Tallulah Harlech On It Girls, Influencers And Holidays With Karl Lagerfeld - The Gloss Magazine

Tallulah Harlech On It Girls, Influencers And Holidays With Karl Lagerfeld

Tallulah Harlech shares the trends she loves for spring and the style advice her mother Lady Amanda Harlech did – and didn’t – share with her …

As Tallulah Harlech delivers a laugh down the telephone, I can hear the clink of a tea cup. It chimes well with her warm and quintessentially British exterior, although the stylist and creative director has Irish connections. Her father Francis Ormsby-Gore, 6th Baron Harlech, had family in different parts of the country. “I grew up in Shropshire and North Wales so that Irish ferry crossing was the norm. I was over to Ireland a lot in my childhood,” she says.

The reason for Harlech’s current visit is to style Kildare Village’s spring showcase (I call her on the eve of the show where she is staying at Dublin’s buzziest new hotel, The Leinster on Mount Street). It’s a project she’s clearly passionate about, not least because shopping destinations such as Kildare Village and Bicester Village have garnered additional appeal in the last few years. Harlech references the crazed excursions many fashion fans made to Bicester Village, just outside of London, to snap up Phoebe Philo’s final collection for Céline a few years ago. Those archive pieces have since become collectables. “There’s a real collector’s feeling when that happens. Places like Kildare or Bicester play a role in a historical moment that is the changing of the guard at a fashion brand,” she says.

What are the most buzzed about pieces at Kildare Village today? “Glenn Martens’ work for Diesel,” Harlech says, who describes his aesthetic as moody, creative and sporty. “He was with Jean Paul Gaultier previously, he is so loved and adored and he is doing something that’s getting a lot of attention and appreciation. If you want to be a collector, these are the pieces to buy now.” 

The collections Harlech is set to present for the Kildare Village spring showcase are, in a welcomed vein, quite seasonless. And they might shock you: two of the key things Harlech mentions are tweed and – whisper it – black tights. Black opaque tights are in for spring, Harlech believes: “If you are self-conscious about your legs, putting black tights on immediately gives them a better shape. Plus, we don’t live in a tropical climate!” Or, if that doesn’t appeal, try a pair of black cigarette pants. (“Black leggings are coming back too!” she forewarns.)

“I’ve really honed in on the Miu Miu show the season before last, where everyone came down the runway in knitwear with knickers over tights. Then Kendall Jenner wearing her navy blue jumper with knickers, tights and heels,” she says. 

Undoubtedly, the show is set to pay homage to personal style rather than getting too entrenched with the cycle of trends that’s currently dialled to hyper-speed. “There’s a lot of tailoring and suiting, from silk and satin to tweed and even men’s suiting in linen pieces that are chic and timeless. Plus, stand out eveningwear pieces,” she says. Sportswear influences are key, too. “I call it “sporty ninja”. It’s grown-up sportswear but it has a contemporary aspect that is very versatile,” she says. Co-ords, such as micro mini skirts paired with matching tops, in the vein of Clueless, are also present.

Silhouettes are sharp and accessories are minimal. The hero piece being a simple black leather belt – “not a slim teeny fashion belt, a classical men’s belt” – that could look vintage. Handbags are Y2K- and 90s-inspired small shoulder bags from brands like Diesel, Mulberry and Coach who have reinterpreted the silhouette for the modern shopper. Jewellery, meanwhile, hones in on a simple pair of gold earrings. And shoes are set to be even more simple: black pointed toe heels and black open toe shoes. “It’s really streamlined and specific, it’s not too busy,” she says. 

There will also be a strong tribute to Irish design. “My heart was taken by Paul Costelloe’s pieces … the shapes like padding around the neckline, dramatic physical silhouettes, his use of velvet and tweed … you can tell they are really good quality,” she says. Harlech’s approach is minimal, she credits another Irish designer, Jonthan Anderson – “I bow at the altar of Jonathan” – as a pin up for this approach. “There’s a famous Coco Chanel quote that says, ‘Elegance is refusal.’ Being able to strip things back without being too busy, I love that,” she says.

