Photography / Editorial / Print

We speak to Ash Johnson, one half of husband and wife (Lorraine) design duo behind Pyrus, a luxury women’s wear fashion brand; at a recent gallery exhibition at their concept store based in Newburgh st, London.

Could you tell us about the concept store which you opened last year in July?

When Pyrus decided to launch it's first retail space... it was actually quite funny, there were three of us who decided to do it, Lorraine and I had obviously been running the brand for some time, but Agnes Mok, who came on board helped combine the strong team we needed to launch it.  Looking around, it was obvious, I think from the start, that we did not just want a fashion store because they
are aplenty in London.  The reason we decided upon an art gallery was influenced by our love of art and having friends who run galleries, which helped.  There was also an element of showcasing artists, sculptors, photographers who we like and would personally like to showcase. 

It's representative of your tastes?  The Pyrus brand ethos?

A store in general for a brand is displaying what the brand believes in, what the brand ethos and core values are in a way.

When did you start making designs together?

We met on the first day of fashion college, back in 1999 and we became best friends straightaway. We work very differently, which is actually quite interesting, because when we started to work together, it was after college. Lorraine was working at Dunhill and I was working for a design forecasting firm.  Everyone used to say you must make a collection together and so on, we obviously had to find our mid-ground.  We started the company in 2003 and the first collection was in 2005, so for the first few years we were designing for other companies.

Given that its a fairly young brand, how has it been received by your customers?

The growth has been very organic and we have come to that point where we can divide collections between us. We always still come together however and always try to fulfil what a customer wants, but what we feel that they need.  There is a delicate balance, when pushing forward their needs.  Sometimes we get in wrong, when pre-empting, for example doing things two seasons too quick and customers only understand moving forwards. Pyrus is a directional brand, it's not high fashion in the sense of high couture so it does need to be accessible to a lot of our customers.

What were the inspirations behind your S/S 11 collection?

I think with Pyrus, it's very much about the brand ethos.  This involves vintage, it has a directional edge and modern feel to it.  So we have asymetric dresses, dip-dyed with huge batwing blouses, but at the same time we have lace blouses. We try to style it to keep it fresh, edgy and modern.  I think that is the main influence.

How many accounts or outfits are there in the brand?

Currently there 150 core accounts around the world, in Japan we have the majority of department stores, Beams, Mitsukoshi, Opaque. In the UK we have Anthropologie, Fenwick and a whole range of small boutiques. Internationally we work with Anthropologie a lot and we have a special range that goes to about 200 stores in the US.  We are a mid-market brand, In Europe, it's a very big thing when you look at brands like Acne, accessibility is a core value.

How do you find time for each other, running the shop and immersed in work?

I don't think it really is an issue I think.  We are inseparable, when at work, we very much have our fashion hats on, but when we go home we have different interests.  We love cooking and visiting art galleries.  What I find is, when we go on holiday, when we go shopping, it's like work again (laughs).  Lorraine likes to draw, I like to sculpt and we do things which are not related to work at all.  We have a miniature dachshund and we love going for walks, not necessarily just in London, we do go to the Cotswold's for a few days to relax and refresh.

What does 2011 have in store for you?

We are planning to open a second store in 18 months, so late 2011, early 2012, we will start launching it.  We want to develop more into the Spanish and Swedish markets and are working with exciting new agencies to push that forward.


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