May | Designer Focus
Designer Focus: Tove
Camille Perry and Holly Wright talk to Emma Sells about their cult London label and the effortlessly cool, endlessly useful aesthetic that’s made it a fashion-insider favourite.Emma Sells
When Camille Perry and Holly Wright founded Tove in 2019, they knew exactly what they were setting out to create: the clothes that they wanted to wear but couldn’t find. And, given the extent to which the label and its quietly polished aesthetic have resonated with so many women, they’ve managed to nail exactly what the rest of us were looking for, too. “It’s a brand for a modern woman,” explains Perry. “Our whole ethos is about creating a wardrobe that’s effortless and refined, that has sustainability at the core, but also has a real versatility. We want the Tove woman to always be the most elegant, put-together woman in the room, but without trying too hard. She should be the envy of every other woman there.”
Small wonder, then, that Tove’s stripped-back silhouettes have been such a big hit with fashion insiders, A-listers – Katie Holmes has been a devoted fan since the brand’s beginnings – and a multi-generational gang of style-conscious women. These are clothes for grown-ups: relaxed dresses and easy separates elevated with clever twists, gathers and thoughtfully placed cut-outs, and low-key luxe outerwear that’s as at home thrown over off-duty denim as occasionwear. They look great, obviously, hitting the sweet spot between feminine and androgynous while giving off an unmistakable air of effortless sexiness, but it’s their day-to-day utility that makes them so desirable. Like a large chunk of their customers, Perry and Wright are both busy working mothers and know only too well that when you’re juggling a job, a family and a social life, you need instantly stylish, easy clothes that work in every season and setting.
“It's a brand for a modern woman. Our whole ethos is about creating a wardrobe that’s effortless and refined, that has sustainability at the core of it but also has a real versatility. We want the Tove woman to always be the most elegant, put together woman in the room, but without trying too hard.”
The pair had known each other for years before they established their label: both started their careers working at Topshop in the high-street brand’s heyday, the game-changing era of the Kate Moss collaborations and NewGen shows at London Fashion Week. They bonded over a mutual love of ’90s youth culture and iconic fashion moments, while rising through the ranks with the ultimate dream team – Perry becoming Head of Buying, and Wright, Head of Design. So, while broadly speaking Perry focuses on the business side of things and Wright the collections, they discuss and, for the most part, agree on everything. “Our mindsets are very similar – they’re completely fused, so we constantly come to the same conclusion as each other instinctively,” says Wright. “It means we have a lot of trust in each other that we’re doing the right thing. I’ll go off and do one thing, Camille goes and does another, and then we’re a soundboard for each other, a sanity check. It’s so nice for us to have that; I think it makes us so much stronger and we have so much confidence in what we’re doing because we’re both in it and in agreement.”
One of their earliest decisions when fleshing out ideas for Tove was that responsibility was a non-negotiable, baked into the label from the very beginning. “Sustainability has always been at the forefront of everything, from the fabrics and the packaging that we use to the way we manufacture and the partners that we work with,” says Perry. “We’re conscious of our carbon footprint and we operate vertically where we can in one country, sourcing fabrics and manufacturing them in the same place. It’s so hugely important to us; this is our brand and it really falls on us to make the right decisions.” As Tove grows, they’re also hoping to be able to wield their power and influence to be a force for positive change within the industry. Larger brands have already asked them for advice and information about their responsible practices and they’re keen to share their knowledge with as many people as possible.
And, because the duo understands that building a responsible brand means considering people as much as materials, the pair are determined to create a flexible, family-friendly workplace for the women that work for them, too. Right now they don’t have a studio space – having started the business in the midst of lockdown, the pair have got used to operating from their respective homes on opposite sides of London – and they’re trying to find a solution that gives the business a hub without imposing a long commute or impractical hours on themselves or their team. “We’re fortunate that a lot of the women we work with come from industry and we’ve worked with them before,” says Wright. “They’re hugely experienced and got to the point where having a family didn’t necessarily work within the corporate structure and environment that they were in. So, we’ve benefited massively; we’ve got a wealth of experience and some amazing women that work with us but that flexibility is really key for them and we want to make sure that, whatever we do, there isn’t an obligation for them to be somewhere for a certain amount of time.”
Inspiringly motivated and driven, Perry and Wright are keen to keep pushing their brand and explore its untapped potential. They have plans to introduce new categories – footwear, leather goods and anything else they feel will round out their offering – and, in February, they made their London Fashion Week debut with a cast of models they loved so much it made them giddy. “It was so nice to have that moment – a combination of everything we’ve worked on and being able to showcase it in that way, and the response has been amazing,” says Wright. “It’s insanely hard work to start a company and it’s definitely a wild ride but it’s so rewarding; you’re making the decisions that you feel are the right ones and it’s just so nice to know that it’s working, to see the results out there in the world and hitting the audience that we dreamed of, the women we love. It really spurs us on.”