Designer Richard Quinn turned the big 3-0 last month and the London-Irish designer received a very special present when he awoke to the news that global superstar Jennifer Lopez had stepped out in one of his gowns at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. It was the latest plot twist in the story of his phenomenal rise to the top.
Not bad "for an archway in Peckham", says Quinn, referring to his south London studio with a healthy dose of self-depreciation.
In just four years, this lad from Lewisham has scaled the heights, dressing everyone from Amal Clooney to Beyoncé. Kendall Jenner wore his strapless, exaggerated mermaid gown to last year's Emmys.
And it's not just the A-listers who love him, the industry's most important insiders are fans too. Legendary Vogue editor Anna Wintour recognised his particular genius with saturated floral prints early on and British tastemaker Katie Grand, the influential fashion and creative director, styled his last show in September.
Tonight, as part of London Fashion Week, Richard Quinn will reveal his latest collection at a keenly-awaited 8pm show in Victoria. To say it is the hottest ticket in town is an understatement.
There's a synchronicity that seems to follow Quinn around - tonight's AW 2020 show takes place in Lawrence Hall, a venue where a young Richard had a more menial fashion job than he does now.
"When I worked for Gant, I worked there folding clothes in their sample sale," Quinn recalls. "I remember seeing this space that was amazing. It's the biggest ever venue we've had so yeah, got to make some clothes to fill it."
We're meeting for this interview in his south London studio, the Richard Quinn Atelier, which is tucked away beneath a railway arch in Peckham. Commuter trains trundle noisily overhead and all around us his small team are busy working on the AW 2020 collection for the upcoming show - which at the time of our meeting is just a matter of weeks away.
The last time I visited, we talked about how Amal Clooney and her mother had visited him for fittings in his Peckham studio. Amal would go on to wear his memorable floral foil train dress at the Met Gala 2018.
On this visit, I press for some pre-show exclusives and the designer relents, gracefully.
"This season is basically the House of Richard Quinn so we are establishing ourselves for the future as a house," Quinn explains. "And what that means, what's in the house, who lives in the house or whatever, it's going to be hopefully some sort of moment where it establishes ourselves, touching on some things we've done before. It's like you are opening a world to what we are trying to create and it's almost like a spring board to go from there."
It's exactly 24 months since his second collection scooped the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II award for British design. The queen herself sat in the front row for his show - beside Anna Wintour - and the world watched utterly intrigued by this baseball-capped newbie whose work ethic, he acknowledges, was honed watching his Irish parents. His dad, Patrick Quinn, is a scaffolder from Athboy, Co Meath, and his mum, Eileen, a nurse from Rathmullan, Co Donegal.
Quinn's mum and dad are currently both back in Co Donegal, he tells me. They have a holiday home there. It's become something of a pre-Fashion Week tradition, he's noticed.
"I'm starting to realise a pattern that before Fashion Week, they go to Ireland. I was over in Donegal last summer and before that, I was over for CREATE in Brown Thomas."
Quinn has plenty of childhood memories of happy summers spent in Ireland with his grandparents. He lists off some of his personal favourites, moments of little nostalgia like the Donegal-made Emerald sweets with their distinctive green wrappers.
"I always eat Meanies crisps when I'm in Ireland and 99 ice creams and Club Orange," he says.
But back to tonight's show - what kind of silhouettes are going to be unveiled?
"It's almost like you are opening the doors and the Richard Quinn world is flooding out. That's the idea," he adds.
"If it's going to be tight, it's going to be really tight, and if it's going to be big, it's going to be very big. I want this collection to be quite extreme in terms of volume and how you connect to it and how you view the clothes as well, hopefully."
The young designer's process is simple and he likes to work right up to a deadline.
"I mean, I'm still doing it," he laughs. "I think that's a better way to work anyway. I usually plan the collection in sections and I will design then for each section. There's lots of things, as time has gone on, that I have at my back of my head, like I would love to do that but I don't have the resources to do it.
"I've always wanted to do this quilting thing and this season, it will happen," he reveals with a smile. "It's quite a familiar garment mixed with this really traditional technique."
Last season, his collection was all about a salon-type show with music, drama and a slew of top models including Erin O'Connor (top left) and Jade Parfitt. Small kids joined in the grand finale wedding procession and, for added impact, the soundtrack consisted of the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Bach Choir and a live performance by Freya Ridings. Without doubt, Quinn is a fan of the dramatic.
