Five Minutes with Leah Chapman

Words by
Sphere Editors

31st May 2023

In Spring 2021, aged just 26, fashion designer Leah Chapman launched her fashion brand Issue Twelve. Her aim? To create perfectly cut, highly considered luxury everyday pieces using sustainable fabrics. The result? Beautiful clothes that allow her customers to build a modern wardrobe that carefully expands with each additional piece. 

Leah Chapman grew up as one of the three children of entrepreneurs Tom and Ruth Chapman, founders of Matches Fashion. The couple founded their now sold empire on one small shop launched during the 1990s in Wimbledon - hence the sporting name - and painstakingly built their business over 25 years into a global one, synonymous with fashion and luxury.

So naturally, Leah resolutely didn't want to go into the fashion business. Soon enough though, she could no longer ignore her fashion and entrepreneurship genes. Finding herself unable to find clothes she wanted to wear, she founded Issue Twelve, which took off immediately, not least for its hit "Ruth" jeans, named after her mother. Issue Twelve is a small, sustainable fashion label built on personal relationships with both fabric suppliers and customers, and while it's the opposite of wham bam trend-led fashion, it absolutely offers a blueprint for the future of considered shopping, and timeless style.

Maude top
The Maude top, £330, is made with Australian merino wool, woven using 100% renewable energy at a family-run mill in Italy, which was founded in 1876.

My personal style signature isa loosely fitted tailored trouser paired with either a cozy, lightweight knit or shirt. I like tailoring that doesn’t feel uptight and I love to layer pieces.

I grew up around fashion and styleand yet I still couldn’t find the clothes I wanted to wear! I wanted pieces made from beautiful luxurious and sustainable materials, at a more contemporary price point in the luxury market. 

My clothes are designed for... women with a great attitude to life. Our customer is not defined by age, she is a woman who loves fashion but doesn’t want to spend time thinking about clothes, or worrying that their materials and production is damaging for the planet.

Tara dress
Belted Tara dress in 100% organic khaki cotton, £390, will be released this week.

The to be able to build an endlessly useful capsule wardrobe which you can build upon. Our silhouettes and cuts work together, and can develop as a core wardrobe over time, season to season, and our customer finds this really useful. We have women who love the shape of the Marlene Trouser on them and so buy it in different fabrications - we currently have four - to suit different times of the year from spring, through summer and into winter.

The sweet spot for me is about finding the balance between tailored and relaxed... I want to feel put together when getting dressed but I don’t want to feel uptight and I want to be able to get dressed quickly and feel good. I can go to work in my tailored Ruth Trousers in wool - they also come in cotton denim - with a knit, and then can go straight out for dinner.

Personally, my Influences are people I see every day walking on the street. I am also a huge fan of old movie stars.. Lauren Hutton, Alain Delon. Julie Christie’s outfits in Don’t Look Now.

Ruth jeans
Ruth jeans, £290, sit high on the waist and feature a sharp crease down the front, they are made from 100% organic cotton. They are also available in white denim for summer.

Our Ruth jeans were an instant success…they are high waisted with a zip at the side, which is really flattering as there’s less bulk on the front and a flare makes peoples legs look extra long. They were originally a tailored trouser which we have put into denim which makes them a much more elevated and they look amazing with a flat or a heel.

The pieces my clients love… right now, its our lightweight cotton Stevie shirt in cotton, available in a light pink and black. It's great for summer in the city but customers are also looking to wear this on holiday over a costume.

Stevie shirt by Issue Twelve
The Stevie shirt is made from 100% organic cotton sourced in the US. The buttons are made from Codelite, a biodegradable material made from a protein element that naturally occurs in milk, they are formed and naturally dyed in the Cotswolds.

Take outs from my two years in business so far are…People want to try things on in person. We’ve run a few pop ups since launch and they have worked really well for us and it's so nice to meet our customers in person and get their direct feedback too.

Ultimately my mission in my work is…to make clothes that make people feel good, and that they actually wear - instead of sitting in a cupboard for years! I also want to be able to provide full traceability of each product from farm to factory.

My go-to London restaurant is… Six Portland Road. I love the family feeling and relaxed, easy energy, and the food is great!

My favourite London store is…Alfies Antiques. It is a treasure trove where I regularly lose myself. I love discovering something completely unexpected.

My current favourite piece of clothing is myChloe Skirt in cotton. I'm not normally a skirt or dress person, and my summer and winter wardrobe doesn’t change much apart from removing layers! But this maxi skirt we made has been a game changer for me to wear with a shirt tucked in or tank.

Stevie shirt and Chloe skirt by Issue twelves
Tha hand-finished Stevie shirt, £320, and Chloe skirt, £270, are both made from 100% organic cotton sourced in Turkey

The music I keep going back to is … the band Palace.

The summer beauty staple I never leave home without is… spf for my face and Charlotte Tilbury Love Trap lipstick.

The next question on my mind is… It's been on my mind for a while…but where can I find a store?

Issue Twelve