As far as school projects go, working with a luxury fashion label and being afforded exclusive access to the wardrobe of Princess Grace of Monaco, aka movie star Grace Kelly, beats sprinkling glitter and sequins over a homemade greetings card. This dream of an assignment became reality recently for a lucky group of Central Saint Martin's students thanks to Pringle of Scotland.
Last year, BA History and Theory students carried out extensive research into Kelly's wardrobe, accessing the Palace of Monaco archives and presenting their findings at an exhibition at the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco. Then came the turn of the MA Fashion Design students. Inspired by the Princess's innate sense of style – all the more remarkable, noted course director, Louise Wilson, as it was achieved without a stylist – each designed a selection of pieces for Pringle's new capsule “Archive Collection” of 100 per cent cashmere knitwear.
While the Hitchcock heroine's public persona may more usually be associated with the Hermès Sac à dépêches, renamed the “Kelly” bag in her honour, it was actually during her private family time that the Princess displayed a penchant for Pringle's classic twinsets and knits. Many of the students were inspired by this dual persona – bringing to it a contemporary feel – played out to exemplary effect in Louise Morris's “Grace” and “Kelly” logo sweaters and off-beat floral prints.
The former were inspired by family images of Kelly and her brother playing baseball – the varsity style name designs created by intarsia knitting while the latter looked to one of Kelly's flower pressings. “The most interesting thing I learnt about Grace Kelly is how obsessive she was,” enthused Morris. “She was involved in so many creative and diverse projects. It is not every day you find out [that] a Princess and a famous actress makes cacti embroideries in her spare time.”
Other standout pieces from a rather extensive collection include Assaf Reeb's sweaters with exaggerated fur trims inspired by a stole that Kelly wore to a Monte Carlo ball; Jae Lee's graphic spin on the classic V-neck; Alice Bastin's sweaters with inbuilt bow-ties; and the fluted cuffs and trompe l'oeil twinsets of Rachel Hewitt. The latter even designed a sumptuous grey cashmere turban inspired by Kelly's fondness for that epitomisation of old Hollywood glamour.
Special mention, of course, goes to Pringle's brand ambassador and honorary student, actress Tilda Swinton, who also became involved. Her contribution, a long-sleeved maxi dress in super-light cashmere silk, was based on a bathing robe Kelly wore in High Society. “It has an absolutely Grecian quality,” she revealed. “But it is very playful and it's got this transitional feel to it. It's kind of a twinset dress, a dressing gown for a part-time goddess heading for some heady drunken dancing later in the film.”
Of that, Kelly would most certainly have approved.