As fashion fairy tales go, Alice Archer has a pretty good one: upon exhibiting an embroidered boot at the Best of Britannia exhibition in 2013, she returned from Antwerp—where she had been working as an embroidery design assistant at Dries Van Noten—to find the business card of Simon Burstein, the former CEO of legendary London boutique Browns, and the son of its founder Joan Burstein (or Mrs B as she's so fondly known in the industry), had been left for her.
"I had no idea the long relationship that would be formed," recalls the softly spoken Archer, who promptly got in touch with Burnstein, and soon found herself working from the studio above the Browns boutique and launching a capsule collection with them. "It was an amazing first meeting and shows how entrepreneurial Simon is."
But it's no wonder Burstein was impressed: Archer, 31, boasts a foundation diploma from Central Saint Martins, a BA in Fine Art Textiles from Goldsmiths, and an MA in Textile Design from the Royal College of Art—that's one packed fashion resume.
This February she made her debut at London Fashion Week, joining the official schedule for the fall/winter 2016 season. Her elegant, exquisitely embroidered pieces lean toward a more eveningwear and red carpet aesthetic, which made for a striking contrast to the loud and eclectic creations so often seen on London catwalks.
"I aim to create something that is luxurious and sophisticated but also clean and contemporary, easy to wear," reflects Archer. "Elegant" and "beautiful" are two more adjectives she drops into conversation; and she says her woman is a bit of "an English rose with a twist." You can clearly see that in the pieces: proper dresses with neat silhouettes which have that Sunday best nostalgia about them.
"The brand focuses on embroidery and print, color, and luxurious silks as the base fabrics," she explains. This translates to elaborate blooms unfurling out over a jacket, shirt, or gown; or hummingbirds buzzing about on a kimono. "The best thing about being a British designer in London is the freedom, I think. Britain is great because it combines tradition with an open mind."
On top of all of that great fashion schooling Archer also spent time working with the artist Tracey Emin as an embroiderer, something she only recently stopped to focus on her own label. "I love Tracey and the team, they're like a second family," she says, fondly recollecting: "Tracey loves celebrating birthdays—we always had cake and champagne and she gives everyone a print; she's incredibly generous."
Now you'll find Archer over at The Place, Burstein's new designer boutique venture on Connaught Street in London, where her refined aesthetic continues to bring something a little more diverse to the London fashion scene. "I've got so many ideas for my next collection, it's just about finding enough time to experiment with each," she says.
Now that you've met her, here are five things you didn't know about Alice Archer:
She made the hand-embroidered Venetian-style curtains for the London restaurant Polpo in Soho. "I wanted to immerse myself in embroidery to learn as many different skills as possible."
Actresses Lily James and Daisy Ridley are on her wish list of people she'd like to dress.
She ran an embroidery studio in London Fields called The London Embroidery Studio, specializing in digital embroidery work (this girl can pack a lot in!).
She's also worked with shoemaker Caroline Groves.
Her first fashion memory: "My cousin Frank's half sister is Bella Freud and, as a treat when we were children, she invited us to watch behind-the-scenes of her making a video for her collection. It was overwhelmingly exciting and glamorous. I remember beautiful Devon Aoki in a white dress sitting on a Harley Davidson.
And now five things to buy from her collection right now!
Perfect to wear with your summer dress and a pair of espadrilles. You won't take this off all summer, guaranteed.
An easy way to instantly dress up a pair of jeans. Then just add heels.
One to wear with a high-waisted pencil maxi skirt of pencil style for a sense of occasion; or team with jeans for more downtime dressing feel.
Tuck a plain white T-shirt into this and dig out those ballet flats.
If you're wearing this it really doesn't matter what you have on beneath.