Formerly a buyer for Lane Crawford and Seibu in Hong Kong, Madeleine Thompson is the founder of a cashmere-focussed brand that she created on her hunt for a good beanie.
On being unable to find anything she liked, Thompson got one knitted for herself from a specialist in the city. The custom beanie became an instant hit within her influential friend circle. It was soon photographed by paparazzi on actors like Sienna Miller and Agyness Deyn.
Much to her surprise, an editor at Vogue magazine even asked the British designer where she was retailing these. As a result, Thompson took the leap and launched her own brand. Her aim was to fill the market gap for supreme-quality cashmere that felt more current and came with adequate pricing.
In less than a decade, Thompson has created a devoted customer base, all because of a product that sustains itself on our inherent desire for everyday comfort. “I want my clothes to be your friend and to look good and feel good at the same time,” she adds.
Sashaying between Hong Kong and London, the designer believes that luxury supersedes all trends. Especially with knitwear, being ‘on trend’ has to be balanced with classic silhouettes and timeless quality.
To ensure exceptional quality, Thompson only works with trusted suppliers from Italy and Mongolia. They use 100% cashmere but some styles work better with a blend so a 30:70 wool or silk blend is also common.
As for her manufacturing, the label has been loyal to the same family-run factory that they started with, in 2006 in China. Thompson says that to start a brand, the first thing you need to know is your product and then have the production lined up for it.
Thompson’s personal ‘East meets West’ background makes her design aesthetic global. Her clothes also fall in line with the rising demand for refined loungewear. The collections dance right between yoga and post-skiing apparel, placing her in one of the most lucrative markets of our time.
This is the reason why her clothes are now stocked with major retailers such as Selfridges, Net-a-Porter, Harvey Nichols and Fortnum & Mason.
Going one step ahead, she often even collaborates with retailers to create special edits and does not shy away from customisation. “We often work very closely with buyers to rework special styles for them. That is one of the brand’s strong points,” she reveals to Apparel Resources.
Thompson also retails from Barneys in New York and Ron Herman in Los Angeles, both of which enjoy a good footfall from celebrities. In a time where brands vie for social media cred and influencer-driven marketing, the designer’s rainbow-striped sweaters are organically filling the Instagram posts of countless fashion insiders and celebs.
It will not be wrong to deduce that to succeed in fashion, a great product should also be supplemented with the right clientele and that can only come when you build a sound network.
“There’s no point to everything else without the product. But for someone just starting out, you just have to get yourself out there. When I began, I literally went door to door with my material. There were people who were incredibly kind and put me in touch with buyers and I was just very brave! You have to be!” concludes Thompson.