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Last month during Milan Fashion Week, Iceberg presented its Spring/Summer 2021 collection that channeled the late Princess Diana’s sporty sophistication. Like the late princess, Iceberg’s Creative Director James Long is also a native of Althorp, Northamptonshire, so a tribute was in order.
“It was really a homage to Princess Diana, who has always influenced me so much,” said Long. “It also speaks to the type of globalized woman who divides her time between Rome, L.A., London, and the occasional Safari expedition.”
The new line was divided into four segments: Heritage and Sport Safari, Iceberg Losanga, Fun in Pink, and Punky Grunge. The prints and motifs inspired were inspired by iconic artworks—like Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam and Disney’s Mickey Mouse—and Iceberg’s ever-evolving dedication to knitwear was elevated with new technical textures and silhouettes
For the past few months, Long and his design team were creating in isolation amid COVID-19. Whitewall spoke with Long to hear more about this time, how it has impacted his view of “newness,” and why he still hates dress codes.
WHITEWALL: Before you started at Iceberg, you ran an eponymous label. Can you tell us about that, and how it led you to where you are today?
JAMES LONG: I started my namesake brand James Long with my sister Charlotte Long—the one running the business side of things and still does today. We had my brand for ten years, but I always did consultancy for several different brands in Paris and Milan during that period. I was also a Senior Lecturer at the Royal College of Art under Ike Rust’s team, a period in London that I really enjoyed.
When Iceberg asked me to take on the brand it seemed like an exciting challenge. I started as the Director of the runway collections, which lead to becoming the Creative Director for everything Iceberg.
WW: In 1974 when Iceberg launched, there was an emphasis on knitwear and sportswear. Tell us a bit about how the brand has evolved to meet the needs of today while keeping bits of its DNA from the ‘70s.
JL: I think knitwear and fashion influenced by sportswear is still the heart of the brand. I think the technicians have incredible knowledge in knitwear over 40 years, so the evolution has come from the company knowing their craft and the eye of a new design team.
The brand is family-owned, so the DNA is still there since the family is also still working for the brand. They are the real deal and they teach me and my team so much. Their involvement still influences the collection while allowing it to be new and modern.
WW: Like Iceberg, your label also had a focus on knitwear. Tell us about how you originally got interested in this craft, and why this artisan technique needs to be preserved.
JL: I think our knitwear was interesting because I would design it and Charlotte, my sister, would do the samples. It was also an intimate process. I don’t think I was or am now more interested in knitwear over other parts of a collection or category. I am always interested in the full vision—the outcome which I think it is the way it should be.
Knitwear is very much about having a good connection and synergy with the technicians and I really enjoy sketching knitwear and seeing the results, which I think are sometimes better than the sketch itself.
WW: How have you seen the evolution of athleisurewear impact the demand and diversity of sportswear?
JL: I think people are more willing to listen to how they want to dress rather than to what society “thinks.” This has meant more choices and more fashion in athleisure and sportswear. To be honest, all lines are blurring, which is a good thing for me.
WW: Tell us about your personal style. What are some of your go-to pieces? What speaks to you?
JL: I wear things that I used to wear ten years ago. I keep a lot of my own designs from both Iceberg and James Long. I love a big grungy cardigan with an old Björk t-shirt and sporty pants. It’s basically my uniform. I hate dress codes.
WW: How did you spend your time isolating amid COVID-19? What kept you connected?
JL: I was at home alone in Hackney, London, and was busy speaking to my team at Iceberg pretty much all day, being that we were designing the latest collection and exchanging ideas. This is how we were working together. And since I have always been between countries, even before this pandemic, we were already accustomed to this type of connection.
The team and I communicated well with one another and feel lucky about that. We were able to stay very focused and creative throughout it all.
WW: How has the pandemic impacted the way you view fashion moving forward?
JL: I have learned that the team I work within Italy are great and true hard workers. I have learned that we have a wonderful way of communicating that was built over the years of working together. I have also learned that it’s good to be still every now and then.
I think the pandemic affects everyone very differently and I think its effects are not fully transparent yet. The impact on the fashion industry will probably be a huge edit of what is needed and what is not. Maybe a time for newness.