The Artisan Approach to Fashion: Carole Bamford talks shop

Her shop is a favourite with Kate Moss, Alex James says she’s Fabulous and her clothing line is intended to provide “stealthy, beautiful staples”. We interviewed Carole Bamford to find out why and how she went about expanding her business from food to fashion and the kind of woman Bamford is really designed for.

Q. Can we start with the Bamford customer? You design for a cosmopolitan 30+ woman, was that an obvious decision for you at the beginning?

A. I think all women, whatever age, have many layers to their personality and many demands on their time. We are mothers, wives, lovers, friends – we work – we are busy. So we like our style to be effortless, yet elegant and we like to feel comforted – and comfortable. That was the starting point. What remains important to me is that our pieces should be simple, easy to wear, soft to touch and above all well made.

Q. Your pieces are also frequently talked about as the ultimate in luxury cover-ups – they are just what we would want to take on a trip anywhere! What are your ultimate travel staples from the collection?

A. Our Double Faced Cashmere pieces travel very well and for our Autumn Collection we have made them reversible so that you can be wearing Chocolate Brown by day and flip the pieces inside out to Black for the evening – two looks in one. Our Knits layer up easily and combine to make different looks – from ultra fine under-pieces to cosier warm styles – and we have beautiful woven scarves which pack as nothing but can be added to your wardrobe to add a touch of style – versatility is important for our busy lifestyle.

A Bamford shawl in your holiday wardrobe…

Bamford design signatures are inextricably intertwined with their origins – for example your pieces from India are Khadi (the Indian handspun and hand-woven cloth linked with the country’s independence) – how has that had impact on the pieces you design that are made in India?

Yes, India is very special to me and Khadi cloth fits so perfectly within our Collection. It’s an honest, traditional and practical fabric – cool and comfortable to wear and beautiful to touch. We have used it in our Meditation Gown and Spa influenced pieces…simple Kurta shapes which are easy to wear and again, perfect for travel – either as cover ups by the pool or simply for relaxing at home.

Bamford works with crafts people in Italy and of course the UK, how did you go about setting up an international network of artisans and do you find you are adding to your suppliers constantly as you discover new sources?

We partner with workshops who are expert in their particular skill…Italy has a long tradition of making Double Faced Cashmere, so it was natural for us to begin looking there when we wanted to champion this technique. Also, Scotland has a strong heritage in Cashmere Knitwear, so our Knits are developed with small businesses who preserve traditional methods. The team are always on the look out for new ideas and even return from their holidays inspired by local crafts! Jewellers, weavers etc…We’ve been also been lucky in that we have been approached by some interesting people with ideas to share. Our suppliers become like family – so we are not constantly adding but are always interested to see new techniques.

When was the moment when you decided to extend your organic food and beauty business into clothes – was it a wardrobe crisis?!

Not quite! But I did feel that a simple and natural style of clothing could celebrate the same values we were promoting through our food – it seemed a genuine  extension of our need to care for the land and for ourselves. I believe what goes on the body is as important as what we put inside the body. Our fabrics are made from natural, noble fibres and will wear and age beautifully…each piece is made to last and each Collection evolves from the last so you will always find pieces to give new life to the last season.

Finally, are you planning to expand your lines in any further directions in the future?

For now we would like Bamford to be the destination Collection for women who want to wear good quality, sustainable and unique items which blend with their existing style. We want to concentrate on refining and perfecting these values and delivering that for our clients.