Charlotte Stockdale and Katie Lyall’s very-2018 accessories have arrived in Australia, and they’re the perfect mix of humour and serious style nous. By Alice Birrell.
Katie Lyall is excited about the newest piece she’s created with Charlotte Stockdale for their accessories label Chaos, if only she could find it. “Mine’s actually been stolen by Kendall Jenner, but Charlotte still managed to keep hers,” Lyall says over the phone from a balmy London summer evening. They’re talking about a gold-plated charm in the shape of a just-opened bottle cap that dangles elegantly from a zip chain that could be attached to keys or a phone. “It has saved our lives more times than it’s probably sensible to share,” says Lyall. “It’s to open up sparkling water,” intercedes Stockdale. You can practically hear the wink down the phone.
It’s this brand of irreverence that has marked their shared styling career, shared because, upon meeting in 1999, while Stockdale worked at British Vogue, they stuck side by side, working at Garage magazine and becoming Chaos Fashion, a creative consultancy. “I don’t know any styling duos,” considers Lyall. “It’s designer duos or photography duos, but no-one’s really decided to do it. There were some people who were a bit confused by it, but it didn’t really matter.”
That could be because their visual signature is so identifiable: pops of colour, mixed textures and fabrics with clever styling tweaks that seep into a subconscious then metamorphose suddenly into a need-it-now desire that has graced the pages of Vogue, i-D and their own magazine, Chaos 69. “You have a cotton shirt, and then you have a fashion skirt. It will be nice with a matt nylon trainer or matt crocodile boots,” Stockdale explains before surmising, “something shiny goes with something matt.”
Their Chaos label, coming to Australia for the first time when they land at David Jones this month, is a distillation of their visual handwriting. Phone cases in crayon brights were their starting point. “We were working a lot, and we didn’t want to put our phones down when we were doing fittings, styling clothes, whatever, and we would lose them,” recounts Stockdale. “We ended up tying ribbon to our Blackberrys at the time, and hanging them around our neck.” An early prototype was a zipper. “It was cheap and hokey, but kind of fun.” Requests from family and friends followed, which gave them the confidence to launch with a functional desirable product.
Design – jumbo cherries, letters and eight-balls in lush chenille embroidery that Lyall describes “delicious” – is balanced with functionality, hence the hand straps on the back of ‘hug’ cases, the supple deerskin perfected to wrap the corners and protect the phone. “They want to be able to hang their phone around their neck,” says Stockdale of customers. “They want to be able to find it in their bag, because they can see the zip, or catch their phone when they drop it.”
Likely you’ve noticed them already on Instagram. A lucky by-product of creating personalised phone cases, the campaigns basically shoot themselves, starring the selfies of the Hadid sisters, Marc Jacobs, Victoria Beckham, Edie Campbell, Adwoa Aboah and Karl Lagerfeld. They’ve worked with Lagerfeld, a long-time collaborator and mentor, alongside Silvia Venturini Fendi, consulting for 10 years at Fendi, and both have informed their appreciation for technical knowledge and luxurious finishes – the zips are now silver- or gold-plated.
“When you work with people like Silvia and Karl, you have to really not be listening to not come away with quite a lot of knowledge,” Stockdale says. “They haven’t grown scared. They are willing to fail, which is the biggest thing; they’re fearless.”
Working as a duo has been another propellant. “In times when you’re doubting what you are doing, the other person says: ‘No, don’t worry, it’s all on the right track,’” says Stockdale. “It’s like being on an airplane and there’s turbulence and you’re scared, but if there’s someone who is more scared than you, somehow that makes you less scared.” Lyall adds: “It allows you to have more freedom and control at the same time.”
They’ve added charms, lanyards, luggage tags and the occasional piece of ready-to-wear while they focus more and more on personalisation, a trend they’re predicting will get ever stronger. “Why would you not, if you can have something, just for you?” says Lyall. Perhaps a monogram on that bottle opener then, in case another Jenner should chance upon it.
Chaos founders Katie Lyall (left) and Charlotte Stockdale.