“It was in 1978, when I was changing my first baby’s nappy, that a letter from Stanley Kubrick’s production company dropped through the door,” recalls Margaret Howell. The notoriously fastidious auteur was in pre-production for The Shining, and the letter was an order request for 12 replicas of a corduroy jacket his star, Jack Nicholson, had purchased from one of Howell’s stockists in Los Angeles, Maxfield Bleu. It turned out Nicholson loved her design so much that he insisted on wearing it to inhabit the role of Jack Torrance. While she isn’t star-struck-prone, “it’s always a thrill when someone I admire wears our clothes,” admits Howell. Today, her vocal admirers include Alexa Chung, Bill Nighy, and Frances McDormand.
Born in 1946 in Tadworth, Surrey (a bucolic county south of London), as a teenager Howell enjoyed making her own clothes, developing her lifelong relationship to fabric in the process. A precocious knowledge of and passion for clothing’s construction meant that when she first discovered British heritage apparel such as Mackintosh, John Smedley, Scottish knitwear, and bench-made shoes, she was able to truly understand the craft and well-earned pride behind them.