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Game, Set,

Interview with Margaret Howell
by Bojana Kozarevic

Fred Perry and Margaret Howell’s new collaboration celebrates the brands’ distinct aesthetics: a collision of two worlds. Made with reference to the very first tennis pieces in our archive, Margaret Howell was inspired to create a monochrome collection that is familiar, yet distinctly fresh. British heritage meets contemporary design.

“It’s always inspiring to go through the company’s archives, as the early pieces in the Fred Perry archive embody the spirit and essence of the brand.” It’s hard to define the term essence and spirit. Especially when spirits of the two brands are so iconic. And then the question of what iconic even means today follows. Margaret answers that it is “to do with the values remaining constant.”

Values, be they moral, social, cultural, emotional, personal worldly - they are what come to define a brand, as well as a designer. Values are a part of each person, defining their actions and motives. They are everlasting, something by which we live and continue to exist, even when we are gone. This is the essence, the spirit!

The values of the brand and designer Margaret Howell are ones that have become synonymous with her aesthetic, matching perfectly with those of Fred Perry.

“I am inspired by expertise of make. With reference to my work, I enjoy the challenge to update a traditional item be it a kilt, a holdall bag, a pair of lace-up shoes… Make, fit, fabric, comfort, purpose, contemporary, styling, proportion, colour. All have to be right.”

“I think a good design should be fit for purpose, well made from suitable materials with nothing more than is necessary for it to function.”

It is this purpose, this functionality, which makes the collaboration between Margaret Howell and Fred Perry so well matched. “I hope the audience would see the suitability of the connection. One of the influences on my clothes’ design is sportswear because my clothes have to function for an active working person in the same way sportswear has to be fit for purpose. Iconic brands don’t survive on style alone. Our customers recognise the importance of quality for comfort and durability as well as style.”

Whilst maintaining the true essence of the original Fred Perry pieces, Margaret Howell toys with the crisp classics which, although born of another era, have been reinterpreted through a modern lens for today.

“Photographs of Fred Perry himself in action on the tennis court were inspirational in themselves, and together with the original polo shirt from the archive, suggested light, fluid fabrics – clothes with ample ease for movement.”

Women’s white polo shirts are feminised, drop shouldered and sleeveless. White and black cotton dominates the colour palette with bomber jackets, pique polo shirts, tennis trousers and tennis skirts all found in the archive. “The loose fitting still seemed right for today. We kept the original Laurel Wreath logo but in our collection of black and white pieces, we kept it self-coloured instead of the original green,” explains Margaret.

This is playing doubles, for a singular win. It makes one think of similarities between sportspeople and designers. What does it take to win a match? What does it take to design a collection? Margaret says, “There may be a link of striving to achieve a personal aim. This involves constraints and flexibility of thought. A sportsperson has to adapt to work with their opponents and, in some sports, climatic elements. A designer has to work with the constraints of the maker or the factory, costs and deliveries. To be an athlete or a designer requires determination to achieve the end goal!”

We are what we do, and we are what we believe if we are to give forms to our values and spirit. This is exactly what the collaboration between Fred Perry and Margaret Howell is.

Fred Perry for Margaret Howell is available online and in select Fred Perry shops.