• Kate Allden of KJ’s Laundry

Style

Q&A: Kate Allden

The co-owner of KJ’s Laundry on travel, family and why head-to-toe denim is a step too far

Interview: Ellie Costigan
Images: Joseph Fox

It’s been a while since we last caught up with you—what have you been up to?
That’s a big question! Since we last spoke, Jane and I may well have had five children between us—I have a four-year-old and a six-year-old. We’re busy mums now, so our own wardrobes are changing, which has also affected our look. We find ourselves wanting more practical, investment pieces, so the labels we buy are slightly different.

We’ve also been working on our spring summer look book, which is really exciting. It means we’ll be able to show customers whole looks and how to style them. We’ve also been working on our own label, which we hope to have ready for spring summer, if not autumn winter 2015. We’ll keep you posted.

What made you decide to start your own line?
We know what our customers really want but can’t always find the pieces. It’s the bits that are either missing from the collections or that we feel are missing from our own wardrobes. And we know the perennials—we know people want a certain shaped shirt, for example, and we want to do it in our own print and fabric. Just simple, well-made pieces.

What else can we expect to see this season?
Fringing and seventies style clothes are going to be big, as well as prints, tribal influences and floaty trousers—the trouser leg is getting a bit wider which changes the silhouette a bit. And denim—we love denim. We have a lot of nice denim pieces that are a bit different, such as denim jackets that are a blazer style, denim dresses and chambray. You can do head-to-toe denim now, although I still feel a bit stupid! I’ll be doing 80 per cent denim. No more than that.

What are your favourite pieces?
Probably the No. 6 dresses. There are some slightly seventies inspired prints and really lovely floaty dresses in beautiful materials. They’re very flattering. There are a couple of nice Steven Alan dresses too, and some beautiful white, low-heeled, open-toed d’Orsay heels.

Where do you find inspiration for your stock?
On our travels, mainly. Trips to Italy, Spain, Paris. We don’t go to the US as much now, but New York is still an influence. We recently discovered a New York label called Emerson Fry, which has a very laidback style. You can really see staples you would like to have in your wardrobe—the perfect turtleneck or pair of heels.

We’ve also been channelling our energy into seeking out new Scandinavian labels. It’s very of the moment and fits with our lifestyles, and those of our customers. But we still have the old favourites. We’re still big Samantha Sung fans, she’s very popular. It’s about having really smart pieces that you can bung a pair of trainers on with and still look alright, you don’t have to have the perfect pair of shoes to make the outfit look good.

Who is the KJ’s Laundry woman?
I think she’s fairly understated, cool and doesn’t try too hard. She knows what she wants, appreciates quality, and dresses appropriately—although that sounds a bit mean! I mean dresses for the occasion, with a refined style.

Do you think KJ’s Laundry has changed much since you opened back in 2006?
The high street is growing, so independents like us have to make sure we are really different in order to survive, but I do think there’s been a movement towards shopping locally. People like that in our shop they get a more personal experience than being in a chain or a department store. We have gotten to know our customers. We will pull things out for them when they come back.

I don’t think our concept has changed, it’s just evolved. We know more about our customers and our own style has changed a bit. We’re more practical, because we’re a bit older and our lifestyles have changed, but we still yearn for some of those things that maybe we can’t wear ourselves! So we do get some unusual pieces in. It has been led by fashion to some degree. We move with the times but we’ve kept our roots.

Last time you were in the Journal you mentioned plans to expand—any update?
We have talked about it and we did do a pop-up in Chelsea at one point, but we found it wasn’t right for us. It’s not something we would dismiss, but we would have to pick the area carefully. We chose Marylebone because we like its villagey feel—it’s in the heart of London, but it has its own identity. There are so many cute shops around, I love Daunt Books, La Fromagerie, Tracey Neuls, Button Queen; they’re all shops that add to the character of the area.

Marylebone has a big residential and a business community, and we get both kinds of customers. We get people who live locally—some of them are eccentric Londoners through and through—as well as people who work in the area and are very cosmopolitan. People come and seek us out too. We get a real spread, and Marylebone allows that. It’s got a real community, which is what gives it a heart.