Late summer layering: style advice from Studio Wylder founder & designer Natasha Kelly

— by Alyson Walsh


Photos of Natasha Kelly by Matt Monfredi


After years of working in the corporate fashion world, Natasha Kelly decided to go back to her roots. Having studied fashion design at Bournemouth (now Arts University Bournemouth), she wanted to slow down, to do something sustainable and sympathetic to the planet. ‘ I’d been working for big retail brands and started to think about doing things differently,’ the designer and founder of sustainable label Studio Wylder tells me, sitting in the back of  her beautiful, new shop on Columbia Road; where all the fixtures and fittings are second-hand, and the coat hangers are the only new element.

‘I started life in Ghana, followed by a childhood in the Yorkshire Dales and the New Forest which very much informed my love of the natural world and pure materials. I’ve grown Studio Wylder from nothing, with nothing, so everything is considered. ‘ Studio Wylder began on Natasha’s kitchen table, three and a half years ago. The 56-year-old lives in East London with three of her four children, and has developed the business in a slow, organic way. ‘As a company focused on sustainable and ethical production, we produce everything locally (here in London) in very small batches using only organic hand-loomed cotton or beautiful quality deadstock sourced from French and Italian luxury fashion houses.’

Throughout her career she has worked  for several luxury fashion brands including Nicole Farhi and Donna Karan. ‘I worked across many functions at a senior level for more than 35 years, including retail operations which involved opening almost 80 stores for Michael Kors in its heyday.’ This extensive industry experience allowed her to build her own brand from the ground up. ‘ I’ve worked with shops throughout my career, so I am in my comfort zone – for most of my life I thought I’d end up with a shop. So, I’m not trying to rush things, I’m feeling it out. Considering the impact.’


Natasha wears the Iona pleated dress in washed cotton poplin


With sustainability in mind, Studio Wylder makes most items in one size. This reduces the amount of overall units and therefore the volume of stock that might be left at the end of a season. ‘At the moment it is very small batch, we make 10 of each item but with the new shop I need to go higher,’ explains Natasha. ‘The one size business model informs the design to some extent, requiring simple, flexible shapes such as a dropped shoulder, a raglan sleeve or a kimono-inspired shape with a few subtle design details that give it the Studio Wylder signature. I find loose, simple or slouchy shapes are often more interesting than traditionally tailored clothes, they can take a good dose of creative styling often giving the wearer a unique and independent sense of style.’


Studio Wylder Worker Shirt


Natasha Kelly’s expert advice on looking stylish all summer long:

I choose simple, flexible, layer-able pieces in the warmer weather, nothing too fussy, too fitted or stiff. These are some of my favourites and ideas on how to style them.

The oversized shirt

Layer an oversized shirt over a fitted vest for a ‘ready for anything’ outfit, this works with shorts, linen trousers or jeans. Use the shirt as a beach cover-up, tie it around your waist or just wear it open as a summer jacket. It’s great for adapting to quick changes in temperature (your own & or the weather!)

The two-way dress

When you have a million and one things to do every day, the dress has got to be the easiest summer staple – you’ve only got to think about the shoes. Choose a style that can be worn several ways, loose and flowing with summer flats on really hot days, or belted and more ‘put together’ on cooler days – even the simple action of rolling up the sleeves or adding a leather belt can make it feel like a different dress.

My favourite summer fabric is probably a crisp washed cotton poplin – it feels and looks fresh and cool even if it gets a bit rumpled. Natural fibres are best at regulating body temperature, our organic hand-loomed cotton has a cheesecloth-like consistency which lends itself particularly well to warm weather.

The sheepskin waistcoat

One of my  (all year round) best sellers are the one-of-a-kind sheepskin waistcoats, made from sheepskin off-cuts (literally waste coats!). These look super stylish worn over a sleeveless top or a favourite dress on a cool summer evening. It’s a piece that seems to appeal to all ages, styles and body types.


The Gabe striped pant and sheepskin waistcoat


Bearing in mind the lovely, looser-fitting Studio Wylder silhouette, I asked Natasha for advice on styling:

How to wear oversized or slouchy garments

Pair a relaxed piece with something contrasting, for example our Gabe trouser is a slouchy boy fit that looks great with a short sweater, a tucked in T-shirt or cropped waistcoat. The Iona full sleeve pleated blouse looks cool tucked into a pair of high-waisted jeans, or loose with the sleeves pushed up layered over a slim-leg trouser.

To give balance to an oversized shirt, blousy top or dress, roll-up the sleeves (to the elbow) to expose your forearms. The contrast and line of a forearm offsets the volume of the top or dress. I like to play with belts and sleeves to style the more generously proportioned pieces, you can easily get the balance right with just a few of the right accessories and styling hacks resulting in a personalised unique and importantly comfortable look.



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