Patricia trained and worked as a secretary because career paths for women of her generation were very limited. She went to Oxford to do a secretarial course with her father thinking that she might end up as a high-flying PA to the chairman of some huge corporation like Unilver! She enjoyed Oxford and managed to get a job in one of the colleges –St. Annes – as a secretary, then moving up to working for the Principal and people like Iris Murdoch. When she married Charles and moved to Wales she got a post as secretary to the Chief Engineer
in a Steelworks.
When their daughter Georgina was born, she decided to work from home taking in dressmaking so that she could spend as much time as possible with her child. Little did they think when she did this it would lead to the two of them being considered one of the most inventive and unusual fashion and textile design teams. They have different skills in both the art and the business, but they are complementary. Charles has a passion for colour just as much as Patricia does. She draws and paints– Charles takes stunning photographs.
Patricia had a self taught apprenticeship which was tough because “you pay for your lessons in more ways than one”. She designs on the mannequin putting cloth on the body and seeing what that cloth dictates taking care to allow the fabric to be seen rather than forcing it into unnatural shapes. She does not use patterns, except for trousers and a simple camisole top. The pleated fabric would be impossible to be dictated to by a pattern – the designs are created with straight pieces of cloth and if shaping is needed the fabric is swirled into ripples and the pleats stitched together to hold the shaping. The work is very time consuming but very effective and still flexible enough to accommodate different shapes. The essence of her design work is that she creates clothes for women – real women who are different shapes not different sizes.
Patricia’s hallmark of meticulous attention to detail has attracted an impressive number of admirers, who appreciate the craftsmanship as well as the ‘inspired’ qualities of the collections. Their work not only adorns some of the most exotic women and homes in the world, but it is also collected and exhibited in prestigious museums and galleries.
The Lesters’ passion for textiles has lead to the extension of the business into the film and opera world as well as an interesting home interior collection. The textiles have a timeless quality, which adapt like a chameleon to any environment.