She’s been a permanent fixture on the most coveted FROW’s around the globe for as long as we can remember so it comes as no surprise that 26-year-old Mischa has made the move from style spectator to fashion designer with ease.
Following on from her hugely successful handbag line, the actress has now expanded her design endeavours to include clothing and accessories and last year, opened her first boutique Mischa Barton in uber hip Spitalfields in London’s east end. Here we talk to Mischa about her brand, why she’s decided to embark on a career in fashion and why it’s important to always be in control…
You’ve lived in London, LA, New York (and more recently Dublin!). What city has played the biggest part in the evolution of your own personal style? Can you pinpoint it to one city, or do you think they’ve all had a part to play?
I did most of my growing up in New York, so that’s definitely where the bohemian, indie style quirky look is from. Work also plays a big part in my style; I can go from skinny jeans, no make-up, and a hoodie, when I’m in rehearsals, to the full 5 star red-carpet glam when I need to.
What made you decide to open up a boutique in London and why Spitalfields? Is the less commercial east end a better fit for your brand?
Spitalfields is cool and very up-and-coming! It’s one of the oldest areas in London and it’s got a really great history; really interesting and very beautiful.
Your style is quite eclectic, who or what inspires you?
I love fashion, I always have, I look at the new collections, but I don’t always follow trends. I just tend to wear what I like. I’d like to think I have developed my own sense of style, and as I’ve got older, it has become more defined and consistent.
Mum was a major style inspiration growing up; she always looked amazing, and did London 60s and 70s cool better than anyone. We collaborate on the MB fashion range, and a section of our first complete collection for MB Boutique is influenced by the original Biba style cool!
Do you design for yourself or do you have a Mischa girl in mind when you are designing your bags and clothing line?
The collection is definitely an extension of my personality, and what I like. I am very much involved in the design process, and whether I’m on a movie set or a photo-shoot, I seem to absorb inspiration. Travel inspires me, and I love collecting vintage pieces, but it could be movies, TV, or a book I’m reading that brings a certain style to mind.
Working with mum brings a wide appeal to the collection; we have casual chic to more stylish structured creations, and ultimately every piece is quality and highly functional. The people I design for love unique styling, but they also want their clothes to last, and to feel great.
How closely do you follow catwalk trends? Would you ever design something you didn’t personally like but knew would work commercially?
No, I’m not that influenced by trends, and those I design for are probably looking for something a bit different too. But, we are very commercial, and the amazing people who work on my collections and bring them to life are really good at pulling trends, and making sure my designs translate to fashion with market appeal.
Lots of actresses/models/former Spice Girls have turned their hand to designing their own line. How involved are you in the process? Would you be happy to appoint a team to look after your designs or are you very hands-on?
I am that person, sitting in a small office just off Oxford Street, talking to our design team about exactly what shape the handbags will be, and the look and feel we want. On the clothes, I do the mood board stuff, the colours, the fabrics, and the whole visual impact we want to create.
It’s my name and my brand. I’m not an ace designer yet, on the clothing front. This is our first season ever, and my first very own boutique, so it’s a big step up! We’ve always looked into having a clothing line, and I said no, because I didn’t want to licence to someone else, and I didn’t want their design team coming in and putting it in K-mart – not that there’s anything wrong with k-mart, it’s just not what I’m shooting for.
Having a London boutique, and having full control is really cool. As we expand the collection and the stores, I will probably be less hands-on, but what we design will always have my stamp on it.
How far do you want the Mischa Barton brand to go? Do you see the brand expanding in the next couple of years and would you ever give up acting to focus on designing full-time?
I am an actress, and always will be. I love designing though, and I want to expand my brand and boutiques. There has been a lot of interest in the Middle East and China, so who knows? I’ve got a good team, and I feel pretty comfortable in my ability to do my acting and a little bit of design. The business side of it is not my strength; – I’m the creative, but luckily I have a lot of good business people on my side too.
What’s your failsafe fashion must-have that you always rely on to transform an outfit – is it a structured tuxedo blazer/a really great pair of shoes/ornate costume jewellery?
All of the above; I collect beautiful things, and even though I’m drawn to slinky black and gold for evening wear at the moment, I’ll always accessorise with a touch of colour, and a cool clutch. I love accessories, which is why I got into handbag design in the first place, and earlier this year I launched my own line of mobile phone covers with Uunique London; glittery and cute, so you can totally change them to match your outfit.
What’s the best style advice you’ve ever been given?
Mum and I agree on the best style advice, (probably why we work so well together), which is to make clothes an extension of your personality, and go with what makes you feel good. Fit the trends to you, not the other way round. Find out what’s popular this season, and figure out how it will work for you, – or leave it if it’s just not your thing!