"Not only am I designer, I am a massive fan of fashion and fashion moments, so I want people who come to the show to actually feel something, whether you love it or hate it. Hopefully you love it - but I want you to actually have an opinion about it. I don't want it to be a white wall, a bit of a prop and then people walk up and down. I want there to be drama. That's what I want."
He also likes to have some sort of live element to a show.
"I used to play the French horn and trumpet all the way through primary school. I got quite good at it and I remember thinking - I was only about 12 at the time - how it was amazing that children could collectively make a really amazing sound. There's a feeling that you can get from live music."
Quinn, the youngest of five children who grew up in Eltham in southeast London, was educated at a Catholic primary and secondary school and a grammar school in Sidcup.
After school he started a BA in Fashion Print at the famous London fashion school Central St Martins - its alumni includes Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen. His skills were quickly recognised and in 2014 he was awarded the Stella McCartney Scholarship for his graduate collection.
An MA in Fashion followed and brought more recognition, with his graduate collection winning the H&M Design Award in 2016 with a lucrative €50,000 cash prize and the offer to produce a range for the high street.
The following year he was named as the British Fashion Council's NEWGEN one-to-watch and was awarded full NEWGEN sponsorship for the following season, which enabled him to show at London Fashion Week.
Along the way, he also worked at Dior in Paris.
"I was there for four for five months. I came back to London after that. Paris wasn't for me," he says.
Then, in February 2018, the queen took her front-row seat for his first London Fashion week show and the rest, as they say, is fashion history.
He says is looking forward to tonight's show, "and hopefully I will be able to enjoy it. I really enjoy the bit post-show as well, where we are doing private-client stuff and celebrities and things like that".
And Quinn certainly attracts his fair share of A-list fans. As well the queen's popping up on his front row - "amazing, obviously" - last month J Lo chose to wear the pink and mossy green gown which had been part of the bridal procession in his show last season.
"I didn't really even kind of know the J Lo thing was happening because obviously things get sent out all the time. I think it was the perfect dress for her at that event. The soft colours really went well with her skin tone.
"It's got to the point now where I just tend not to ask where because you get called in for a very exciting fitting and then you're waiting to see it. I woke up on January 3 and that was a good birthday present."
Quinn says he celebrated the landmark birthday with "an afternoon tea with my family and a little party at my sister's place. It was kind of a chilled one and then we painted the floor at the studio. That was my birthday present, I didn't have to paint the floor. I left."
He may be the boss and designer-to-the-stars, but Quinn and his team still pack the boxes themselves. He says he finds that aspect of the work really interesting, seeing who has bought what.
He is currently stocked in 53 stores across the world and in Ireland, he is exclusive to Brown Thomas in Dublin, which launched him here in 2018 at CREATE, its annual showcase of up-and-coming design talent.
Quinn remains one of its best-selling designers because his prints and silhouettes are designed to suit women of different shapes. His starting price at BTs is €1,350 for a mac, a slimmer version of his famous opera coat.
"They are kind of for any figure, which I find really interesting in terms of you can have that dramatic moment and still be any size you want, which I think is really great."
In a clever move, he opened a print studio at his atelier with the €50,000 from his 2016 H&M award. It offers him another revenue stream, and has also led to him working with a divserse range of people, from fellow designers like JW Anderson and Burberry to young up-and-coming fashion students. It's a creative hub and standing there in the midst of it, it's impossible not to pick up the creative energy.
Like so many in the fashion industry, the young designer always has one eye on sustainability.
His printing process utilises minimum water and they dispose of the excess colour left on the printer-heads so that no chemicals go into the filtration system. And because all of their prints are made in house, they are able to control production by responding to orders in precisely the quantity needed. But it's also about creating investment pieces that won't date and can be held onto for years.
"We work so hard to make things that are beautiful and no matter how you look at them, they are timeless. That's the kind of pieces that we want to make, pieces that could be in a museum in years to come," Quinn says. "We do try and achieve those wow pieces in themselves in terms of cutting or print or whatever. There needs to be some sort of relevant moment in it and, again, when they wear it, it becomes culturally relevant.
"To have had Kendall Jenner to have walked in that dress is incredible and to have that moment where I'm sitting in Sidcup with my sisters, and Kendall is on the TV saying 'Oh, I'm wearing Richard Quinn'."