Harlech came of age in the late 2000s, the era of the It girl, and counts Alexa Chung, Poppy Delevingne and Pixie Geldolf as her peers. Although, she confesses, she was a terrible It girl. “I was a hopeless It girl! I was horrible and bad at it … I get very tired and want to go to bed,” she says. Harlech moved to New York in 2007 shortly after leaving school, a time when the Indie Sleaze movement was in full swing. While she wasn’t Daily Mail fodder, she was part of the scene. “I knew and still know [sic] Peaches, Pixie, Alexa, Poppy Delevingne, this was when Cara was still a kid in school,” she says.

Compared to the polished aesthetic of influencers now, things were a lot more improvised. “This was way before glam teams … we had none of that. Pre-social media, I don’t think Facebook and MySpace really count, photos were taken on a disposable camera, it was messy,” she says. “Everything was a lot freer … no one thought about what you might look like [in a photograph],” she says. Interestingly, Harlech notes, there was no such thing as appearance fees back then, it wasn’t the commercial juggernaut that being an influencer is now. Brands invited them to events so that they would party with their friends, not take selfies. “We didn’t get a fee, we just got a free outfit … It was all about being sent clothes from designers and being flown to their shows. The clever ones learnt how to DJ so they could make some money,” she says.

“The point of being an It girl was that you had to be fun. You had to be someone who, if the CEO or the CFO of a brand saw that you were there and had paid for your flight and hotel, you had to be interesting,” she says. Harlech reckons this is the biggest point of difference between It girls of the past and the influencers who hold sway today: “An It girl has to have a personality that’s deemed cool.”

Harlech is familiar with running in circles of influence, however. Her mother, the British creative consultant Lady Amanda Harlech, was a muse of Karl Lagerfeld, and had a long-standing working relationship with Chanel, prior to that she worked at John Galliano. (“Apparently, I was taken to Galliano shows as a baby,” Harlech says). Harlech describes her upbringing, prior to her mother’s position at Chanel, as that of a country kid. Suddenly, she was thrust into a world that forever changed her viewpoint. She would finish the school term and join her mother in Paris for the collections. “I was backstage at the Chanel shows amongst Devon Aoki, Naomi Campbell, Shalom Harlow, Trish Goff, Kate Moss, Maggie Rizer … it was absolutely illuminating and transformative for me,” she says.

Each summer the family holidayed with Lagerfeld at his apartment in Biarritz or at Villa Elhorria, his home in St Tropez; a time that makes for near mythic storytelling. “The first time Karl met me and my brother he served us foie gras. I think I was ten. It was quite a reach, I’m afraid the palate wasn’t quite there yet!” she says. Details, such as the French vintage linen and fresh sheets in the house, stay with her. “It was the first time I ever experienced luxury, being waited on, having someone constantly refill your glass. The adults would have wine, Karl would famously have his Diet Coke. I was always trained to finish everything on my plate and not be wasteful, I was suddenly chugging apple juice because I thought I couldn’t leave anything behind,” she recalls with a laugh. Lagerfeld was, Harlech says, unbelievably generous: “He adored kids and was really sweet.” She credits him with nurturing her “monastic” love of minimalism, something that was at odds with her parents’ very maximal style.

Speaking of an inherited sense of style, Harlech’s mother, Amanda has, as she puts it “painfully good taste”. Or rather, an eye for the exceptionally good. “It’s across everything: whether it’s 18th-century Portuguese jewellery, 17th-century vases, Prada, Chanel, Loewe, Fendi,” she says. “I’m much more pared-back but we can look at a runway show together … we sat at the kitchen table and livestreamed the shows from Paris … and we will see the same things,” she says.

Contrary to what we might believe, Amanda did not imbue her with words of wisdom about style. “She was always the opposite of a helicopter parent. She would raise an eyebrow to say ‘really, that’s interesting’. Mum gives me no advice!” she says. “She was very vocal about fragrances or wearing too much make-up. Those days when you were bored on holidays, listening to a mixed CD and you’d just put everything on – that was a no,” she says. They’ve worked on shoots and on restoring their home in North Wales as a duo, so their taste is in sync. “We dovetail in a lot of ways, we don’t agree on everything, but we got on very well,” she says.

Photography by Leon Farrell and Veronika Faustmann.


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