Margaret Howell

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Margaret Howell (born 5 September 1946, Tadworth, Surrey, England) is a contemporary British clothing designer who has worked successfully in both men’s and women’s wear for nearly four decades. Keynote designs are her take on the shirt, gymslip, lace-up shoe, duffle coat and trench coat.[1] With their androgynous quality, and sympathetically shot by photographers such as Bruce Weber, Koto Bolofo,[2] and Alasdair McLellan,[3] her clothes have been described as ‘marrying traditional styles with modern appeal... [so] all her work... has a stylish timelessness.’ She herself says, “My style could be described as understated quality, updated modern classics.” [4] “I am often inspired by the method by which something is made... Good design has to work. Clothes have to work for people just as a chair has to...”


“I had always made my own clothes, so the enjoyment of choosing the fabric and adapting the pattern to what I wanted was my training. [But] The 4 Year Dip Ad course [in Fine Art at Goldsmith’s College, London] was an invaluable training in colour, proportion and design.” [5][6] Graduating in 1969, Howell made accessories while job-hunting. In 1970 her hand-made beads were taken up by Vogue and, spotted in the window of Browns, led to a commission by costume designer Beatrice Dawson for a beaded vest for Elizabeth Taylor, then shooting ‘Zee and Co’ in London.

In 1972 Howell began to design, make and sell shirts from a flat in Blackheath, south-east London, and was soon encouraged by orders from Joseph in London as well as US retailers, including Tommy Perse, Alan Bilzerian and Howard Partman, “... who were looking for more classic, interesting English clothes.” [6] With Joseph’s generous support a Margaret Howell franchise shop opened on South Molton Street, London in 1976.[5][7] With husband Paul Renshaw as business partner Howell opened her first independent shop in St Christopher's Place, London in 1980.

Recognition followed and the label grew. A profile in French Elle in 1977 noted: “In her precise and meticulous working methods, Margaret Howell is more a craftsman than an industrialist.” Jack Nicholson was a fan [8] and insisted on wearing his own Margaret Howell corduroy jacket for his role in 1980’s The Shining, prompting an order for 12 duplicates from Stanley Kubrick.[9] 1982 saw Grace Coddington choose a Howell piece as Dress of the Year.[5] A New York shop opened in Manhattan in 1982 and the first Margaret Howell standalone shop opened in Aoyama, Tokyo in 1983. However, this rapid expansion caused both business and personal difficulties. The couple divorced in 1987 and Renshaw left the company. It was restructured in 1990 with the help of Sam Sugure, responsible for Japanese licensing, and Richard Craig, who remains as Managing Director.

The new management proved successful and steady growth followed. The company set up its own shirt factory in Edmonton, north London, in 2000 and opened the flagship Wigmore Street, London shop in 2002, designed collaboratively with Will Russell of Pentagram.

Wigmore Street accommodates a design studio but also allows Howell to mount exhibitions, host events, and retail products that complements her own work, such as Poole Pottery, Ercol,[10] Anglepoise,[11] and designers such as Robert Welch and David Mellor. The MHL clothing line was introduced in 2004, and the first of a series of collaborations to produce a shirt with other designers – Margaret Howell Plus - began in 2010 with Kenneth Grange, followed by Sam Hecht, Dan Pearson and Georgina von Etzdorf. Today Margaret Howell employs some 500 people in more than 80 locations, including Paris, Florence and Tokyo.

Howell’s influences and interests – architecture, fine art, modern design, photography, swimming and swimming pools, the landscape and traditional crafts of the British Isles – are reflected in the series of calendars she has produced since 1995.[12]

In 2007, Howell was awarded a CBE for services to the retail industry and was made a Royal Designer for Industry by the Royal Society of Arts.[13][14]

2010 - Honorary Doctorate from the University of the Arts, London.[15]

2013 - Honorary Professorship from the University for the Creative Arts.[16]

2015 - Honorary Fellowship from Goldsmiths College, London.[17]

She still lives in south-east London.


  1. ^ "MARGARET HOWELL AUTUMN WINTER 2014 | ellafowles". 2014-12-02. Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  2. ^ Dystant, Lena. "Margaret Howell Spring 2014 Campaign by Koto Bolofo • Selectism". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  3. ^ "It's Nice That | Alasdair McLellan shoots Margaret Howell's AW15 campaign". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  4. ^ "The Cutting Edge: 50 Years of British Fashion, 1947-1997 - Google Books". 2000-06-01. Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  5. ^ a b c "Howell long, Goldsmiths, University of London". 2013-11-11. Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  6. ^ a b "The Cutting Edge: 50 Years of British Fashion, 1947-1997 - Google Books". 2000-06-01. Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ [2][dead link]
  9. ^ Howell, Margaret (2014-05-05). "Margaret Howell: What I've Learned". Esquire. Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  10. ^ Dike, Jason. "Q&A: Lesley Jackson of "Ercol: Furniture in the Making" • Selectism". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  11. ^ "Redesigns of the times - Furniture - How To Spend It". 2013-02-25. Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  12. ^ Roe, Simon (2014-09-10). "Inventory Updates - Margaret Howell Calendar 2015". Inventory Magazine. Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  13. ^ "UK | Rod and Zara top New Year Honours". BBC News. 2006-12-30. Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  14. ^ "RSA - Current Royal Designers". 2009-04-29. Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  15. ^ "London Collections Men - Designers A-Z". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  16. ^ "Honorary awards at UCA Graduation 2013". 2013-06-26. Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  17. ^ "Goldsmiths news, Goldsmiths, University of London". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 

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