It was all the more a pinch-me moment given that that's exactly where he sits and watches the Kardashians' reality TV show with his sisters, both of whom are involved in his business. Grace handles his studio sales and Louise is helping with production this season.
Another Kardashian, Kim, is also a fan and graced the cover of Vogue Japan wearing the finale wedding look from last season's show.
But all this celebrity endorsement, Quinn insists, has never been part of his strategy.
"It's like a moment that you can't predict, it's like a theme that runs with the work that we do in terms of people just gravitate towards our dresses and they have these moments with our dresses.
"It's not like a really strategic media plan. People just like the femininity of the dresses and the dramatic-ness of the dresses. I think that's the element of the show."
Because his prints have become so well-known, his influence on pop culture can be seen everywhere from reality TV to drag performances.
"I find that sort of cultural impact really interesting, especially with the internet now, you can literally see everything like there's a reality show in Argentina where they had a challenge to remake the look."
As well as these 'Quinn-spirations', there have also been the inevitable commercial 'homages' in the marketplace.
"Everything comes from everywhere. Some of the copies are flattering, I guess. Annoying but flattering."
Just last week, the designer released an affordable capsule collection with Depop, an online resale platform that is very popular among thrifty Gen Z fashionistas. The collection includes small items like beanies, umbrellas, water bottles and tights as well as a jumper made from leftover fabric.
I ask if he has plans to branch out in other directions, perhaps a menswear range? Quinn isn't ruling anything out.
"Maybe in the future, we might do some mens' looks," he says, "but it would have to be right, and be relevant".
With the big show just around the corner, Quinn tells me that he suspects his crew working in the studio may be getting tired of the same songs being played over and over again as he tries out different options for tonight's show.
"There's probably five songs I'm playing on repeat this collection. It's like a constantly disgruntled focus group on who should open it. My two sisters were here last night and it was a fresh pair of ears. They were like 'oh, this is more dramatic' and they both said different ones."
While his current base is close to the home ground of Millwall Football Club, Richard says he prefers watching sport live on TV but there is a Christmas tradition with his dad of going to watch London Irish rugby club playing in nearby Richmond.
Free time is a rarity, this month in particular, but when it does happen, he tells me he like to spend it with family and friends.
"I'm quite a regular kind of person in that sense. I like just relaxing and, eating a bag of Hula Hoops now and again," he adds with a wide smile.
When was the last time he cried? "I cried at the end of one of the episodes of Cheer on Netflix, an amazing documentary about cheerleaders. Maybe it's because my show is coming up and I kind of resonated with the hard work. She [cheer coach Monica] works so hard for this one moment and then it's over. I grew up watching my parents working really, really hard."
Reflecting on what it means to have someone as powerful as Anna Wintour in his corner, Quinn finds humour in the disconnect between the world of high fashion and his humble London studio.
"It's nice that people I really respect resonate with the clothes and what we are doing and it has that kind of wider reach. I think people still don't get that we make everything from an arch in Peckham, which I find quite funny. It's a nice juxtaposition. You are making all these things for private clients from the Middle East and they want things for really extravagant events and it's all being made here."
When it comes to other designers, he namechecks Belgian designer Raf Simons. "He is really amazing. I just like anyone with a vision whether it is my taste or not."
Alessandro Michele at Gucci also gets a mention. Quinn says what they have done with that brand is really interesting.
How does he treat himself after the big shows?
"I buy my sisters bags. I like giving gifts, not really receiving them that much. I'm quite a simple person. I have a Liberty wallet, just because they gave it to me and my print is on it. I like art stuff. Whenever I'm doing a project, like designing something for the Met Gala, I will go out and spend lot on the 'right paper' or like a book, like the Tim Walker book or the Yves Saint Laurent book.
It's hard to imagine anything getting under the skin of this laid-back millennial, but he insists it does happen.
"Production really frustrates me, when people don't stick to a deadline [it] really annoys me and lazy people really annoy me as well. I always think anyone who is successful is hard working. There is no way you can be successful in fashion and not be hard-working.
And what's the end game? "World domination", he whispers, before bursting into laughter. "I think we just want to be a fashion house where it becomes a thing where we are dressing all these amazing people on the red carpet, we know our private clients one-to-one, we are creating dresses for a showroom, we know who our customer is and what resonates with them. It is just pushing it forwarsd and, hopefully, creating some nice fashion."