She’s inspired a Jefferson Airplane psychedelic hit, Lewis Carroll and - more recently - a fashion label. Influences on Alice Liddell, aka Alice from Alice in Wonderland, know no bounds, as Star reporter Rachael Clegg discovers.
ALICE Takes A Trip is a fitting name for one of Sheffield’s hottest fashion labels.
It sums up the part fantasy, part Victorian gothic clothing that’s been the brainchild of sister designers Claire and Lauren Middleton for more than six years.
And now, this unconventional blend of surreal, Victorian-inspired psychedelia and Sheffield originality has gone global.
“We’ve just had confirmation that we’ve not got a boutique in Honk Kong selling our clothes,” says Lauren. “We sell all over the world on the website - especially Australia.”
The pair’s international client base really took off after they were voted as the second-best boutique on ASOS - the fashionista’s internet Bible.
“Since we’ve been on ASOS the number of visitors to the site has gone up by about 50 per cent,” says Claire, aged 37, who lives in the city centre.
Such is the surge in demand for Alice Takes a Trip clothing that Claire and Lauren can no longer hand-make all the clothes themselves.
“We’ve started having stuff made at a factory in Rotherham - everything we do is local and everything’s made here. We like to be able to visit and see samples.”
Everything to do with Alice Takes a Trip is done in-house - from the design to the website to posters and flyers.
“We are both perfectionists,” says Claire. “We will fret over something as small as a dot on a poster - it has to be right and you can only get things exactly how you want by doing it yourself.”
Alice Takes a Trip’s home-grown individuality is stamped in to every garment.
Dolly dresses are capped with huge, exaggerated collars, as if they themselves have taken one of Alice’s magic pills. This is grown-up clothing that’s fantastically enlarged and embellished - much like the theme of Alice in Wonderland itself, as Claire explains.
“It is inspired by Alice in Wonderland but the name’s also after a London boutique in the 1960s called Granny Takes a Trip. Everything we do is inspired by Victorian fairytales and vintage fabrics.”
The huge stash of printed patterned fabrics nods to this. There are rolls of fabric on to which all manner of images are colourfully-printed, such as birds, swirly patterns and crosses.
On top of the work counter is a T-shirt bearing a huge black and white sketched skull with a brightly-coloured bow attached to the cranium.
“We design the sketches - some are done on Photoshop and then we add the extra details,” says Claire.
And even now, six years into her enterprise, Claire still gets excited about it all. “I still love it. I love it when a new collection is coming out and we have just had the photographs done. We do that about every six weeks rather than seasonally, that way we are constantly updating our site and stock.”
Right now, the pair are preparing for Pure London, an exclusive trade fashion show for boutiques across the country.
“We’re hoping to pick up more boutiques through it,” says Claire. “When we did the Clothes Show last year it was absolutely crazy busy and even the Clothes Show’s former presenter Caryn Franklin bought one for her daughter.”
The success of the business does mean that there isn’t much time for a social life. “We were even on the phone to each other last night at about 11pm looking at fabric samples on the internet,” says Claire. “I don’t have a social life but young ‘un here does,” she says, looking at her 26-year old sister.
It’s not just the sisters who helped build up Alice Takes a Trip. “I started with a shop in the Forum,” says Claire. “I was revamping vintage clothes and mum came and helped a lot and dad even came here to build our workbench for us.”
And that workbench is going to be put to good use over the next two weeks. “Before a show we’ll both be here most nights until about 11pm,” says Claire. “But we love it - it’s great fun and it still thrills me to be doing this.”
n Visit www.alicetakesatrip.com for information on Alice Takes a Trip.