Joshua Millard grew up on his family’s sheep farm in Dorset, but a farmer’s life was not for him. ‘It was 18 years of almost total isolation,’ says the designer. ‘Fashion gave me a form of escapism.’
But he hasn’t turned his back on that rural idyll completely, nor on the family that has worked the land for generations, channeling memories of both into his work. ‘What my parents used to wear every day – tweed suits, beautifully worn linen shirts – it’s not what you’d call traditional workwear, but it’s not smart at all. It was much more rough and ready.’
Millard wants to create directional modern workwear for international women: functional clothes that allow freedom of movement, both physically and in terms of geography. ‘The clothes are aesthetically acceptable in lots of different cultures,’ he says, meaning a certain level of modesty, but also a savvy consideration of materials. Where possible, leather is lamb nappa rather than cowhide, and he’s working on a wool light enough for Middle East customers.
A tailoring graduate of the London College of Fashion, Millard knew he wanted to design womenswear, but only after learning the engineering of a garment. Stints in Chanel’s London atelier, at Ozwald Boateng on Savile Row and with Jonathan Saunders followed his graduation, until he felt ready to go out alone in 2015.
For autumn/winter 2017 Millard was inspired by the black and white imagery of Dorothea Lange, a photojournalist known for her images of Depression-era rural America. ‘The photos have an aspirational quality, a desire for wealth, or escapism,’ says Millard, who translated this to agricultural textures: double-faced shearling, cotton shirting and waxed cotton. ‘Waxed cotton is one of my favourite fabrics, and people only really associate it with Barbour.’ You can take the boy out of the farm...