Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

We discover the desks of six top fashion designers


Forget piles of paperwork and empty coffee cups, we discover what the desks of top fashion designers look like

Words: Katie O’Malley
Photography: Phill Taylor

Sophie Hulme desk

I like to leave my desk tidy so I can start fresh on new ideas, but I always have some of my favourite things out, like this bag, which was inspired by David Hockney. Last year, I went to The Rake’s Progress at Glyndebourne where Hockney had designed the sets. They were amazing. All the plants, walls and even the costumes were cross-hatched layers of red, green, blue and black lines which made everyone part of the scenery. As a result, we designed the bag so each panel was in a different cross-hatch print to make it appear more dimensional.

I take craftsmanship and beautiful materials very seriously, so spend a lot of time looking through fabric swatches at my desk, whether it be choosing between laser-cut and saddle leathers to prints and colours – always with a cup of tea to help me focus. But I don’t believe that top-quality products can’t also be fun. I love injecting a playful element into beautiful things, so we’ll make a bag charm or keyring with googly eyes but we’ll make it in the best leather or with Swarovski crystals. We all love luxury goods but why shouldn’t that element of fun be there too?

When I was a child, my mum used to take me to the Hello Kitty section in Harrods for my birthday and let me pick out lots of stationery. It was so special to me. I’m still obsessed – I’ve got a drawer of Hello Kitty stickers in my desk and give them out around the office to boost morale. Luckily this antique desk by Danish designer Gunni Omann has loads of drawers for stationery. It gets messy when I design because I like to get out all my inspiration and mock up ideas in 3D but I always tidy up afterwards because I need a clear space for other aspects of my job.

I’ve been collecting these old Japanese transformer robots from junk shops and online for years. I love how the engineering aspect conceals what they are and when you open them up, they transform into something completely different. Having them on my desk reminds me that you can make beautiful things out of items you use every day. I am often in meetings which we have around the meeting table in my office so I only sit at my desk when I’m alone – I like to have this time to think and reflect. I’ll put on music and have some quiet time to myself.

The dictionary on my desk is covered in silver and has gold edges. I don’t really use it, it’s there for inspiration, but I love that someone has taken this ordinary item and made it into something so intricate that can last a lifetime. I love the idea of taking something undervalued and making it striking. I’ve been going to antique shops since I was a child and I’m fascinated by miniature versions of things, like these toy soldiers from an antique market – they’re made from plastic but cast in gold and were part of my research into developing our charms.

Serafina Sama desk

I love having these on my desk to brighten up the space. Diptyque and Bella Freud candles are my favourite – I recycle empty ones as pen holders. I have so many pencils for my sketches and usually work in a state of organised mess, so it’s nice to tidy them away in attractive containers. I often have lunch, and sometimes dinner, at my desk, as I feel most inspired in the evening when everyone’s left. If I didn’t have a husband and a child at home I’d probably sleep here too.

Whenever I go to Paris, I stock up on Astier de Villatte notebooks. I always carry them around to write down ideas, notes from fabric fairs or for my son’s homework. When I start designing, I do a rough sketch in pencil on a plain page to get an idea of silhouettes and then draw over it in pen.

I keep a lot of books on my desk for inspiration, from this one from Studio 54, to one on Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photography. My research often turns up on the catwalk; an old photo of a woman wearing a turban and exaggerated, elongated sunglasses inspired aspects of my s/s 2016 collection.

Roksanda Ilincic desk

The geometric bangle on my desk is from my debut jewellery collection last year which stemmed from my love of cubism. It features thin gold lines twisted into angular, almost hand-drawn shapes. It can be combined with other pieces from the collection. My love for colour and cubism can also clearly be seen in my collaboration with Smythson last year. My notebooks are packed with everything from collection drawings and inspiration to reminders about important meetings.

I keep my pens in this vintage pen holder in the shape of a hand. I found it during one of my trips to Paris in a little vintage shop at the Clignancourt Market. I would say I’m a very tidy worker. With so many collections to design throughout the year being orderly is the only way to keep up with busy schedules.

When I’m designing a garment with intricate detailing, I make a moquette to help me solve its construction. They’re a practical tool, but they turn into beautiful objects in their own right and I often get asked by visitors to the studio if they can keep one of them so I never throw them away.

Emma Hill CBE desk

I like that my trestle desk is really simple. I think a desk should just be functional and it’s white because I like a clean palette. I keep these apples on my desk because of my connection to New York. I lived there for 14 years and my 10-year-old son Hudson was born there. I have a photo of him when he was a day old on my desk as well as drawings he’s done or funny things he’s written. A few years ago I was in New York during Fashion Week, which fell over Valentine’s Day. He sent me a card saying ‘Happy Fashiontine’s Day’ – it’s next to the apples.

I started collecting wind-up toys when my son was little. I keep them on my desk and often play around with them – when someone’s having a bad day, it’s hard not to smile if a banana starts bouncing around the desk. It’s similar to our design perspective – the idea of making something really fun but grown-up is key to the brand, and I love incorporating fun with the super-classical. Our logo, for example, is a winking face, but it’s very subtle. In fact, faces are an enduring motif for me — I even have two giant googly eyes on my pink front door at home.

