."

As told to Jing Zhang


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