Christopher Fischer's Cozy Cashmere Empire
by danine alati
Fashion designer Christopher Fischer has had a penchant for cashmere since growing up as a jet-setting British teen in the ’50s and ’60s. “At a time when ‘Swinging’ London was the center of fashion, pop, and rock culture, I was totally drawn into the fashion scene,” says Fischer, who is currently working to expand the brand’s online retail component as well as launching new projects on the West Coast, London, and China. “I started wearing skinny black cashmere turtlenecks, which set me on a course where cashmere was going to become a major part of what I would do in life.”
After studying law and finance at Lanchester Polytechnic (now Coventry University), Fischer transitioned into the fashion world and founded his eponymous knitwear brand in 1982 as a men’s collection in London and Hawick, Scotland. The women’s line was added in 1986, and the home collection launched a decade later. “I knitted some cashmere travel blankets and throws as gifts for friends and family,” Fischer remembers. “This all developed into a range of cashmere blankets, throws, and cushions as part of the total cashmere lifestyle we feature in the Christopher Fischer stores.”
In 2009, the Christopher Fischer Baby Collection was launched in response to the birth of the designer’s twin godchildren and dedicated to the loss of another godson. “The line is all about ‘mini me’ versions of our adult sweaters, in soft silver grays and natural tones,” Fischer notes. “Our Fox and Robin sweaters have become iconic to the collection, and we have been inundated with requests to make them for adults also.”
While Fischer gratefully credits his own privileged childhood that afforded him opportunities to travel around the world for influencing his high style, he now feels quite at home in the Hamptons. “I first visited the Hamptons with my wife, Joni, before we were married in the early summer of 1986, and I was just blown away by the natural beauty of the beaches and dunes, the crisp and precise nature of the light, and the tall Southampton hedgerows,” he says. “Now with a house in East Hampton, Joni and I love spending as much time as we can on the East End. The back road country lanes, farms, fields, and horse stables remind me of rural Surrey in England, where I grew up.”
With one Christopher Fischer store in Southampton and the other in East Hampton, the designer and his wife enjoy time out East year-round. “Any time spent here always presents precious and memorable moments,” he says. “Cooking at home over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in the Hamptons with family and friends has become as much a favorite time as the summer months.”
Plush cashmere also obviously is a key component to Fischer’s holiday celebrations. “A great cashmere sweater is the adult version of a child’s ‘blankie,’” he offers. “For me designing cashmere is all about a vision of wearable, luxe sweaters.” This season’s collection includes metallic-printed cashmere cable sweaters and tops knitted in pure cashmere with woven silk overlaid panels. Also, popular with both men and women are his signature cashmere Alec texting gloves, named for Christopher Fischer devotee Alec Baldwin. “Alec loves them when texting and playing Words with Friends in the cold winter months, so we named them in his honor,” says Fischer, who also recommends his brand’s fine cashmere 16-gauge Jenny sweater as a holiday must-have.
For his upcoming Spring/ Summer 2013 collection, Fischer gleaned inspiration from his far-off travels and translated that into a fresh palette of new, modern knits. “We were inspired by Arabian nights, African dusk, and the earthy tones and embellishments on our exotic travels. The textures include silks, soft cottons, and crisp linens, but of course include superfine and lightweight cashmere for those fresh spring days and cool summer nights,” Fischer says, referring to moments like enjoying a “moonlight cigar with chums from London, sitting on the benches at Main Beach, watching the ocean surf, and talking till way past midnight” or cruising in Montauk and Southampton, then over to Shelter Island and the North Fork to check out a new store or restaurant or the best farm stand.
According to Fischer, the “cashmere lifestyle” is aligned with that of most Hamptonites. “It is relaxed, assured, timeless,” he explains. “There is always a need for that great basic sweater, where newness and modernity come from subtle changes in the shape and length rather than redesigning or overdesigning a great simple sweater. The varied lifestyles of the Hamptons, New York, London, and all the places I visit on my travels allow me to see that ever more clearly.” 52 Jobs Lane, Southampton, 204-9090; 67 Main St., East Hampton, 907-0900
photography by eric striffler