I discovered my passion for design at an early age, sketching my first ideas from the age of 8, and creating my first mini Collection around the age of 14.
Passionate about design from an early age, determined, and committed to the dream of starting my own label, I was 21 years old when I founded the Brand in 1991. Launching with my first full Collection in 1994, I have headquartered my business in London ever since.
1995 – The First Runway Show
The first Maria Grachvogel Runway Show was for the Spring/Summer 1996 Collection. On the London Fashion Week schedule, I decided on the stunning Gamble Room at the world renown V&A Museum for the venue.
The Show was styled by Isabella Blow, an early fan of my work.
Isabella was an incredible woman and a true visionary. She really took me under her wing in those early days and I will always be grateful for the support and time she gave to to me and to the development of the Brand.
1998 – An Unforgettable Show
My Autumn/Winter 1998 show will always be one of my favourites.
The inspiration for the Collection was Berlin Cabaret and the perfect place to show was at the iconic Atlantic Bar. The Catwalk was unconventionally lit with follow spots, which created an interesting play between the catwalk and the cabaret and we used these amazing feather eyelashes and skullcaps. The scene was perfectly set and the atmosphere was magical and heady.
I was thrilled to have Claudia Mason, Yasmin Le Bon, Saffron Aldridge and Susie Bick in the show, which would not have had the same theatrical element without them.
It was pure magic.
1999 – Dressing Victoria Beckham for the ‘Art of Barbie’ Ball
It was the year that Barbie celebrated her 40th birthday and Victoria Beckham co-hosted a celebrity gala evening at the Natural History Museum in London with Sir Elton John to mark the occasion and the opening of a Barbie retrospective.
Victoria was an early fan of my work and I was thrilled that she chose to wear one of my designs.
This is one of my favourite photos of her wearing my gown as she ascended the steps with Sir Elton John and David Furnish.
2000 – Victoria Beckham makes surprise Catwalk Appearance
The conversation happened one day in the fitting room, a very innocent ‘wouldn’t it be fun if….’ and it went on from there.
I don’t think either of us remotely expected it would have the impact it did in the press. We were just having fun, not taking ourselves too seriously. But it caused a media storm which genuinely took us both by surprise.
I still remember our chat the next day when we were both swapping stories about it in a state of disbelief !
I think it made headlines worldwide, which was incredible.
2001 – The £1 Million Dress
The Spring Summer 2001 finale dress was a very special piece, a spider-web devore dress hand-embroidered with 2000 diamonds which was inspired by the beauty of dewdrops on a spider-web.
We had to design special fastenings to attach the diamonds to the dress and each of the diamonds was hand stitched, which took over 8 weeks to create and perfect.
Over 190 carats, we had to have a security guard present at all times and it had to be transported in an armoured van.
It was worth it – Jodie looked spectacular, the Show was a hit, and it ended up being a highlight of London Fashion week.
2001 – Flagship Opening
It was a dream for a very long time to have my own store and so I was ecstatic when I opened my first Flagship on London’s Sloane Street in September of 2001.
2004- Emma steps out in the ‘Flash dress’
Emma Thompson created a huge stir in the Autumn of 2003 and during the awards season of 2004 when she revealed a glamorous new look in Maria Grachvogel.
My personal favourite was the dress she wore to the Baftas, a backless satin gown which Emma and I nicknamed the ‘Flash dress’.
There was so much press on how amazing she looked, but it was never just about ‘that dress’. Emma glowed from within, and her aura and confidence is inspiring to me.
2005 – The Artwork Print
I pioneered a new way of digitally printing garments, Artwork Print, which has become an integral part of my work.
With the Artwork Print I create the print for each piece to follow the pattern and sculpt the body.
They are all painted digitally and printed as a garment, as opposed to being printed a piece of fabric, and then cut into a garment.
It is a time-intensive process, but the results are always worth it. Because I paint the digital prints for a 3D landscape, the Artwork Print truly comes to life once on the body and in motion.
2005 – The Grachvogel Cocktail
I have always had a love of cocktails and I often experiment with new ideas and mixing different ingredients together to create something new and unexpected.
It was a real honour then, to have my favourite cocktail of the moment put on the menu at the Fumoir Bar at Claridge’s.
I loved being able to go and always have my special drink. Who wouldn’t? It is a memory I will always cherish.
2006 – The ‘Magic Pants’
Finding the perfect Trouser became a personal mission of mine.
In 2006 I developed a revolutionary cut by removing the seam at the side and adding a curved seam to the back. The resulting effect pulled in and narrowed the hip, elongated the leg, and added shape to the bottom.
