It’s safe to say knitwear designer Madeleine Thompson knows a thing or two about luxury. What started out as a simple beanie design (made out of cashmere, no less) turned into a fully-fledged knitwear brand that is as highly-sought after as it is luxurious, with an undeniable easy-wear appeal that has attracted fans such as Sienna Miller and Rachel Zoe, and is stocked in exclusive stores such as Selfridges and Net-A-Porter...
The mother of two (soon to be three) splits her time between Hong Kong and London and has mastered the art of dividing her attention between work and family without compromising either. “I realised very quickly that at the end of a week if I hadn’t spent some proper time with my children I wasn’t happy. So make the time you do spend with them count. I am lucky that I work for myself, but that does mean it can sometimes feel like work never ends of a day! I think it’s important to make sure you have good childcare for the times that you want to get proper work done and don’t try and do both – that will leave you really stressed. When you don’t need your phone, turn it OFF.”
With a collection that sees traditional cashmere take on new forms in the way of sporty silhouettes and gloriously relaxed throw-on pieces, it’s easy to see why Thompson’s eponymous label has a cult-following with those in the know. So what are her handy hints when caring for the notoriously delicate fabric? “Always hand wash it COLD with a good shampoo and lay it out to dry. Don’t wring it and never hang it otherwise it will stretch. A great way to store it is to keep it in zip lock bags in your cupboard. It dry cleans beautifully, too.” Read on to hear more from the talented mama on everything from business and beauty to how her own childhood in Hong Kong has influenced her today.
Words: Marisa Remond | Photography: Lauren Michelle | Go to www.madelinethompson.com
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Strong, tired, happy.
What has motherhood taught you so far?
Mainly how impatient I was before and to just breathe and be patient! You can’t control everything. Also things are so fluid… what is one way today might be totally different tomorrow or next week.
What has been the most challenging part of motherhood and how have you overcome any challenges?
I think the idea that your life is now not your own and you have these little amazing creatures that take priority. That takes a bit of getting used to! Time management, so that you can juggle everything you need to is really important.
What’s your approach to health and wellbeing?
I definitely try to eat well and I do quite a lot of exercise as it balances me and makes me feel so much better. I started running after Lily (now two-years-old) was born as you don’t need anything apart from your shoes and you can go out any time. I find it’s much harder to make time for classes!
What inspires your collections and keeps you motivated? Have you always been driven?
I love my work and that keeps me really motivated and driven. I work with people I really do like and respect which helps too. I am constantly inspired by what I see around me in London and Hong Kong; by art, vintage fashion and also by the drive to improve my skills technically too. The new collection is really trying to push what we can achieve in that department.
Tell us about some significant career highlights since you started your brand?
Seeing people you don’t know wearing your clothes on the street is a wonderful feeling! And working with Net-a-Porter has been a real honour.
Can you talk us through your morning routine?
I gave up caffeine when I was pregnant with my first – Jake, now almost four – and weirdly I just never took it up again! Jake has started to come into our room as soon as he wakes up so I’m up when he is! It’s always a mad rush getting them up and ready for school. Always.
What about your nightly routine?
It depends. Often, I’ll be working late. I have a workshop and a little office at home. I do try and put the kids to bed with a story as much as I can.
What are some vivid memories of your childhood?
Hong Kong was an amazing place to grow up in. People don’t realise but it’s filled with country parks and wonderful beaches, so it was a childhood spent with family outdoors and on the boat every weekend. Some of my happiest memories are from being on that boat! There’s a strong American influence so we were big into Disney and Hollywood movies growing up too. I think it was really special to grow up amongst loads of different cultures and nationalities and I’m really happy to see that same pattern for my own children today in Hong Kong too.
What’s your approach to fashion and has motherhood changed your style?
I’ve always loved fashion, but I try to feel and look comfortable at the same time. I think if you’re trying too hard that really comes across. I’m more picky about what I wear now and I tend to wear stuff more once I find something that works. I was a late convert to online shopping and now I love it!
Do you enjoy being pregnant? What are your fashion and beauty essentials for pregnancy?
I’ve had three very good pregnancies so I’m very lucky. I’ve kept quite active throughout which I think is quite important as you need to be pretty fit to go through childbirth and to deal with a new born! I moisturise religiously with Mama Mio Body Lotion and Sarah Chapman Overnight Facial Elixir.
What makes you laugh?
My husband! He really gets the joke and when he’s on a roll can make me cry with laughter. It’s just so important to laugh, isn’t it?
What makes you feel stressed?
Trying to do too much. I used to try juggling work and being with the children at the same time and you end up doing neither well.
Describe your inbox…
I’m quite good at clearing emails… control freak, maybe?
How would you describe your approach to parenting?
I’m quite strict, especially about manners. I feel I’m more strict with Jake as he’s the eldest, which seems a bit unfair. We do have routines, but we can be quite flexible. With these long, hot evenings the kids have been staying up much later!
What are your top business lessons for mothers looking to launch a fashion business?
I think you have to make sure you have a good product before anything else. Without that it’s pointless. A sound, realistic business plan is also a good idea and make sure that you have enough working capital before you start.
Is there anything you would have done differently with your business if you had your time again?
My business happened in quite an organic way so I think perhaps I would be more strategic and business orientated if I started again now.
Do you spend a lot of time on social media?
No I don’t. I wasn’t on Instagram until six months ago and then I was very humbled by how much I was missing out on and how the brand’s profile was suffering by not being on it. It’s a whole new world that I’m learning about and I’m enjoying the process along the way!
What do you love about raising children in London and where are your go-to spots?
Battersea Zoo is lovely and any of the wonderful London parks, although we do go to Kensington Park most of the time. The Natural History Museum is a favourite now that Jake has fully embraced dinosaurs! I hear Kew Gardens is very special and we plan to visit this summer.
How do you care for cashmere properly? What are your top tips for caring for your cashmere?
Be careful with cashmere! Always hand wash it in cold water with a good shampoo and lay it out to dry. Don’t wring it and never hang it, otherwise it will stretch. A great way to store cashmere is to keep it in zip lock bags in your cupboard and it dry cleans beautifully too.
How would you describe the interior of your home?
We’ve spent two years doing up our house in Hong Kong. It’s a real labour of love and such a good reflection of both of our tastes which, luckily, are very similar! I often wonder what happens when couples have totally different taste…