51.5074° N, 0.1278° W
‘Travel, where I am, and location, definitely influence my creative thinking.’
Gems in this
Travel has been vital to Louise Markey’s career. The Australian fashion designer followed her passion from the sleepy suburbs of Sydney to London in the 90s, but initially got cold feet. However, the pull of Europe persisted and Louise spent a fateful year in Paris before eventually carving out a successful career in fashion back in the UK.
Now, with her brand LF Markey, her clever but comfortable utility wear has made her a near-household name for swathes of modern women who like to keep their fashion practical. We caught up to talk about her passion for learning, her new brand Meadows, creative communities, and her Travel Playbook for exploring East London’s thriving food and drink scene.
On growing up in Sydney
I grew up in the 80s and 90s in a place called the Inner West. It was a really creative, laid-back place to grow up. Even though we lived 15 minutes from the center of Sydney, it had a village feel. Everything was very hot and very slow. We weren’t really a beachy family; life was very much about wandering around coffee shops and markets and things. It was a beautiful place to grow up.
On moving to London, Sydney, Paris, and back again
When I graduated from university, there weren’t many career options — there was a bit of high fashion and there was surf wear. I chose surf so I could learn the ropes, working for a company called Mambo. It was actually really great and I learned so much there about working with factories. After about a year, I decided it was time to get some work experience abroad. I went to London and got a job at Burberry, but after 13 months, I went back to Sydney. But when I got home, I realized things were still the same. So I went to Paris and tried to break into luxury fashion there. I did about six interviews in French — really bad, broken French — but I didn’t get any jobs. I ended up working at a bar for the whole period. Then, I got into the course at Central Saint Martins in London, so I got a student visa and came back to the UK.
‘Everybody had a creative job, or was sort of battling to make it. Tons of people, all with their own little two-meter box, trying to make something work or trying to create something.’
On finishing at Central Saint Martins and the creative allure of East London
It was a natural fit to start officially in London; I’d done the course at Saint Martins and that was a launch pad. You get a lot of press attention when you finish that master’s course and the government offered me grants. East London, where I was living, was also just such a vibrant place. Everybody had a creative job, or was sort of battling to make it. There were these studios you could get — tons of people, all with their own little two-meter box, trying to make something work or trying to create something. So it was just easy to find the space, the resources and the crowd to do it amongst.
On the design process behind each collection
For LF Markey, it always comes back to utility workwear as the crux of the design process — and then color is the other thing. Quite often I will look at fine art or nature and choose a palette depending on the season. So, if it’s autumn, I might look at autumnal nature and just literally Pantone pick the colors out of those images or scenes. And you end up with a really interesting palette from that. Then, I’ll layer those colors onto utilitarian clothing. Meadows is done a little bit differently because it’s more chaotic, with much more disparate influences. At the moment, I’m looking at a lot of occultist images and mysticism. There’s a lot of print in Meadows, so we’ll choose prints that suit, then work backwards towards the color. Then, finally we’ll lay the shapes on top.
On how travel influences your creative thinking
Although I definitely feel a sense of belonging in London, I think, at the crux of it, my home is Sydney. Having said that, it’s weird because when I’m in Sydney and I travel back to the UK, I’ll say ‘I’m heading back home now.’ I think you just end up with this real split personality, especially when you moved around as a kid. Travel definitely influences my creative thinking. We travel a lot around the West Country here and we go around the UK. At the moment, that’s creatively influencing me because I want everything to be cozy, small, warm and comfortable. I think travel, where I am, and location more generally does affect the design process a lot.
On a window or an aisle seat
100% window every time.
On London’s creativity
The creative community in London is amazing. They’re so open to new ideas. Everybody’s creative around where we lived in East London. A lot of it is moving down south now — you’ve got that hub in Peckham as well, which is great. I love going down there because it feels like how East London felt 20 years ago. When I moved to London back then, creative people were everywhere. Everyone was creative. Everyone had a creative business they were trying to work on. Everyone had a side job, a side band, it was just everybody.
On your relationship with London
Because I’ve got three children, and another one on the way, London just got a bit too much for me. The pace was too fast and I needed to slow down. I just needed to be around nature, so I moved to the Cotswolds four months ago, but I still come to London every week. I still use it as a great source for creativity.
‘Cafe OTO do really great live music, really interesting bands. It’s always very left-of-center sort of stuff. It’s generally just such a great asset to the area.’
On how to spend the day in London with a friend
We’d start by getting breakfast at Brunswick East, which is a really nice place that does great food. Then we would probably wander down Broadway Market if it’s a Saturday or Columbia Road Market if it was a Sunday; there's a flower market there which is great but very busy. Broadway Market is just a really beautiful creative market; lots of different stores and lovely food. Then we’d probably continue all the way down to Brick Lane, to Redchurch Street. There are so many places we could go for dinner down that way. Rochelle Canteen is really lovely down there. Then if we were feeling cultural, Victoria Miro Gallery in Islington has always got good exhibitions on.
On drinking and dining in East London
There’s a really great little restaurant-slash-wine bar called Little Duck The Picklery — so delish. The food is great: loads of pickles and the kimchi is really yummy. Then, the other restaurant I recommend is House of MoMo, which is a Nepalese dumpling restaurant in Dalston. Really yummy. For a bar, I would say Cafe OTO. They do really great live music, really interesting bands. It’s always very left-of-center sort of stuff. Sometimes pretty art house — a few times I’ve had to sneak out as it’s been a bit too much for me, but it’s generally just such a great asset to the area. Towards the end of my time living in London, I just really didn’t leave Stoke Newington at all. So we’d just have to go to The Prince, which is a local pub.
On a greener place to hangout in East London
Dalston Curve Garden is nice for a little bit of an inner city break. Especially good if you’ve got kids and you want to take them somewhere to just chill. You can get a nice cup of chai there and have a seat, and they’ve got wood fires going in winter. It’s an all year round thing.
On describing London in one word and why