The British designer, known for making children’s clothing and shoes with old-fashioned charm for more than 15 years, has built a business on bringing back the past. Footwear is a growing part of her collection, which includes such classics as saddle shoes, Mary Jane styles, T-straps, lace-up ankle boots and handmade party slippers, available in baby to tween sizes.
The Rachel Riley collection is carried in the U.S. by a mix of high-end boutiques and department stores, including Bergdorf Goodman, where Riley hosted a trunk show this fall. The designer also has a store on New York’s Madison Avenue, as well as two shops in London and a booming catalog and online business.
Riley’s fondness for bygone days carries through to her personal life. She, her husband and three children live in a fairytale-like, 16th-century château in France’s Loire Valley. And her rare moments of downtime find her indulging in even more retro interests, such as catching up on reruns of the 1960s-era TV drama “Mad Men.”
The perfect cup of tea: “I like black tea with milk, the English way, in a Wedgwood cup and saucer. And it has to be hot. In America, they favor making it lukewarm.”
The last thing I watched was … “‘Mad Men.’ I have been watching the series on DVD over and over. There’s always a ton of great design inspiration.”
City or country? “Both, for different reasons. I love the energy of cities like London and New York, but also the calm tranquility of the French countryside.”
Biggest guilty pleasure: “Red wine, chocolate and ice cream — preferably together.”
My great escape: “My country house in France.”
Best fashion era: “When clothes were made at home, especially in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. [There was a lot of] hand embroidery, smocking and transforming drapes into children’s clothes.”
The song that best fits my personality: “‘Buttons and Bows.’ The 1940s innocence matches my designs.”
Favorite childhood storybook: “‘Little House on the Prairie.’ I loved the craft element.”