Known for her playful take on cosy luxury knitwear and love of patterns, designer Madeleine Thompson talks personal style, her multifarious inspiration and why her latest collaboration is her prettiest yet.
Although Hong Kong’s subtropical climate may seem an unlikely base for a knitwear business, the founder and creative director of her namesake brand, Madeleine Thompson Cashmere, credits the vibrant city as key to influencing her unique aesthetic.
Since she founded her business in 2009, Thompson has shaken up the once-austere realm of cashmere design with a repertoire of eye-catching jumpers, loungewear sets and skiwear that deftly references anything from the paintings of Mondrian to the colours of the rainbow. Now with celebrity fans including Sienna Miller, January Jones and Leandra Medine Cohen, as well as demand from stockists such as Net-A-Porter and Farfetch, Thompson reveals how she’s building her cashmere empire.
What inspired you to start your own brand? Were there any obstacles along the way?
I studied law at university but knew I didn’t want to become a lawyer, so I went straight into fashion PR and buying instead. It was an amazing way to understand how all aspects of the business work. Then, when I was working as a buyer for a Hong Kong department store, I started designing for their own label, and I thought, “I need to do this for myself !” It was important I made sure my product was perfect, and then everything else was built around that.
How did growing up in Hong Kong shape your design aesthetic?
Being based in Hong Kong and so close to the manufacturing process was absolutely key to how my brand started and developed. I’m so close with my factory – the same one since I began – and privileged to share such a great trust and understanding with them. Growing up here was a truly wonderful experience. We’re a true melting pot of so many cultures and I think that’s 100 percent reflected in how people dress. I feel so lucky to have British, European and American influences as part of my life experience and also the eclectic backdrop of Hong Kong itself, with such vibrant colours playing a huge part in my designs.
Who’s the Madeleine Thompson Cashmere woman?
I think she understands classic pieces, appreciates quality and doesn’t get too caught up in trends. I also think there’s a real trust between me and my customers, and that my clothes feel like friends: flattering and comfortable yet directional enough that they’re participating in fashion.
Are there any exciting new launches or collaborations to look out for?
I’m so excited about my newest collaboration with the British actress, poet and model Greta Bellamacina, who was a delight to work with. The ballerina-inspired collection, which includes cashmere playsuits and ballet cardigan, feels so fresh and pretty. This year, I also worked with the brand Rock the Jumpsuit for the first time and I loved it. We did a really ’70s-inspired collection with fabulous onesies in cashmere and lurex. I also love working with the London-based online magazine Wardrobe Icons, as the two founders, Laura Fantacci and Petronella Stofberg, are so chic and have such an innate understanding of what their demographic wants and loves.
Describe your personal sense of style.
I don’t want to look like anyone else, and that translates into how I dress and how I design. I never look too “done”, which is key, and I like to think I can take risks but still look chic.
Does anything in your wardrobe tell a story?
I just love clothes, and every piece means so much to me. Your clothes are your statement to the world of who you are (that day!), and they’re such a joyful way to express yourself.
The last item you bought and loved?
I recently had a bespoke suit made in green velvet with a red lining by De-Luxe Tailor in Central. I’m obsessed with it.
What’s your biggest fashion faux pas?
Oh my goodness, when I was young, there are too many to count!
Do you have a favourite shop?
I love Rue Madame as a proper bricks-and- mortar boutique in Hong Kong.
And a signature scent?
I’ve started to wear a body oil instead of actual perfume and now I can’t go back.
Where are you travelling this year?
It’s so wonderful to travel easily again. We just love getting on a plane in Hong Kong, don’t we? I have three children, so we’re very lucky to be going skiing in Austria over Chinese New Year and will return (for the third time) to Paxos in Greece. Greece is just magical. I always spend the summers in London, too, as it’s my favourite place in the world after Hong Kong.
A recent exhibition you visited and loved?
Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London at the Hong Kong Palace Museum. Get there! It’s just stunning.
Check out Christy Chan’s hidden finds here.