London’s Luxury Lady: Charlotte Semler of Charlotte & Co.

Last week we were invited to attend the preview for the Charlotte & Co. Autumn Winter 2010 Collection. Anyone who loves comfort, cashmere and the country would consider this a golden ticket as Charlotte Semler, the founder, is a legend in luxury! 

We wanted to dig a little deeper with Charlotte as we are so envious of her great talent when it comes to creating luxury goods that every woman wants. 

So here’s a little biographical information to start with:

Charlotte read PPE at Oxford.  Her first job was a two year stint as a corporate finance analyst in the City. In 1994 Charlotte joined Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising as a strategic planner and three years later she moved to Lowe Howard Spink as Strategic Planning Director on the Tesco account.

In 2000 Charlotte co-founded Myla and spent the next five years as Creative Director and joint CEO.  During this time Myla grew to produce annual turnover of £4m with 12 outlets in 3 countries.

Charlotte left Myla and London in 2005 to spend time with her twins and turn a run-down stone house in the Cotswolds into a family home.  A year later she set up Charlotte & Co., she now combines designing homewear and running a business with her passion for cooking for her family. 

Now that we have the facts out of the way, and have discovered that Charlotte was a city girl gone country, we took some time to get to know her on a more personal level:

So let’s start with the basics, Charlotte. How did find yourself in a business that allows you to surround yourself with cashmere and silks at every turn?

When I left Myla I had a six month break and moved to Gloucestershire full-time. I was really supposed to be ‘retiring’ to the country to spend time with my toddler twins but I was just rubbish at not working.  I ended up spending far too much time designing silk and cashmere curtains for our house!  So I decided to set up Charlotte & Co.  The idea was really simple:  I wanted to carry on designing clothes but I also wanted to do something different to Myla, something more in tune with the life I am now living.  So designing ‘luxury home clothes’ was a natural progression.  I am working with luxury natural silk, cashmere and cotton fabrics that have always inspired me and creating the kind of clothes that you need to live a home-based life in style.  Three years on the Charlotte &Co. range has grown from mainly nighties and pyjamas to include outerwear like stylish cashmere tracksuits, fur trimmed gilets and even the occasional dress.  It’s all about being comfortable but with the luxury of the best natural fabrics and a sprinkling of style.

Were you stuck in a world of stilettos and ready to get out and into cashmere pjs and slippers?

YES! Completely – I just craved a change of pace, you know….life needs to keep moving on to be interesting.  I’d done the whole ‘London/NY queen of the sexy knickers’ thing and was ready for kids, comfort, cooking and herbaceous borders.  And I really believe that there is a large chunk of personal truth in all design:  In the end you are really designing for yourself and your worldview.  Charlotte & Co. is a reflection of my current life and how I feel about it.  I’m really happy in my own skin and loving the life I’m living.  I’d like to think that the collection shows that comfort and joy.

What was your very first piece for Charlotte & Co?

Classic silk satin PJs and the cashmere dressing gown. Obviously 🙂

Besides the Charlotte & Co. Pieces in your closet…what are your other designer favourites?

I love Nicole Farhi because she is so grounded in nature and natural fibres. I love Ralph Lauren because I’m just a sucker for that whole preppy East Coast thing. I love the imaginary world that is RL, the fusion of country style and Upper East side chic. I love John Galliano, he has such a fabulous feel for cut and drape.

Your underwear…is it designed with the thoughts of appearing underneath a Ralph Lauren Sheath or a Dolce and Gabbana corset dress?

No, the inspiration is more about luxury and wearability.  Lots of my underwear is about adding comfort to your outerwear.  For instance: In winter I do silk/wool mix jersey ‘innermost layers’ so camisoles, polo necks, long johns and t-shirts.  These elegant pieces slip comfortably under your favourite designer clothes but keep you warm (so even in the cotswolds I can wear my daily uniform of Joseph/DKNY slip dresses and still be perfectly warm and comfy). Similarly in summer we do pure silk slips and camis that are ideal under slightly too sheer dresses and tops.  You know….those garments that you buy and then realize that you are not  actually sure how to wear because they are too see-through.

As your line is all about relaxation and comfort…What are your everyday comforts? And when you need to break away to relax where do you go or what do you do…outside your every day living…?

When I need a break I head to our family place in the heart of Majorca.  It’s in the middle of mountains and olive groves.  The light and the air is unbelievable and the local markets are a real source of inspiration.

Thank you, Charlotte, for taking some time to chat with us.  We’re now all sitting around dreaming about our retreat to the country one day! 

We had a look at the Charlotte & Co. website and picked out a few pieces we felt would appeal to our readers best. When the Autumn Winter 2010 line is up and live we’ll have a quick run through and report back to you all!

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