I could never be one of those ‘clean desk policy’ people. Unsurprisingly, I always have lots of bags on my desk. Bright colours – like this pink leopard bag – make me so happy. I loved Seventies cartoons growing up and crazy, clashing colours are still a big inspiration. Even my pencil case is bright and fluffy. In contrast, our office is white and minimal. While I like quirky things I’m quite analytical, which is why I always have my Chanel tape measure on hand. My dad was a mathematician and my mum was an artist so it’s second nature to me to check scale and dimensions.

Even though everything’s quite chaotic in the office, I try to keep my desk very ordered. I own several Smythson notebooks in seasonal colours to help me remember which one is for what. This green one is my master notebook though; it contains a bit of everything – sketches, notes, recipes and pages from magazines. The digital world and Pinterest are fabulous but I love keeping physical records too. I recently came across a notebook of mine that must have been 10 years old and there were tears from magazines that I would still pull out today.

These polaroids are of bellboys carrying our bags at Claridge’s after our launch during Fashion Week last year. They ended up inspiring a little theme for us, and the bellboys will be featuring in several of our events this month. We’re quintessentially a British company and we loved The Grand Budapest Hotel so we took that idea and put our own twist on the traditional Claridge’s bellboy uniform. I find it helps to have a visual reminder of our brand identity on my desk so I often have keepsakes like this dotted around.

Henry Holland desk

We have a distributor and manufacturer in Hong Kong so I visit about four times a year. Everyone in Hong Kong wears these fans around their neck on a lanyard because it’s so humid — I think of it as my sweaty top lip eraser. You rest it on your chest and it sprays cold air towards you.

I like bright colours, I’m a bit of a magpie. I buy the brightest Smythson diaries each year and cover them with stickers – this year’s is green. It’s nice to be able to go to a meeting with it and not look like a total mess. However, Smythson need to add a year planner – I have to print one off every time.

I definitely view my desk as a relaxed space. I like lots of personal things around me, like the flashing Jägermeister pin from when I went on a ski trip and drank so many bottles I was awarded a badge, or the picture of me with cornrows from about 20 years ago on holiday in Antigua with my little sister – silly bits that make me laugh. I’m very messy – I lose my phone about 17 times a day – but as I work on several different things at once, my brain lends itself to that style of working.

Sophia Webster desk

My love for flamingos is well known – they regularly feature in my designs and were dotted around my Mermaid Launderette s/s 2016 presentation, so it’s perhaps no surprise that this big pink flamingo sits almost under my desk. I have several other flamingos dotted around Sophia Webster headquarters and they often feature in our Snapchat account. The see-through desk in my studio is from Habitat – glass desks are perfect for designing as they double up as a lightbox.

I draw my designs in pencil then go over them with ProMarkers. I keep them all lined up and colour coded. I’m very protective over them – I think that comes from my student days when I used to spend all my wages on them – if one’s missing from my desk I know straight away. My favourite is a fiery pink.

I used this telephone in my a/w 2014 LFW presentation as part of our ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. It doesn’t work but it’s on Snapchat a lot. Behind it is a photo of my husband Bobby and I at our wedding and of my daughter Bibi Blossom. I love photos of my nearest and dearest on my desk.

Hair and make-up: Kim Kiefer at Frank Agency using Bobbi Brown cosmetics and GHD styling tools
Snapchat: sophiawebster

To read this week's issue of Stylist, download from app.stylist.co.uk



This week's Style List


The new modesty: a new age of fashion is dawning


“I find Zoolander funny. I like having a laugh about the industry”


Discover the brightest beauty products from the spring catwalks


The new shop window


How to recreate spring's key make-up looks


The four key trends set to make it big in s/s 2016


Work life: Sandra Greiss, Data Scientist at Lyst


Inside the beguiling world of illustrators at work



This clothing range is designed to raise awareness of mental illness

“It’s not a delusion, you are incredible”

by Amy Swales
24 Oct 2016

Daily outfit inspiration with our look at the best dressed A-listers

Casual dressing ideas from stylish celebrities

24 Oct 2016

The Met Gala 2017 theme will bring some serious high-fashion weirdness

Katy Perry and Pharrell Williams are set to host the fashion world’s biggest party.

by Moya Crockett
24 Oct 2016

In memory of Richard Nicoll, one of fashion's brightest talents

by Alexandra Fullerton
22 Oct 2016

Octogenarian bride shows us all how it's done

She married her beau 60 years after they first met

by Amy Swales
21 Oct 2016

Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman opens up about her anxiety

by Harriet Hall
21 Oct 2016

These are the most popular boots on Pinterest right now

They’re total lust-haves…

by Kayleigh Dray
20 Oct 2016

Contain yourselves: Mr. Men and Little Miss stamps have arrived

We're going to be writing more letters

by Amy Swales
20 Oct 2016

Victoria Beckham announces new fashion collaboration

(and it's affordable)

by Harriet Hall
20 Oct 2016

Is this Michelle Obama's ultimate statement dress?

Hello, bespoke Atelier Versace

by Harriet Hall
19 Oct 2016