As part of my recent Italian adventure, I took advantage of the breathtaking tennis court at the Il San Pietro (from my previous post HERE) to shoot some of the gorgeous, new-collection clothes from my favourite tennis fashion house, Monreal London. This post also contains my interview with the brand’s founder, Stefani Grosse, formerly senior designer at Donna Karan and Calvin Klein. I think it gives a fantastic insight into the evolution of the way we’re dressing to burn calories! Click ‘continue reading‘ for the full interview & my pictures, plus a list of what I’m wearing…
I first discovered the brand last year at The Queens Club, and fell in love with the revolutionary approach to fitness fashion; Monreal genuinely blends the clean lines of the catwalk with wearable, functional sportswear which is super-elegant both on and off the court. I’ve since featured them in my posts from Monaco, St. Tropez and London (all HERE); it remains the brand which most elegantly captures the zeitgeist of our times, where mainstream fashion and sport fashion are fusing together. Monreal’s beautiful clothes celebrate the fact that it’s OK to dress for the gym as you might for a night out – or at least, that was my perception. Here’s what their founder had to say…
1) What sparked your original interest in fashion?
I have a great passion for fashion, lifestyle and sports; my upbringing allowed me to pursue both. My father worked in the sports industry, and my mother in the fashion industry. Combining these two worlds into one seemed very natural and the obvious thing to do, which is how Monreal came to life in 2012!
2) How would you describe your own style in and outside the gym?
My style is very much the same whether I go to the gym or attend private matters; that is the beauty of the Monreal London collection being versatile and able to wear for any occasion.
Also, the American influence is growing ever-stronger, and the lines between active wear and day wear continue to blur. Active wear leggings are worn with jumpers and high heels throughout the day to almost every occasion. The new active wear fashion is comfortable and sexy and also has a much higher degree in quality, fashion and style. This makes it suitable for most occasions in our busy lives. Constant changing of clothes is no longer appropriate, or indeed needed; the goal is to feel comfortable and well-dressed at the same time.
3) You had a fantastic career steering some of the most iconic and prominent brands in fashion. What made you want to launch your own label?
I really felt that there was a gap in the luxury sports apparel market, for a sportswear brand to create beautiful garments for sporty, fashion-forward-thinking women. It’s a really exciting time to have started my own brand, and to be able to make a difference in the sportswear industry!
From a fashion, style-conscious perspective I was never fond of the clothes I played tennis in. Convinced that I could create something that is as functional as it is flattering and sexy I founded Monreal. The collection was snapped up by Harrods and Matches which I am really happy about!
4) How have your previous creative directorships influenced your current design aesthetic?
Jil Sander was my first big hero in the fashion industry; I just love the minimal stripped back yet functional design. She has definitely influenced my designs in terms of quality, technology and functionality.
5) Similarly, how does your cultural heritage influence the Monreal look?
Well probably my German sense for efficiency, durability and functionality. My schooling, along with having spent 11 years in New York during very formative years, have been an even stronger influence on my style in general. Sporty, clean, relaxed and comfortable, healthy and sexy!
6) Your brand is fronting the newly-launched Net-A-Sporter campaign. Why do you think consumers want luxury sportswear these days?
Sport is an important aspect in most people’s lives and there is no reason why it should be treated differently to formal wear or evening wear. Fitness wear is becoming more fashionable, because women who often pay a lot of attention to their appearance and properly invest in their fashion, absolutely want to look great no matter what they do. Gyms, sports clubs and country clubs are also a social platform, where people meet, play sport and generally spend quite a lot of time with each other – much as they would in restaurants, bars and cafés.
7) How do you create a luxury brand from scratch; does it need heritage?
I think it is really important to have a clear vision to create something innovative and unique in the saturated fashion market. For Monreal London it was more about reinventing heritage and creating a new fashion sense in sportswear.
8) What’s your ethic around performance materials, and what fabrics go into the Monreal signature dress?
In the design process we look at every aspect of the garment to ensure that each design element is considered, has a purpose and can be worn while playing sports.
Material development plays an important role in the manufacturing process; using functional, high-tech performance fabrics from Italy, with plenty of stretch and a UV 50+ filter, the collection is both supportive and feminine, with built-in sports bras with removable cups for a beautiful silhouette.
9) Where are your clothes made and does that impact upon the quality?
We pay a lot of attention to the quality of our garments and always look at ways to innovate fabrication, to feel more modern and interesting. All of Monreal London’s garments are made in Europe, predominantly in Portugal where there are many factories specialising in active wear, with the required expertise to execute fashionable details at the same time.
10) Are there a lot of changes from the initial sketch to the finished product. Does the vision change as you execute, or is it born fully formed?
No, normally it goes straight from sketch to product sample with maybe one or two minor changes along the way. My experience has taught me to envision the outcome of a garment at concept stage.
11) Do you take inspiration from any catwalk designers for your collections?
Yes. I take inspiration from designers who take their inspiration from the sports industry, creating versatile and interesting sporty looking pieces. A great example is Céline, where you can clearly see the sportswear influence.
12) You use a lot of neon accents to punctuate your block whites. Is that a colour minefield, and how do you settle on them?
We don’t always use neon colours, but lively accented colours in general do play an important role in the active wear industry, reflecting freshness, newness and a sense of movement.
13) What are the 5 words that beat capture Monreal‘s essence?
14) Who is the Monreal woman?
Monreal caters to women who care as much about style as they do about scoring. Our core customers share their sense of style, confidence and personality. They all have busy lifestyles and are interested in current issues – sports, cultural as well as financial and political, and of course, fashion! This group of girlfriends tend to be confident, style-conscious and have a big-city mind-set. They also appreciate exceptional quality and value in every element of their lives, while maintaining a healthy lifestyle!
We feel that our customer is aware of trends and changes in fashion/sportswear industry and were happy to find a brand like Monreal, which can be worn both on and off court.
15) What was your inspiration for the latest collection? Is the look and feel seasonally based or does it remain consistent throughout?
For Monreal London’s 2015 Pre-Spring collection, inspiration was taken from Gerhard Richter’s vivid and abstract paintings as well as the movie Rush, directed by Ron Howard. These sources of inspiration resulted in a dynamic collection, which gets you in the mood to work out and get in shape! The inspiration for each collection is seasonally based but there is definitely a certain signature which we build upon, season after season.
Monreal creates a selection of core products which reappear every season; it is important in the sense of always prioritising good fabrics and design, to always address ‘iconic’ styles and re-visit classic pieces. These core products never stop us moving forward or playing with fashion; change is after all the nature of fashion, and as much as we love ‘core products’or essentials, we get super excited about new ideas, new proportions, new fabric developments and colour ways.
16) For Monreal, when you design a collection: Is it tennis influencing fashion or is it fashion governing tennis? Which comes first in the creative process?
Functionality, in active wear comes first. This is a given for me, but it’s not the first thing that I want people to see and talk about. All the garments I design have to make sense in terms of functionality, and in relation to performance wear. I absolutely create anything that hinders performance or makes you look ‘frilly and silly’ and therefore ‘unsporty’.
17) As an accomplished tennis player yourself, how have your experiences borne out in the clothes you’ve designed?
It is crucial to design clothes you can actually play your sports in; therefore I test out all of our clothes prior to producing them!
I WAS WEARING:
JACKET: Monreal Hooded Stretch Jersey Jacket
DRESS: Monreal Stretch Jersey Mini Dress
SHORTS: Monreal Metallic Stretch Jersey Shorts
SHOES: Asics Gel Solution Lyte 2 Tennis Shoes
SUNGLASSES: Ray Ban Wayfarer D
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