Described as a perfectionist tailor, Pip Howeson has loved creating coats for most of her life – but now something else is vying for her attention
Her clientele includes athletes who struggle to find clothes that fit right to those anxious about their pesky problem areas, so it’s little surprise how Pip Howeson sums up their reaction to her creations: ‘It’s like their armour,’ she smiles.
Pip is determined to rid coats of their drab repute, and her easy-going nature is certainly a good starting point. Giving customers a uniquely bespoke experience of tailoring, she recently opened the doors to her showroom in Islington to the public. The showroom is a part of Pip’s gorgeous home and is decorated with a strong air of classic design. As she throws her dog a chew toy and brushes away drawings and fabrics, she addresses a pertinent question – why coats of all things? ‘I think it was the English schooling system,’ she laughs. ‘I went to this school in Leicestershire where we had to wear a uniform, but we were allowed to wear a long coat. You had your identity by your coat. So I think the idea to create coats was there for a long time’.
Prior to branching out and doing her own thing, Pip worked under a number of fashion big-names, like Jack Wills, and along with several creative minds, including Lulu Guinness, but always knew where her heart lay. ‘I loved structure and tailoring, as well as playing with proportion and fabrics,’ she enthuses.
Designs of a hybrid German-Scottish jacket lie on the table along with vaguely chinoiserie patterns featuring English elements like oak leaves and pheasants. She explains that she’s recently begun working with Freddie Winsett, a renowned muralist who has worked with the likes of Alice Temperley and Kate Moss, to create quintessentially British linings for her coats. Staying true to her English heritage, Pip sources all her fabrics from mills in the UK. ‘I love the romance of it,’ she says. ‘It’s ethical as well, which is brilliant, and I can trace it all back. If you think about England and cloth towns and market towns, especially those beautiful places in Gloucestershire, our country was built on this industry. I want my pieces to be around forever and be passed on – but there can always be a bit of wit in it.’
She deems the most gratifying part of her job to be making people feel good about themselves. ‘When I make for people, I ask them how they want to feel,’ she explains, ‘because that’s the most important thing.’ Many of those who approach Pip have a clear concept of what they’re looking for, but struggle to find them off the rack. ‘Some want something similar to a cherished coat that has fallen apart, or something that fits their shape properly,’ Pip explains. ‘I think they come to me for what they haven’t found, rather than what they’re looking for.’
Softly spoken but passionate, Pip calls nature her foremost inspiration. ‘I’m totally drawn by nature,’ she gushes. ‘Even going to the Chelsea Flower Show and looking at flowers and thinking about how nature has brought these two colours together. It gets it bang on doesn’t it? Plants, trees, the way the sea and cliffs hit. I love that.’ Proudly declaring her ‘country girl’ personality, she admits that her move to Islington was one that wasn’t initially welcomed, but was later seen as one the best decisions she’s made. ‘I nearly didn’t get married because of Islington!’ she laughs. ‘I thought this was so far out of my comfort zone because I was living in Chelsea. After we got married, my husband continued to insist we came up here to look for a house. This house came up and I thought it was the coolest space ever.’
The house, just off the main road in Canonbury Place, is one that Pip believes could be for the long term. ‘It’s like a village. I love walking down Alwyne Road, I’ve got a friend who’s an artist on the corner down the street, I love walking down for coffees, I love the butcher in the area that’s been there for ages, he has the most excellent banter… It’s the first time that I could see myself living in London forever, which is a really strong statement for a country girl. It’s a creative area, but relaxed as well. I’m really happy here.’ It’s almost like Islington has become something of a coat of arms for Pip Howeson.
Words: Maryam Rasheed
2 Canonbury Place N1 2NQ; piphoweson.com