So one day, this guy says he wants to share some green tea with me. He took me to his dormitory. I see hundreds of beds on top of each other. I was feeling sorry for him because he was away from his children and living in not great conditions. But at that point, I realised actually there was no difference between him and me. I was away from my children for years. So I felt disconnected. I felt dissatisfied. It wasn’t about money anymore.
Just before the financial crash in 2008, I talked to my business partner and said to him, “Look, I want to be with my children, I want to live in London, I want to reconnect with my family.” He bought my shares in the transaction, and I kept the building here.
I know that you owned a restaurant in Stow Newington for a while after that. So when did Blackhorse Lane Ateliers start? Did you think you would go back into fashion?
I’ve been doing years of humanistic psychotherapy. Not to become a psychotherapist, but I wanted to understand that journey. Who are we? In one of these meetings, the theme was “How do you define yourself as an artist?” We had about eight people in the group: writers, psychotherapists, academics, politicians, housewives, businessmen, everybody talking about how they feel connected to their artistic side. When the question came to me, I couldn’t really define myself because I had this amazing, beautiful restaurant. But I wasn’t in the creative state, because I wasn’t the head chef. I was a good host, which is glamorous, really nice. But creatively, you’re not doing much.
I said, “Look, just give me some time, I’m going to think about it.” So about four to five minutes later, when the question came back to me again, I realised I was most happy creatively in this building, when I was producing garments. I was cutting the pattern, measuring it, choosing the fabric, making sure the quality was there. The artistic process is all about imagination. I missed that. And I think “I’m going to go back, but I’m going to go back and do it very differently.” So by that time, it was 2014. In December, I sold the restaurant business. I learned so much in hospitality. One was connectivity. Secondly, in a really good restaurant, the most important thing is the quality of the ingredients. Unfortunately, the fashion world has not discovered that yet.
What do you mean by quality ingredients?
You are as good as your material. If the material is not great, it doesn’t matter what you do – it’s not going to last.