In the sweltering summer of New York Fashion Week last September, the rooftop of the city’s Nomad Hotel became an oasis for the weary fashion press. Or make that a kasbah party, one hosted by Deborah Lloyd, chief creative officer of Kate Spade New York, as part of the American label’s S/S ’17 presentation at the historic building on Broadway at 28th Street.
The set up included oranges stacked precariously as pyramid sculptures on the cosy bar that served up cold-pressed OJ, with layers of woven Berber carpets lining the floor. Even before arriving at the intimate show space at the roof garden – with its cafe chairs, pink ottomans and trays of tea glasses – the inspiration for the collection was clear: Lloyd had been in a Moroccan state of mind.
But what of oranges and Morocco? “In Jemaa el-Fnaa, the main square in Marrakesh, there are endless orange juice stalls. It’s the perfect afternoon pick-me-up after a day of bargaining in the souk,” she says. Lloyd had already been to the North African country once, but returned to it last March specifically to mine for ideas for her design mood board (and she’s already planning her third visit as of press time).
That last trip took her to Marrakesh and the desert foothills of the Atlas Mountains south of the city. And her favourite spot to soak in the sights of the city square and catch the sunset: the boutique hotel El Fenn, with its hidden courtyards and Insta-perfect roof terrace.
Marrakesh has been a hotspot for many creative minds in fashion – from Yves Saint Laurent to John Galliano – and Lloyd is no exception. “It’s a city of many facets. The main square is a great starting point. It’s a cultural heritage site, always buzzing with local characters in traditional costumes,” she explains. “The Musee Berbere (a museum dedicated to Berber traditions) in the Majorelle Garden, for example, is made for the art lover with its gorgeous traditional jewellery and costumes.
“My recent visit was different because it was focused on inspiring a collection. I did so many things in so little time,” she says of her design process. “I kept a personal travel diary and later, I couldn’t believe how many things I managed to see and do.”
That diary must have been brimming. The 30 looks presented showcased the kinds of culture, locales, influences and everyday items found in the region, but still kept to the brand’s prepster-slash-Park Avenue identity. The blooms that appear as prints on sun dresses, or painted on the denim pieces from the casual Broome Street range, reference the Damask rose buds cultivated in the Atlas Mountains region. The flower, which is popularly used in cosmetics and perfumes, was enlarged and given a bold, artistic spin by Lloyd.
The needs of a real woman’s wardrobe are also part of Lloyd’s main priorities. “Those pink dresses and rose prints are really trans-seasonal items that you can wear anywhere in the world, at any time of the year. I think that’s one of the big questions at the moment when it comes to what a woman buys.” Into her 10th year at the helm, the British-born Lloyd has evolved the brand into what she describes as one that “looks after the lifestyle of her customers”.
Under her watch, she’s launched ready-to-wear, a jewellery line, as well as a furniture and homeware department – all solid achievements that she could add to her already stellar and wide-ranging CV that includes design jobs at Byblos, Kenzo, Aquascutum, Burberry and Banana Republic.
These days, her design ethos revolves around the lifestyle of the Kate Spade New York woman. “She is an interesting woman leading an interesting life. She’s not merely wearing our clothes in different ways, but is also a woman who can be of any age.
“So you can have a young girl who is into technology, who’d be interested in our cell phone case, and another woman who wants a dress for a night out.”
But she’s quick to point out that, at its core, Kate Spade New York is a bag brand – and that Morocco trip has churned up plenty of ideas for their designs. Take for instance the souks of the old medina of Marrakesh. It was here that Lloyd stumbled upon merchandise with pom-poms and tassels, a look she’s translated into resort-perfect baskets and fun yet ladylike box bags. Then there are the candle-lit lanterns – she’s adapted them into a wristlet/minaudiere.
From the El Fenn: a graphic monochrome pattern on the Clarise shoulder bag and Chevron top handle modelled after the hotel’s charming tiled floor when light hits it. The most unexpected source of inspiration, however, has to be the camel rides that Lloyd experienced in the desert. Known for her knack for creating fun novelty bags, she’s fashioned a wicker tote in the shape of the animal.
She says: “It’s important for a handbag to be practical yet emotional. I like to design bags that can take a girl anywhere on a whim. Our bags make you smile. They are characters.”
Majorelle Garden Photo Charlotte Grubb/REX/Shutterstock
This story first appeared in Female’s April 2017 issue.
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