Longstaff Longstaff offers a fresh approach to silk loungewear. Made in the UK with a heavy focus on print, the brand has an artisan feel and a commitment to craftsmanship and luxury finishes. We spoke to the founder Sophie Barnard to get a glimpse inside the brand.
How did Longstaff Longstaff begin as a brand?
I studied Theatre Costume Design at art school, working in the theatre was incredibly exciting but I found myself gravitating towards clothes and textiles. I worked for Catherine Walker for a while, which gave me a great insight into the world of couture and made me want to start my own business. I started to make bags using different materials - felt and embroidery, fleece and velvet… I supplied The Cross, Liberty, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, but when babies came along I put designing aside for a while.
Longstaff Longstaff is all about prints and I loved the idea of using them on silk to create beautiful, elegant robes and pyjamas. Although it is a print lead brand, getting the cut and fit just right was very important. It’s taken two years to get from painting in the studio, through many samples to the launch.
Have you always been interested in fashion?
I’ve loved textiles for as long as I can remember and I have a mountain of salvaged fabric that I can’t throw away. My passion is for fabrics, patterns and clothes rather than specifically ‘fashion’.
What have been the highest and lowest points on your journey so far?
Lowest point: Getting the clothes made to a very high standard took many attempts. The fabric is wonderful and I didn’t want to use basic manufacturing methods. I wanted the best and that was really hard to find... But eventually I did!
Highest point: The reaction I got when I first showed the collection to the public. I had been working with the designs for such a long time that it was hard to fully appreciate them. It was amazing to hear that people loved them and thought they were beautiful.
What was the inspiration behind your latest collection?
The shapes of the garments are all about looking fabulous while still being comfortable and relaxing. I have always loved Eastern European and Asian folk art and embroidery - that was the starting point for the prints.
Do you ever struggle to stay inspired?
Running a business means that my design time is limited so when I sit down to design, it’s like opening the flood gates - I have to reign myself in!
Where is your go-to meeting spot?
The St Pancras Renaissance Hotel is mesmerising. I love holding meetings there and then staying on for a cocktail! I have a family connection with Sir George Gilbert Scott and was thrilled to be given a private tour of the building. It’s magical and thank goodness it was rescued from the bulldozers.
How would you describe your customer base?
Longstaff Longstaff’s core customers are 30 to 55 but lots of combinations, such as the cami and shorts, will also appeal to a younger group. The collection is for women who enjoy clothes, wear high quality clothes during the day and want to relax in something equally good without going for lace and nude colours. And of course, they love strong colours and bold patterns!
Is there anyone you would love to see wearing your designs?
I would love to see Julianne Moore, Lupita Nyong’o, Cate Blanchet and Gillian Anderson in Longstaff Longstaff. They are intelligent, confident women who have great style.
What are the morals you run your brand by?
I try to be straight forward and polite with everyone. I conduct my life like that so that’s how I do business too, although I’m getting better at not being a push over! I decided very early on that printing and making would be done in Britain and that has become a cornerstone of the brand. The swing tag says ‘designed with thought, made with care in Great Britain’.
Do you have a mentor?
Not as such, but I’m not afraid to ask for help and advice from anyone, so I speak to whoever I can and learn from people I respect.
What apps keep you sane?
Nothing to do with design but I run a lot so I use loads of running apps.
If you could only wear one piece from your collection, what would it be and why?
That’s very tricky! A silk robe is so luxurious and the Longstaff Longstaff version is based on the wrap around dress so it is super flattering. But the piece I wear most often is the camisole. I love a sparkly cardigan with a silk cami underneath.
What’s the biggest style mistake you’ve ever made?
Really? You want me to say here! Probably as a teenager. I lived in a jumper that my mother had knitted for herself 20 years before. It had faded into a dreadful non colour and was enormously baggy. I can’t think why I wore it. Recently, I saw a photo of myself in it- I nearly passed out.
Is there another designer whose work you particularly admire?
Dries van Noten is a champion of print and I love his SS16 colours- very clever and sophisticated without being inaccessible.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
A very successful print designer said ‘I just do what I do and have faith in it’. That’s harder than it sounds but I have every intention of following it.
What drew you to Wolf & Badger?
I was really keen to be in a shop that wasn’t just lingerie and nightwear. I wear quite a few of the pieces as outerwear so it was important to me that people could see the collection in that context. And which designer wouldn’t want to be in a designer shop on Ledbury Road.
Where do you see the brand in 5 years?
Longstaff Longstaff is a print lead brand so I want to use my prints on all sorts of things. I have just done a sample scarf using silk chiffon which is just the most wonderful fabric. So in 5 years I’d like to have all sorts of beautiful products on the market using my prints.