Allow us to introduce Clare Richardson, one of the most innovative stylists on the fashion scene today whose latest project just so happens to be our very own SS13 Topshop Unique collection. Having worked with some of the biggest names in the industry from Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein to Karl Lagerfeld, Patrick Demarchelier and Hedi Slimane, we couldn’t be more excited to have her on board. Here to talk all things styling, Topshop Unique and London Fashion Week – get ready to be inspired…

How did you get into styling?

It started from school really, I would go through my mum’s magazines, Elle, Vogue etc and suddenly realised that I was interested in fashion. I went to Kingston to do a foundation course, specialising in fashion and graphics but found myself torn between the two; we had to do fashion design as part of the course and I quickly realised that it wasn’t the making of the clothes I was interested in. So from there, I went on to Central Saint Martins to study Fashion Promotion, which is a mixture of art direction and journalism with the end result of putting together our own magazine. I did lots of work experience all through the holidays and was convinced that I wanted to be a journalist but then pretty much fell in to styling and realised I loved it.

I first assisted Elliott Smedley who now works for Burberry Prorsum – he was mainly involved with menswear and once I left him that’s where I began. I love menswear and I think it’s an inherent part of who I am as I’ve always liked boys clothing and even my own clothes have a masculine edge to them. I now work for international publications, both in the UK and US, from British Vogue and China Vogue to V Magazine, Teen Vogue, Man About Town – it’s a range but interestingly, women’s fashion is now my majority.

So what is it about styling that excites you?

It’s just so creative. You can get ideas from so many places from exhibitions to gigs. When I travel I’m always looking round for inspiration – I was shooting in Bangkok recently and there’s just so much to gain from seeing how people dress there, from religious influences to what’s the norm on the street. I think that’s what’s so much fun about my job; being able to think of ideas and work with teams to come up with a collection or the concept for a photo-shoot. Nowadays it can be harder as there’s a more commercial element to styling, but it’s a challenge that forces you to think harder about how you get across what you want to say.

How does the process differ when you’re working in house with Topshop Unique?

To start, Emma Farrow and I looked back at the last show, as it’s here that we felt the Topshop girl really came into her own. She had an individual style that was still relaxed and wearable and this was exactly the identity we wanted to bring back to the brand. So this season it’s really been a continuation of that; we started with moodboards, I went away and did research on 90s fashion and we were just continually emailing each other with ideas and images. From there, we started looking at colour palettes and shapes – trying to find silhouettes that are easy to wear but still say something and feel individual, without being too conceptual. Next we go through any sketches, ideas, fabrics and techniques we like and then we begin looking at patterns, accessories – basically bringing everything together while editing out anything we feel is too try hard.

What’s the most exciting part of the process?

I think there’s always this anticipation of waiting for everything to come in – and when it does, it’s so exciting but you always know there is more to come. I love getting to the part where we can start putting looks together because it’s then that you really see the girl you all had in mind coming to life, more especially when we have the castings and everything is pinned to the models. The 4/5 days before the show are always really fun – it’s stressful with lots of late nights, but I think for me, that’s the best bit – I love the run up to the show as that’s when you finally see the continuity of the collection come together.

How closely do you work with hair and make-up?

Really closely – as soon as we’ve done the initial fittings etc, I’ll start to touch base with hair and make-up, telling them about the kind of girl we’re working towards and the colour palette for the collection so that they can start thinking about their own ideas. We’ll then sit down and discuss everything and afterwards have a day of hair and make-up trials to see that we get it right and that everything fits together.

Who is the Topshop Unique girl for you?

She’s individual, mixing street style with designer influences and always with an easy, eclectic edge. She has a real coolness, never too pretty or romantic, adding a masculine feel to her outfits whether that’s through pairing a dress with chunky ankle boots or throwing on a leather or baseball jacket. There’s always a touch of masculinity!

Do you think that’s come through from your own personal style?

It’s definitely my own style but it’s also the trademark look of the real, British girl that I think Topshop stands for – she’s always had that, we’re just trying to reinforce it.

What’s your first memory of Topshop?

I’ve always been obsessed with Topshop! But I think it really began with coming up to London and losing myself in the store – I can remember being completely overwhelmed, like I’d stepped into a treasure trove or a sweet shop and I just wanted everything. My must-have pieces were always from Topshop and I loved it, still do!

So what are your Topshop must haves now?

I love Topshop’s skinny jeans and I always go for simple pieces like ballet pumps and shirting. With the Unique collection I was lucky enough to pre-order some of the pieces and found I really had to reign myself in because I was ordering so much! I really love the cross-print trousers and shirt from the AW12 collection, the velvet jumpsuit and dungarees too and the burgundy-oversized coat… the list is endless! I wouldn’t think twice about popping something on from the collection, whether it’s for work or going out, it’s perfect for both worlds.

Do you get to see any shows when you’re here for London Fashion Week?

Sadly I’m always too busy working late but I really love the buzz of LFW. It’s so creative and full of incredible young designers who are each trying to find their own stamp without being someone else – they slowly have to get more commercial for buyers but I think the fact that there are no limits here really is amazing. Even seeing what people wear in London is brilliant, no one is perfect or too neat – there’s a great mixture, which is why our street style is so inspirational.

Do you think the look is more uniform in New York?

It’s definitely a lot more slick in Manhattan; everyone is groomed, always with their hair and nails done so I’m definitely more London in that sense! But if you look around, in Brooklyn for example, there are tons of kids who dress amazingly and have a real sense of individuality but yes as a whole, it’s definitely more coiffed!

Who are your other clients?

I work with so many different people – it usually depends on what magazines I’m working for and tends to vary from season to season; one minute I could be working with the likes of Nicole Farhi, Michael Van Der Ham, Balenciaga menswear (I’m doing their campaign this season), the next it could be high-street brand like Kurt Geiger and of course, Topshop!

Where do you like to shop when you’re back in London?

Liberty’s! I have to say that is the one place I really miss now that I live in New York – the atmosphere is so calm and the buying is fantastic, whether it’s men’s or women’s, I just love it in there! Whenever I have time off, I make sure I find the time to visit even if it’s just to browse.

Where do you buy most of your clothes?

I love Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy and also wear a lot of menswear like Balenciaga Mens, Helmut Lang – mainly for shirts and knits, sometimes blazers but I could equally mix a pair of Givenchy trousers with a Topshop knit. Accessory wise, I tend to go for Celine and Yves Saint Laurent so my wardrobe is a real mixture of styles!

If you’re following us on  Twitter make sure you look out for #Topshop to see how the Unique collection is coming along and if you’re on Instagram, don’t forget to follow us @Topshop.