Ally Capellino

British design firm

Founded: by Middlesex Polytechnic graduates Alison Lloyd and Johnathan "Jono"Platt in 1979. Company History: After graduation, they worked for Courtaulds, then Platt worked for Betty Jackson and Lloyd made hats and jewelry at home; designed accessories, selling to Miss Selfridges chain, 1979; developed clothing range, 1980; critically acclaimed collection for Olympic Games, Moscow, 1980; introduced childrenswear line, Mini Capellino, 1981; menswear line launched, 1986; signed licensing agreement with CGO Co., Japan, 1987; opened flagship store, Soho, London, 1988; launched diffusion sportswear line, Hearts of Oak, 1990; signed agreement with textile firm Coats Viyella for promotion and marketing, 1992; design consultants to the firm, from 1992; introduced Ally-T range of t-shirts, 1993; worked with Irish Linen Guild, 1993; collaborated with Jones Bootmaker to develop dual label shoes, 1994. Company Address: N1R, Metropolitan Wharf, Wapping Wall, London E1 9SS, England.




"Influences: Ally Capellino," in Women's Journal (London), April 1985.

Tyrrel, Rebecca, "Rival Look on the City Streets," in the Sunday

Times Magazine (London), 4 September 1988. "No Business Like Show Business," in Fashion Weekly (London), 9 March 1989.

Dutt, Robin, "Ally Capellino," in Clothes Show (London), October/ November 1989.

Fallon, James, "Irish Linen Makers in Clover," in Women's Wear

Daily, 22 February 1994. "Retailers Spring Season Moving Slowly," in Women's Wear Daily, 30 March 1995.

Chappell, Helen, "Causes to Die for Darling," in New Statesman & Society, 3 May 1996.

In the early 1990s a truce seemed to have been called between British fashion designers and clothing manufacturers. Large manufacturers such as Coats Viyella and Courtaulds had previously viewed the fashion designer as a suspicious entity. A change in consumer needs and public taste, however, forced many companies to rethink their strategies. High Street retailers began demanding short runs of stock in response to swiftly changing trends, which reflected designers' needs for small quantities of items difficult and expensive to produce. Ally Capellino is one of the designer names to bridge the gap between these problems.

In 1992 Ally Capellino signed an agreement with Coats Viyella, Britain's largest textile company, to promote and market their brand name and give them access to Coats Viyella's design and production facilities, among the most advanced in technological development in the world. In return Ally Capellino would bring a more fashion-oriented handwriting to the business through by acting as design consultants. This would, in turn, hopefully avert the criticism aimed at British clothing manufacturers for producing unadventurous products.

Ally Capellino was founded in 1979 by Alison Lloyd and Jono Platt, creating a name based on Alison and the Italian word for "small cap," or capellino. Both were graduates from the B.A. fashion course at Middlesex Polytechnic and they initially sold accessories to British fashion chains Miss Selfridge and Elle. The company developed a distinctive clothing line that included a children's line, menswear and womenswear, with simple, well-cut lines and cotton separates. This was developed and sold to an international market, predominantly in Italy, the U.S. and Japan.

In 1987 the firm signed a licensing contract with the GCO Company in Japan, which aimed to achieve optimum positioning of the label in terms of retail, public relations, and advertising exposure. This was followed, in 1988, by the opening of the Ally Capellino store in Soho, London, which developed into an emporium for clothing, childrenswear, and lifestyle items. Hearts of Oak, a diffusion sportswear collection, was introduced in 1990, followed by the launch of Ally-T, a unisex range of t-shirts, in 1993.

Alison Lloyd sees herself as one of a new breed of fashion designers, far more commercially and market-orientated, as she said when interviewed in the Independent, in London: "We are sensible rather than outrageous. We have made many mistakes in the past, but we have learned from them, and we made them with our own money rather than relying on handouts." This is a very positive attitude in light of the agreement made between the company and Coats Viyella. Many previous associations between industrial giants and designer names have become stifling rather than creative. Ally Capellino wanted to retain its independence but capitalize on the commerciality of their association.

Ally Capellino seemed to have found the perfect solution to a classic problem and managed to establish a business association which recognized the fact that designer fashion represented just the fragrance line was launched, followed by the introduction of plus-size clothing and a collection of sophisticated evening dresses. Ellen Tracy also has licensing agreements to produce scarves, shoes, eyewear, hosiery, and handbags.

Allard lives and works in Manhattan and spends weekends in her new country home in Connecticut, set on 60 acres of rolling countryside. She designed the house with her brother, David, an architect. The house is a 5,500-square-foot Palladian-inspired villa, complete with studio and guest quarters. "When we were designing my new house," Allard explained, "I challenged my architect brother to take strong classical designs of the past and make them livable for today."

When asked in an interview with Women's Wear Daily if there was a missing ingredient in her life, she replied, "I've always thought about the idea of having children, but I think children need to be nurtured, and I don't think you can do that from five to six at night." Additionally, she commented, "From the age of ten I always wanted to design. I never excluded having a family, but my work is so demanding. I'm happy I have a lot of nieces and nephews, so I can enjoy family life and kids." Allard did make room for a husband, however: on New Year's Eve 1999, Herbert Gallen, Ellen Tracy's company chairman, proposed to Allard, who said "Yes."

—Janet Markarian; updated by Christine Miner Minderovic

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