It seems I was not alone in this quest, as the new cut sold out as soon as they hit stores. All of a sudden, customers and stockists were calling to place re-orders for the ‘magic pants’, and the nickname stuck.
2009 – Dali in aid of Fashion Targets Breast Cancer
As an homage to the world-famous surrealist Salvadore Dali, I was invited to design a one-off tribute piece by The Dali Universe. The Dali Universe is London’s permanent Salvador Dali exhibition, and I was honoured to participate in one of the most exciting fashion auctions and exhibitions ever witnessed in the capital.
I wanted to take some of the darkness and humour present in Dali’s work, and this was an amazing opportunity to apply my Artwork Print technique.
The cut and the painting on the dress, especially at the back, made the gown almost indistinguishable from the woman wearing it.
The cut of the dress is reflective of the skeletal form. On the print, the skeleton has been incorporated in to the shape of a tree. The backbone and pelvis actually morph from tree roots; which seamlessly connect the woman to nature. The roots of the tree seem to ground her and the ribs wrap around the dress to form a lush, green canopy that mirrors a woman’s curves and suggests fertility. This was a project that was very close to my heart.
2011 – New London Flagship and a new Era
After a decade on Sloane Street, it was time to centralise the business. I wanted to bring my Store and Atelier together with our offices, and so when the Victorian Townhouse became available nearby, I took it.
The space was perfect because it allowed us effectively present the Ready to Wear collection, whilst a more intimate space is dedicated to the Couture and Bridal line.
The Townhouse was designed by Russell Sage, the designer behind the interiors at the Savoy Grill, the restaurant at Claridge’s, and the Zetter Townhouse. We used some of my Artwork Prints as furnishings, which really makes the space, and I am inspired to apply more of my Artwork Print archive in this domain – I think it could be very special and interesting.
Guests are warmly welcomed at The Townhouse, whether stopping in for inspiration, style advice, or to try something new on.
2011 – Maria Grachvogel opens Flagship In Singapore
One of the things I enjoy most about being a designer is meeting my clients at Trunk Shows around the world. After a series of very successful Trunk Shows in Singapore, I was approached to open a shop in the region. I loved the idea of being able to service my clientele from the Far East more locally and it made sense for the business.
We launched our Singapore store on Orchard Road with a wonderful fashion show and a traditional lion dance, which was truly spectacular.
2012 – Kelly Rowland wears the Original Artwork Print
One of the first Artwork Print pieces I ever created was the Rainbow Phoenix Dress for the Spring/Summer 2005 Collection. I had dressed Kelly Rowland a few times, so when she chose to wear the Phoenix Dress for her ‘Summer dreaming’ video 6 years after it debuted on the Runway, I was thrilled.
It was a testament to the ‘timeless’ quality I work to inject into my designs.
Since this first collaboration with Kelly, she has become a real fan of the brand and has worn several different dresses to various occasions and events. She is a knockout every time.
2012 – The Fabergé Big Egg Hunt
It was a huge honour to be invited to create a Fabergé Egg in support of Action for Children and the Elephant Family charities.
Inspired by lava flow and the idea of earth and creation on a fundamental level, I created the ‘Obsidian Egg’. From a distance the design appeared to have been painted onto the egg- only on closer inspection was it clear that the egg was covered in fabric.
The Artwork Print was created to fit perfectly around the curved surface of the egg and the lava inspired design worked in harmony with the egg’s shape in the same way my garments work in harmony with the female form.
It was a real challenge to get the shape exactly right so that the fabric would lay perfectly flat against the surface. If you think about it logically the measurement from the top to the bottom of the egg at each point is always the same, so to create a 2 dimensional elliptical shape that has the same measurement on each side of the ellipse and also through the middle was a challenge. And so, I used the bias grain of the cloth and worked out the stretch in the fabric through the centre to calculate the shape of the pattern.
Once the pattern was complete, I then painted digitally within the shape to create the feeling of lava almost bursting from the top and flowing around the egg.
The Obsidian Egg held court outside of the National Gallery in London. It was amazing.
2014 – Yasmin and Amber Le Bon wear Maria Grachvogel
Yasmin Le Bon is a long-time friend and client. I have been dressing her since 1992 – years before I even produced a full collection and I felt a great deal of pride that she chose something of mine to wear for her 50th birthday last year.
Women are at the heart of my brand and my clothes are more about an attitude and spirit than they are about age, so I am thrilled to now be dressing her daughter, Amber.
They are stunning women, inside and out, and it is amazing to see them in my creations.
2015 – MariaGrachvogel.com gets a new look