Photography by Eddie Bovingdon
Kate Holmes, founder and creative director of luxury brand Client, is a uniform-wearing, stiletto-donning designer on a mission. Not satisfied with conquering the underground music scene from Berlin to Tokyo with eponymous electro band Client, she’s now pioneering a return to military chic.
Admitting to being “obsessive” about uniform, Holmes collects Eastern European post-war outfits from St Petersburg to Leipzig. The Client London collection is based on traditional uniforms modernised for the 21st Century. “It’s a variation on the Eighties love of power dressing”, says Holmes.
“I love the idea of my uniform dresses being worn by lawyers, bankers and high fliers. My ideal female client would be a hedge fund manager with an international address book. She would wear my Stalin’s secretary uniform dress for day trips to Geneva where she would head the board meeting looking strict and prim but would exude a certain sexuality by surreptitiously showing the bright red slit of her skirt as she power marched in her 5 inch stilettos.”
In addition to the subversive uniforms, Client London also includes accessories, a T-shirt range and upcycled pieces. “I recently discovered a box of unused British requisitioned nurses outfits that are so beautifully made they could be worn today with little alteration”, says Holmes.
Taking post war and vintage garments and ‘remaking’ them, Holmes uses buttons engraved with Client from the north of England and leather from the East London Leather Factory.
“For me, it’s so important to have everything made in the UK. It’s inherent in my nature. There is such a wealth of talent in this country and I think we should absolutely use it. It’s mind blowing how many manufacturers don’t produce clothes here. I think it’s a tragic shame that so many go abroad.”
Holmes is also passionate about music. Having toured extensively with Client, musical influences are very much at play in the label and she draws inspiration from the likes of Roxy Music, Depeche Mode and New Order. “I have always mixed fashion with music. When I started Client I wanted the image of the band to be as important as the music. We wore uniforms on stage and fans absolutely loved the look. We even had Kraftwerk call us their female equivalent, which was a massive compliment.”
Given this influence, it is unsurprising that celebrity fans include musicians, actors and trendsetters. “I have always used rock and roll as my cornerstone, so it felt natural to have such people as the Libertines wearing my T-shirts,” said Holmes. “I found the female equivalents in Anna Friel and Pixie Geldof.”
This passion for music continues to feed into Holmes’ creative process. Having lived in London for years, she took the decision to relocate to rural Wales. “I like working in the country, it focuses the mind. There are less distractions there. I still travel to London to oversee manufacturing, so for me it’s a good mix.”
The house, which she shares with her husband and former Creation Records boss Alan McGee, has played host to musical royalty including Primal Scream and Courtney Love. “We bought it as a derelict wreck and did it up. It’s full of history and it’s a great place to be creative. The Libertines wrote some songs here, so even though it’s in the middle of nowhere, it’s always felt rock ‘n’ roll.”
With a cult following in Japan, Germany and Australia, Holmes is now looking to continue the label’s expansion internationally. “Japan really loves military chic. They are excited by the idea of the uniform and love the British feel and edginess to the pieces. I’m currently in talks to design all the t-shirts for a forthcoming Japanese music festival. I like the idea of exposing the brand to people that might not otherwise buy vintage clothing. Bringing Client London to a new market, in tune with music and culture, is the way forward.”
By Bianca Brigitte Bonomi