Sandra J. Ley

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA032

London-based fashion retailer AllSaints made its name designing vintage-inspired garments with a modern, rock ’n’ roll sensibility. The brand was the brainchild of designers Kait Bolongaro and Stuart Trevor. Trevor studied fashion at Nottingham Trent University, where he won the prestigious Smirnoff Fashion Award for his menswear designs. The televised event brought him to the attention of David Reiss, who offered him a job as menswear designer for his high-street chain, Reiss. Trevor accepted and finished his studies at the Royal College of Art.

Kait Bolongaro also studied fashion at the Royal College of Art. She met Trevor at a trade show in Paris and found they had a common interest in vintage clothing and classic rock music. They wed in 1994, and Trevor left his position at Reiss to launch a wholesale menswear brand that reflected their joint aesthetics, with Bolongaro as creative director.

Instead of slavishly following fashion trends, the label set out to attract trend-averse individuals who dress to reinforce their identification with rock subcultures. The brand excels at creating collections that reflect a darkly romantic, “I’m with the band” attitude.

The garments, based on distressed fabrics in brooding palettes of black, gray, sepia, and beige, seem scavenged from attics and resale shops. Skinny jeans, chunky knits, lean, military-style jackets, and draped sweaters with rock and religious iconography feature prominently. Iconic leather jackets and footwear that appears worn and battered complete the look. Collections have also reflected Gothic, steampunk, British punk, and post-apocalyptic aesthetics.

Initial sales were to retailers such as Harvey Nichols, Harrods of London, and Barneys New York. The high-end exposure made an immediate impact. AllSaints’ distinctive look, bridge price point, and quality manufacturing appealed to an eclectic mix of fashion-savvy, metropolitan customers in their late teens to forties.

The first AllSaints standalone store was opened in 1997 in Foubert Place, London. Its shop front was filled with vintage sewing machines, which beckoned curious customers inside. The interior was designed with a raw, early industrial aesthetic—brick, iron, salvaged wood changing stalls, and old industrial fixtures. The visual aesthetics served to reinforce the brand identity and were repeated in successive stores. Even without advertising, AllSaints continued to capture the attention of shoppers and attracted a cult following. A women’s wear line was added in 1998.

By the end of 2005, AllSaints had a turnover of £13 million and the owners were actively seeking a partner to advance the business to the next level. Kevin Stanford, fashion financier and cofounder of Karen Millen and Whistles, came along and, within one year, had bought out the AllSaints partners. A new design team was assembled.

The next several years proved to be tumultuous, marked by rapid retail expansion, the development of e-commerce, some major financing and liquidity issues, and ownership changes. Regardless, AllSaints expanded its presence in the global fashion market. In 2010, the brand’s profits doubled to £24 million. By 2012, there were more than seventy standalone stores and seventy concessions worldwide, as well as international e-commerce websites.

AllSaints’ product lines include menswear, women’s wear, children’s wear, footwear, lingerie, accessories, and jewelry.

All Saints Spitalfields, Autumn/Winter 1999 Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library ““AllSaints Opens in New York”.” Women’s Wear Daily 199, no. 108 (21 May 2010): 14 .

Find in Library ““All Saints Spitalfields—An Iconic London Fashion Label”.” London Fashion Review , 12 November 2011. (accessed 14 January 2013).

Find in Library Jones Nina. ““AllSaints Readies for March into U.S. Market”.” Women’s Wear Daily 198, no. 74 (8 October 2009): 11 .

Find in Library Weir Laura. ““The Drapers Interview: Stuart Trevor”.” Drapers , 20 October 2008 .