Alice Temperley sets her sights on global expansion with Dubai’s Times Square Group

The designer speaks to Luxury about her brand's recent part-acquisition by the UAE company

Alice Temperley pictured close to her home in the English Somerset countryside. Photo: Temperley London
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Alice Temperley’s quintessential English style and passion for all things design are truly infectious. The British fashion designer, who grew up in the Somerset countryside, started her eponymous brand in 2000, with her first show at London Fashion Week in 2003. Temperley London soon became respected for its hand-made dresses, which often use lace, embroidery and intricate techniques to create pieces that have an elegant yet bohemian aesthetic.

With more than two decades of success under its belt, the brand embarks on a new chapter this year. In November it was revealed that a majority stake of Temperley London, which had previously remained independent, was being acquired by Dubai’s Times Square Group and its investment arm Luxutte Capital. This move is set to see the brand undergo a significant expansion in the Middle East and globally, while Temperley herself will remain the creative director.

“They are partners that came to us with retail experience. They obviously manage brands in Dubai, and they wanted to help grow Temperley London into a luxury brand, protecting the intellectual property of the brand, helping to grow the other categories and expanding the awareness across the Middle East – which obviously they’re experts at – and across the rest of the world,” Temperley tells Luxury from her Somerset headquarters.

“I’m passionate because I built this as my baby for 20 years, and as long as somebody is going to protect that DNA and help grow it further, that, as a creative director and founder of a brand, is what you want to hear from a partner. So I look forward to coming backwards and forwards to the sunshine more often!”

Temperley’s approach to design has remained consistent throughout her career. True to her roots, she prefers to source materials and artisans locally where possible, and she rarely veers from the brand’s established code of flowy, feminine dresses that could just as easily be paired with boots and a leather jacket for a summer festival as with a pair of elegant heels on the red carpet. And that’s perhaps the beauty of this brand – its ability to adapt to a woman’s lifestyle despite its consistent aesthetic.

“Temperley [London] is a brand that does it well as far as going across categories because it’s more of a lifestyle brand. We did this really successfully with interiors last year. I always like to think that we have handwriting that can go across many categories,” she says. During our call, the designer reveals that the brand is planning to launch its first beach, lingerie and sleepwear collections later this year, as well as the next instalment of its interiors collection, bridal, heritage and autumn/winter 2024 ready-to-wear. The last was presented this spring during Paris Fashion Week, and there is also talk of further expansion into accessories in the future.

“Over Covid and Brexit, we were forced to really focus on what we’re the best at and distil what we’ve been doing, so we launched a tighter collection with our timeless Heritage collection, which is the best of what we do, and we’ve really focused on the bridal collection, spending time focusing on what we’re good at. We have been working really hard,” Temperley says of the brand’s current direction.

The decision to allow new partners to come on board was not one that the founder and creative director took lightly. Since the beginning, Temperley has remained the company’s sole owner, and while that has sometimes thrown up challenges, it has allowed her to maintain full creative control over the direction it takes. But she acknowledges, “for a British brand, it’s a fantastic opportunity to be able to infiltrate other regions, which is very hard to do if you’re not based there.”

Times Square Group’s experience in retail should allow the brand to grow further into new regions and expand its presence globally. This begins with a new store in Abu Dhabi and the launch of the spring/summer 2024 collection this month. “The Middle East is a particularly good market for us because people understand the make up of things, the value of things, and can dress up from morning to night,” Temperley says. “Times Square will also bring in their expertise with accessories and shoes, so it’s the start of what I hope is going to be a very exciting time where we can really grow the awareness of a beautiful brand.”

Looking back to the beginning of the brand, after moving from the Somerset countryside to London, Temperley trained to be a designer at the Royal College of Art and Central Saint Martins. The likes of Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Phoebe Philo are among her fellow alumni.

Temperley was inspired by both her mother, “who is the ultimate earth goddess,” and her traditional English upbringing to become a designer. Her mother is “a potter, painter, jeweller and everything else you can imagine – she can create everything,” Temperley says. “She’s always been somebody who’s so effortlessly glamorous. She is just a very inspiring woman in how she’s guided us all to keep our feet on the ground and appreciate how things are made. And her love of being able to mix things together. Very few people have that innate style 100 per cent of the time, as she does.”

It’s clear to see then where Temperley’s passion for design and creativity comes from, and she has kept this crafty, hand-made approach to fashion a key strength of her brand for the past two decades, maintaining a close connection to her heritage. During our conversation, she mentions the lace used in the spring/summer 2024 collection that was made in an English loom (incidentally the largest in the world) and how she prefers to, where possible, keep production local. “It was so nice because it was lace made in England, and we manufactured it here, and that was just really nice for us,” she says.

In 2017, the designer released English Myths and Legends, a coffee-table book that invites readers to discover the universe of the brand. “The first chapter was about what it means to be British”, she explains. Nicknamed Little Miss English by her American friends, she says, “I truly have a love of dandy, Victoriana, lace, the queen’s jewels, that escapism into a fairy-tale romance. Even Alice in Wonderland, going down the rabbit hole, it’s all very, very British. I love the fact that I’m from the English countryside, and I’m happy to say I grew up on a farm, but then I started getting the escapism by watching film noir, I love the glamour but also the crafts of skill and making, and I love wearing these incredibly beautiful pieces but in a very laid-back way.

“A dress should be easy to wear, but the workmanship involved is amazing. So my Britishness, I think, is about telling a story around history, craftsmanship and the fantasy of what that is. If I were to go to a textile shop and just buy a designed print, it would be soul-destroying. When you make something truly beautiful, you want people to wear it and feel the story behind it. There are no corners cut and nothing missed – there is a lot of passion that goes into it.”

Temperley’s relaxed, approachable attitude is, in many ways, quite reassuring, if not surprising for someone who has dressed the likes of Kate, Princess of Wales, Michelle Obama, Beyonce, Halle Berry and Madonna. Her red carpet presence has, in fact, been so significant that the designer struggles to think of a woman she would still like to dress when I ask her. “Did we dress Cate Blanchett yet?” she checks. “No, we didn’t do Cate Blanchett for sure.”

Her focus doesn’t seem to be on fame or red carpets, rather on the satisfaction she gets from any woman wearing her clothes. “I love it when I’m somewhere and I see someone wearing a design. I tell them they look great and they say, ‘Oh, it’s Temperley,’ it’s such a nice feeling. That’s almost the moment when my job is the most fun.”

Looking forward, the future is exciting for the quintessentially British brand. As well as expanding into new categories, there are many new stores in the pipeline and lines that will launch later this year. The real challenge now is keeping up with the pace. “If there was one thing I could change about the whole industry, it would just be slowing it down a bit, because it is very fast,” she says. “Slow down and really appreciate the pieces.”

Updated: March 18, 2024, 4:04 PM