Temperley, Alice

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Temperley, Alice


Fashion designer

B orn in 1975, in England; daughter of Julian (a former journalist and orchard owner) and Di (an orchard owner) Temperley; married Lars von Bennigsen (a banker), 2002. Education: Graduated from Central St. Martin’s College of Art; earned M.A. from Royal College of Art, c. 1999.

Addresses: Home—London, England. Office—Tem-perley London, 6-10 Colville Mews, Lonsdale Road, London W11 2DA, England.


L aunched clothing label, Temperley London, in 2000; opened London boutique, 2002; opened New York City store, 2003.


I n 2007, British fashion designer Alice Temperley became the newest young talent selected by mass retailer Target for its Go International limited-edition line of women’s clothing. Temperley’s appealingly feminine designs began selling at Target stores in September of 2007 and, like her standard collections, captured an often overlooked niche in fashion for pretty, wearable clothes that avoid trendiness. Writing in the London Observer, Chloe Fox called Temperley “this decade’s most PR-perfect British fashion success story: she’s a Somerset-born beauty whose designs make girls feel like women, whose barefoot Gatsby-esque gatherings can bring out the child in even the most sophisticated fashion cat.”

Born in 1975 and the first of four children in her family, Temperley grew up on a cider farm in Somerset that her parents had bought as newlyweds. Her father, Julian, had been a journalist in South Africa and other places before marrying her mother, Di. The Temperleys added adjacent land in Somerset to their original parcel over the years, and their business grew it into one of the largest apple orchards in Europe.

Displaying a creative streak at a very early age, Temperley inherited her interest in fashion from her mother, who had worn a handmade gown with a train of real peacock feathers for her wedding. Once, when Temperley was four, she took scissors to a prized antique lampshade of her mother’s. “Mum walked in, and beads were all over the floor,” she recalled in an interview with People. “She wanted to be cross, but said it was just so sweet because all I said was, ‘I want to make myself a necklace.’” After her parents bought her a proper supply of beads, Temperley began making earrings and within a few years was selling them at the cider stall on weekends. During her teen years, she made elaborate wall hangings and sewed fanciful costumes for her two sisters and brother.

Temperley entered one of the top art colleges in Britain, Central St. Martin’s College of Art, where she studied textile arts. When she finished in the late 1990s, she was offered a job by Donna Karan, the American fashion designer, but turned it down and took a job at a textile company instead, while working toward a master’s degree from the Royal College of Art. She began dating the German-born banker Lars von Bennigsen, and when he was transferred to a Hong Kong office, Temperley went with him and used the opportunity to travel across Asia to learn more about fabrics. “I wanted to find where all the best silks are made, all the best finishings,” she told People. Von Bennigsen was supportive of her idea to launch her own clothing label, which she did when they returned to London.

Temperley’s dresses quickly gained a cult following among style-setters in London, and in 2002, two years after launching Temperley London, Temper-ley and her husband opened a boutique in the Not-ting Hill area. The property also doubled as living quarters for Temperley and von Bennigsen, who eventually quit his job in finance in order to oversee her business. Her designs were a hit with high-end fashion retailers in the United States, selling at Henri Bendel in New York City and on the West Coast at Fred Segal. In late 2003, Temperley opened a New York City store, a nearly 5,000square-foot space at the intersection of Broome and Mercer streets in SoHo. The appeal of her designs was transatlantic, she realized, and had more to do with generation than geography. “A lot of women my age have grown up shopping at thrift stores and market stalls, and they’ve learned to appreciate clothes of lasting quality,” she theorized in an interview with Vogue’s Mark Holgate. “They don’t need to have the latest thing. They’re not interested in being part of the throwaway, trend-obsessed culture we live in.”

Feminine and flattering are the two most-oft used words to describe Temperley’s designs, which began with a dress line but expanded to include a full range of garments, including knitwear and trousers. “I design what I want to wear,” Temperley explained about her design philosophy to Financial Times writer Edwina Ings-Chambers. She was still intensely focused on textiles and created her collections around prints she had designed herself and then had made into bolts of fabric. She then worked out next season’s look with the help of her staff. “We look at what would work well on someone with a bust and what would work on someone with bigger hips and what would work on someone with a less-defined waist,” she explained to Emily Davies in the Times of London.

Temperley continued to expand, launching a bridal division in 2005 and opening her second, antiques-filled U.S. outpost, this one off Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Despite the growing number of high-profile clients—Sarah Jessica Parker, Mischa Barton, Scarlett Johansson, and Gwyneth Paltrow were fans, and Hollywood stylist Rachel Zoe frequently used Temperley’s clothes for her celebrity clients—Tem-perley avoided courting too much press for her business. She also preferred to remain out of the fashion-world orbit, which helped her avoid “feeling like I have to sell myself,” she told Davies in the Times of London interview. “I don’t go to every industry party. In a way the fashion industry terrifies me—the shallowness, the fickleness.”

Instead Temperley and von Bennigsen carry on a fun, jet-set lifestyle with several high-profile or tastemaking pals, including the model Jacquetta Wheeler and Top Chef personality Padma Lakshmi. Temperley’s sister, Mary, serves as director of sales for the company, which von Bennigsen plans to grow into a global lifestyles brand, with accessories, cosmetics, and even a home furnishings line in the works. They return to Somerset every year for England’s National Apple Day in October, where her parents host an annual event for friends and neighbors. She and her husband also host an annual themed bash at the farm every summer for her birthday, which has become one of the most coveted invitations of the season. “I couldn’t have done any of it without him,” Temperley stressed in the interview with Fox for the Observer. “There have been so many times over the past five years that I have been broken, literally sobbing in a corner. Every time Lars has picked me up and told me it’s going to be OK and that I have to carry on. He’s the one who keeps the wheels turning.”


Financial Times, September 10, 2002, p. 9.

New York Times, November 6, 2005.

Observer (London, England), April 30, 2006, p. 12.

People, August 16, 2004, p. 101.

Sunday Times (London, England), September 24, 2006, p. 14.

Times (London, England), July 5, 2004, p. 10.

Vanity Fair, September 2005, p. 208. Vogue, August 2004, p. 192; May 2006, p. 128.

WWD, November 2, 2005, p. 14.

—Carol Brennan