In Conversation with Timothy Everest

20th anniversary
type - in conversation
In Conversation
As part of The Future Laboratory’s 20th anniversary celebrations, co-founder Chris Sanderson caught up with former Elder Street neighbour and menswear legend Timothy Everest, one of the first designers Chris interviewed as a freelance fashion journalist in the 1990s

Read an excerpt of the conversation below, or scroll down to watch the full Zoom video.

Chris Sanderson: Being in the thick of it, which you very much still are, and with your knowledge of and expertise in the industry, how do you feel things are going to pan out over the next few months or years for retail and fashion, particularly retail? Do you have a sense of where you think things might go?

Timothy Everest: Well, I think it’s interesting, a lot of businesses were in trouble before all this. I was in New York two weeks before lockdown, setting up some really wonderful opportunities, which will happen but probably at the end of next year.

In New York people were less worried about Covid than the disaster of Barneys closing that Friday. I can remember selling to Barneys. Sixty units had closed over 20 blocks. I thought that was a joke. I literally walked blocks and counted nearly 30. That was before Covid, so it shows you that traditional retail was really, really struggling. And also, I think a lot of the bigger stores had become a little bit lazy. They weren’t the places of theatre that they used to be. I mean, I loved working with Barneys and it was completely bonkers in the early years with Simon Doonan doing all the windows.

I remember going into the lift when Prada was in the ascendancy, and there was Kyle MacLachlan from Twin Peaks with Linda Evangelista, and there’s this wonderful picture of them modelling Prada in the lift and it said: ‘Calling all Pradafiles’. I was standing there thinking: ‘God, this is outrageous’. But that was the sort of humour that was going on, the windows that they did… that theatre and that sense of going somewhere had already gone. And I think, to be honest, online – that’s where it’s happening. You’re seeing online players have magazine content and a great narrative. They help explain things that are presented in an interesting way. And then you bring your generation on who haven’t been shopping and who find it much more convenient to go online.

At the end that we work in I still think a physical space like the one we have is very important, but I don’t see us having lots of physical spaces. We have plans in a couple of other places, but I think we’ve got to grow our business online; hence, why I’m very excited about here (The Chiltern Street store). I’ve said to the boys, think of where we are as not just the shop. Think of it as our HQ that has a retail opportunity; we can add online. Hopefully, we can do some events, even if it’s just six people. But we can extend that through Zoom and we can run our little agency from here. So, if we have a space that has four incomes then we might have an opportunity. 

But I do think it’s going to change things. It’s already happened. I think you’re going to  have a new order; I think that'll be good and bad. I think there are going to be some sad tragedies, some businesses that will go that have been around for a long time. But as we know, in these difficult times, you'll have some very creative thinkers who will start to think of things differently.

Published by:

7 April 2021

Author: The Future Laboratory


CS: Yes, historically, if we look back at these moments of crisis, it’s when we get this flourishing creativity. If we go back to the period immediately after World War I and to the Spanish influenza pandemic and the period that immediately followed it – the 1920s – there was an eruption of style, music, a sense of rebellion, and that was a period when that was very clear in fashion as much as in any other area of creativity.

We had the birth of the Jazz Age and the shift from what was defined as being Edwardian, which was a very particular aesthetic, into this modernity that was all about liberation and freedom. And while most of us feel like we’re part of the modern age – a very contemporary age because we’ve lived through the 50s, the 60s the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, the noughties and the 10s – we could, of course, see something completely new erupt in the 2020s that is as shocking or as refreshing and as different as that shift from the Edwardian Age to the Jazz Age. I mean, are you getting anything that maybe has a sense of that? Are you getting an inkling of this major shift in terms of style or creativity?

TE: As you say, Chris, you know, one of the things I got very bored with was fashion because fashion is old-fashioned! You know, the only way to be fashionable is to be yourself. You’ve cited the 20s: the Bright Young Things – Cecil Beaton – at a very difficult time they were quite outrageous in their approach to all sorts of things.

I think we’ve been quite conservative for the last decade or so in the way that we approach things. And yet, when we look at technology and that side, it’s very exciting what’s going on there. So, I hope that people will start to think differently and also I think people have become much more vocal. They’re very dissatisfied with the politics, the situation. There are going to be a lot of people in very difficult times. We’ve got to think a lot more creatively.

The other thing is we all have to help each other get out of this bloody mess. So, out of that there’s got to be some kind of coming together and I do feel that something is happening. I do think there is. I’m very romantic. I tend to see things like a movie – sometimes a bit of a bad B movie – but if it’s a good movie I see pockets of people trying to do things a little bit differently. And I hope that’s a trend because otherwise we’ll become very generic or very vanilla, and we won’t actually have a point of opinion. But I think that’s possibly what’s happening: throwing everything up in the air and some really good things are going to land on the floor.

CS: Well, I couldn’t agree with you more. And let’s hope that we have 20 years ahead of astonishing creativity and vibrancy and that a sense of optimism will prevail.

TE: Well, I think the other thing, Chris, is that in my lifetime, I don’t expect a white knight to come along and save any of us. If you’re a young student or an existing business, there are people out there who you could probably collaborate with and work with, but unfortunately, we’ve got to do that ourselves. And we’ve got to drive our own path, like you’ve done with The Future Laboratory. Of course, you’re a team, but you’ve got to drive yourself and attract the right people to do that. And that’s what we’re trying to do here – work with the best people we can. And also, as we were when we were starting out, help those sorts of people. Let’s be positive; there is going to be newness and there will be a future.

To hear more of Timothy's thoughts on the future of fashion and retail, please watch the full Zoomcast below.