High Fashion Glamour Designed in Tottenham

Malene Oddershede Bach designs clothes that are worn by celebrities on red carpets, models on catwalks and seen on the front cover of magazines around the world. Her feminine clothing, with a subtle tomboy-ish edge, has dressed the likes of Claudia Schiffer, Aubery Plaza, Ana Ivanovic Natalie Dormer, Diana Agron, Eleanor Tomlinson, Katherine Ryan and Rose Leslie (to name a few) and featured in Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Elle, Glamour, Fabric, La Femme and Mayfair Magazine. Malene made Tottenham her home base over 12 years ago, so Rachel Ho caught up with her to find out more about the women behind this world class brand.

Photo supplied: Malene Oddershede Bach

Where did you grow up and what did your parents do? 

I was born and raised on a farm in the countryside of North West of Judland in Denmark. My dad was a pig farmer as well as farming the land, which he still is. My mum was a full-time mother while we were children and helped out on the farm and later went in to retail.

What is your relationship to Tottenham? Having lived and worked in Tottenham since 2006, I've experienced the vast changes to the area over the years. I originally had my first studio at Fountayne Road and now manage approx 80,000 sqft of commercial space for creative and small businesses in Tottenham, in addition to my fashion business.

Photo supplied: From the Spring / Summer Collection 2018 of Malene Oddershede Bach

How did you get into fashion design and what inspires you? Originally I came to London for 6 months to work after completing the equivalent to A-levels in Denmark. I then found myself being asked to style a friend's band and eventually enrolled in to a Foundation Degree for Art & Design. I soon realised that I wanted more of a challenge and ended up going the fashion design and textile route on the course, which ultimately resulted in studying BA (Hons) Fashion Design.

While studying in Denmark I was doing maths and wrote my final thesis about the relations between The Golden Ration and Fibonnaci Numbers. My tutor, who was one of Europe's leading mathematicians, was trying to convince me to go study maths at university. That wasn't quite the path I imagined myself taking, so when I realised the technicalities that are required for fashion design, such as pattern cutting and calculations, it all came together.  There are so many more aspects to fashion than just drawing a dress on a bit of paper. My brand is based on textiles, textures, quality and fit and I work on every aspect from start till finish. There's much more of a story and journey that doesn't necessarily reflects in the final garment.

What advice would you give to women who want to work in the fashion industry? While fashion might look glamorous from the outside, it's anything but. It's long working hours whether you work for yourself or for others and there are constant deadlines.

During my time lecturing at various universities in London over the years, I've found the main issues are the naivety of how easy it supposedly is and how much money you can make from it. Fashion is a hugely competitive market that's not particular catered for the designers. It's more favourable for a buyers and retailers market.

Photo supplied: From the Autumn / Winter Collection 2018 of Malene Oddershede Bach

Things are changing with online platforms being much more prominent these days, but the expenses to run a fashion company are extortionate, so any budding designer needs to ensure not to rush in to it until they are ready and have right contacts and experience behind them.

As a woman in generally in life, my main advise would simply be to be strong, independent and believe in yourself. Hard work does pay off eventually one way or another. You also manage studio spaces. Tell us more about that. About four years ago I needed a bigger studio and I got offered a vast 20,000 square foot site in South Tottenham. It was surplus to my requirements, but I ended up taking the full site, making parts of it my studio and leasing the rest to creatives in my network.

When the opportunity came up to take on board an old disused wedding dress factory not long afterward, I set up PJR Creative with my partner, who runs a construction company, which is the umbrella company for our construction company, PJR Creative Building and our studio company PJR Creative Studio. They all work alongside each other to keep studios affordable as it helps to keep our building and maintenance costs low.

We don't advertise, working purely by word of mouth and have a large waiting list for studios. We strive on working closely with all our tenants and also work closely with Haringey Council in trying to un-lock long-term solutions on how to keep affordable work spaces for creatives in Tottenham, during and after regeneration.

More recently we have added The Cove to our list of buildings, which is one of North London's largest drive-in infinity cove photographic studios. This is also available for hiring for events and we have a few other local ventures in the pipeline as well.

Photo from the-cove-studio.com

As a woman, how do you think the Tottenham has changed? What would you like to see change? I think Tottenham has changed to some degree over the last 12 years that I've been residing in the area, but the old Tottenham is still very much there clinging on for now. Not only does it have great transport links, it's got a great local businesses and community feel with so many great hidden pockets. For example, you go to Mannions (Irish pub on Broad Lane) and it's the same staff and clientele as was there all those years ago.

Obviously developments as part of the regeneration of Tottenham are looming over us all and the area is bound to change drastically over the next few years. I just sincerely hope the old Tottenham feel won't completely disappear once this happens and that some of these old pockets still remains in some way or another.

Favourite thing to do in Tottenham? This is a hard one, but while I rarely get the time to do so - it's to walk around the corner to Markfield Park, down the canal to the nature reserve, across the canal, walk around the fields with cows and horses. I guess the nature reminds me about my upbringing in Denmark.

Find out more about Malene Oddershede Bach and her ventures:

Photo supplied: From the Spring / Summer Collection 2018 of Malene Oddershede Bach

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