You might not be able to reinvent the wheel, but La Ligne founders Valerie Macaulay, Meredith Melling, (both former American Vogue staffers) and Molly Howard (former head of business development at Rag & Bone), have surely proven that you can reinvent the stripy top.
Such items were the uniform of choice for French Navy seaman in the 19th century, each top emblazoned with 21 stripes representing the 21 victories of Napoleon Bonaparte. From there, Breton tops appeared in the respective collections of designers John Paul Gaultier and Coco Chanel. And now at La Ligne, reimagined in cashmere blends and cotton jacquard, cropped and in cardigan form. They’re as stylish on the streets of their native New York City as they are in London; on a city break with slacks as they are on the beach with shorts.
Just as La Ligne launched its latest collection in collaboration with Target, we caught up with Valerie Macaulay to talk about how the Big Apple inspires her and where she’d like to travel to next.
What led you to set-up La Ligne, and did you face any challenges along the way?
While Meredith and I were working at Vogue we noticed a shift, not only in the ways in which people were consuming fashion, but also the sheer volume and frequency with which designers were churning out collections – each with their own identity and mood.
After leaving to consult, the idea of starting a brand of simple stripes and fashion-forward lines took on a sense of urgency and we convinced Molly Howard to come on board. We decided to launch as a direct-to-consumer business which meant we were relying on the strength of our ideas and designs rather than a ton of wholesale orders to get the brand off the ground.
Describe La Ligne in three words
Classic, fresh, fun.
How important is the branding of La Ligne to you?
It might be the single most important thing to a business. It’s important to show the customer who we are, the different moods the brand inhabits, the causes we champion, the jokes that make us laugh and the way in which stripes and lines infiltrate every aspect of the brand and our lives. It’s an opportunity to connect with customers in the hope that they see something completely unrelated to the clothes and think of you – which is pretty powerful.
Is there a hotel that best embodies or resonates with your brand?
The Mark Hotel in New York City – we are both stripe obsessed!
Speaking of – La Ligne is based in New York. What, if anything, about the city has informed your designs and the company itself?
The brand was founded in New York and two of us grew up there, so I think a lot of the inspiration comes from the city, the people and the energy. And just like the city, we are always moving forward while staying exactly the same.
Do you have any NYC recommendations? Restaurants, must-see attractions…
Some serious highlights are located within a one block radius of our store on Madison Avenue. Start with coffee at Sant Ambroeus, take a walk in Central Park, then head to Frick Madison at the Breuer Building, followed by some light La Ligne shopping, cocktails at Bemelmans Bar, and dinner at the Mark.
You set up La Ligne with two other women. Do you ever travel together? And if so, to where?
We are typically on the road about once a month doing trunk shows and introducing the brand to markets we do not have stores in. We love meeting current and future clients of the brand and seeing firsthand what people love and want to see more of.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
What are your favourite La Ligne pieces?
The OG Marin Sweater that we have been making since our first year in business. I have it in about 10 different colorways. Lately, I have also been living in its cotton counterpart, the Marina.
Of course, life is not complete without a take-you-everywhere dress – the Isabelle or Isabella dresses for me. We launched them in neon this season and they come with a slip underneath which is fun to wear on its own with boots and a blazer. A real two-for-one!
What’s next for La Ligne?
As we continue to hone-in on the stripe – aiming to make La Ligne a lifestyle brand – you can expect to see more colours of our popular Marin Sweater, but for the whole family. The Marini Sweater for kids and Mr Marin for men.
And where is next for a much-deserved break?
If there is a location I have in mind for my next escape now that I live on this side of the pond [Macaulay recently relocated to London], I would say it would be Les Roches Rouges in Côte d’Azur, France.
It’s officially sweater weather – here’s where to wear your stripes this A/W.