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The WD Interview – Lena Proudlock, Designer & Photographer

September 23rd, 2009 · 4 Comments · Design & Fashion, The WD Interview

Lena Proudlock was a model and knitwear entrepeneur before she became the “Queen of Denim”. Whether designing furniture, houses, running a boutique hotel or being a photographer, for Proudlock creativity is always fun.

Lena, I read somewhere that you used to be a model and worked with Helmut Newton. What was that like?

I was born in Sweden. I was a model for five years, starting in Milano and then in London, which became my base.  

I arrived to London on a Saturday evening.  The next morning I had a 9.00am interview with Helmut Newton. I got the job and it was an amazing campaign called “Cynthia isn’t wearing any Panties”.  It was a wonderful way to start my life in London. 

How did you get into design?

I always liked clothes and styling. I started buying vintage clothing and met (the designer and actress) Edina Ronay. Together we started a business called “Edina and Lena” selling vintage clothing first in a stall, then a shop in Antiquarius, which is my ex-husband’s business.  We did very well and after one year we got into the knitwear business.  

Lena’s business was a huge success, a large cottage industry with 1,000 knitters. Top boutiques and department stores from around the world were buying the sweaters. Lena and Edina also opened up a shop in Los Angeles.  

After five years my partnership with Edina Ronay ended and I sold out. Two years later started my own knitwear business with 2,000 knitters. I was designing knitwear for Laura Ashley, Mulberry and also Ralph Lauren.

I gave up my knitwear business 1986 and moved to Gloucestershire and bought a lovely castellated mansion designed by James Wyatt, remarried and had two more children.  

What is the attraction of denim? You have been called the “Queen of Denim” – why do you like working with this particular material?

In the early 90’s I went to LA to the opening of the Guess Home Interiors Shop and fell in love with a denim tablemat.  Since then I have been buying denim fabrics and also dyeing my own colours.  

I have been working with this fabric for about 12 years and I still love it and it is the only material I use in my various homes i.e. denim wallpaper, denim bean bags, denim sofas etc, etc.

Is it true that you even designed a denim car once?

The denim car was an idea I had together with my son Oliver Proudlock. Oliver is an artist and designed all the patchwork for the car.  It was featured in English Vogue in and it looked fantastic.

What is your design process?

At the moment, we only design the denim beanbags and we sell denim fabric to our customers for their own use.  We get a lot of orders from interior designers.

You are originally from Sweden, a country that is famously minimalist, simple and classic in its design approach – how does that influence you after so many years in the England? Why is Swedish style so influential?

Being Swedish in anything I design or style, lighting is the most important thing. Swedish style is usually very simple and classic and to me it is all very calming and peaceful.

Who are your design influences?

I don’t really have any design influence. I wake up in the morning and who knows what ideas I will have that day.

What is your inspiration?

I just love beautiful things and love styling and designing.

What is the difference between designing for a private client and a hotel? Do you approach both differently?

I only basically design for myself and for my own properties.  The only designing job I did for someone else was for Denise Elphick who is a journalist girlfriend of mine.  That was very relaxing, I used to go to London every week and did it slowly over a year, but I don’t do interior design for other people.

The 5 Star eight-bedroom Cotswold Georgian Town House Berkeley House and the Chipping Apartments, a historic coach house in the centre of Tetbury (Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall have a private house outside the village) are two of Lena’s boutique hotels that are available for private and corporate rental.

You are also a photographer and a hotel owner – which of your roles do you enjoy the most?

The problem is I enjoy all the things I do i.e. photography, letting my properties for holiday lets.  The reason why I do these things is because I enjoy them all equally.

What about your other love: photography?

My ex-husband Douglas Villiers and I published a book in 1978 with our photos from the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

I definitely prefer black and white.  The camera I have used for years is a Cannon.  I just enjoy making everybody look beautiful.  It’s all down to lighting and styling.  

I don’t have any heroes but I love all the photos Mario Testino did of Princess Diana’s two sons, William and Harry.  

Basically I just think I am blessed enjoying being creative all day. Right now in my life I have a very good team and that makes working all the more fun.  

My latest thing is to add a fitness centre in my Coach House building. I am 62 years old it is all down to eating healthily and keeping up with exercise.

I love my family and my children and I praise the Lord for being so blessed.

 Photos courtesey of Lena Proudlock, Redcover and Narratives.
For more information www.lenaproudlock.com



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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 The WD Interview – Lena Proudlock, Designer & Photographer | Design Graphics // Sep 23, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    [...] Go here to read the rest: The WD Interview – Lena Proudlock, Designer & Photographer [...]

  • 2 Gym Halama // Oct 10, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Hi Lena, It is forty years since you gave me the job opening the shop in LA. and I think of you often and those wonderful sweaters. Much love Gym

  • 3 Sue Townsend // May 5, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Hi Lena – it’s ages !!! We have often met in Tetbury and I have my exhibition at the Backyard Gallery for next week. Next to the neswsagent in Long Street.
    I had a man in today who is Martin Proudlock and is tracing long lost family connections – he lives in France. I have got his details.
    X Sue

  • 4 Minnie // Feb 24, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Great interview! Ive always been a fan of Lena and now more so of Oliver :)

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