It is 10 years since Peter Jensen arrived on the fashion scene. The designer graduated from the Central Saint Martins MA fashion course with distinction in 1999 and set up his own label two years later. Those who know and love it rest safe in the knowledge that it is a suitably idiosyncratic affair. Jensen (above) names each of his womenswear collections after an unlikely heroine. His muses have so far included Gertrude (Stein), Olga (Korbut), Tonya (Harding), Mink (Stole), Helena (Rubinstein), Jodie (Foster), Sissy (Spacek) and his aunt Jytte. The latter ran a series of small businesses in her native Greenland and, Jensen himself has observed, had more than a passing love affair with mini-skirts and thigh-high boots, despite the distinctly inclement weather there. References to each character may be literal: a grey marl sweatshirt in 'Jodie' is just like the one the celebrated actor wore when running through the woods playing Detective Clarice Starling in the opening sequence of The Silence of the Lambs. Or, a more lateral take may be the order of the day: frilly knickers and skater skirts may have been Tonya Harding's professional garb of choice but she was unlikely to have worn either stamped with miniature apples, pears, bananas and even the odd potato or turnip.
Jensen's proudly individual stance – and indeed that of his unorthodox muses – rings out loud and clear in his first book. This is far from the average, glossy coffee-table tome, not least because anyone interested may actually be able to carry it around in their handbag – or even read it in the bath. And that is not to say that it is any less substantial for that. Small but perfectly formed, its cloth cover is printed with Jensen's marginally sinister rabbit logo and inside are some of the finest moments of his career. On the catwalk, backstage, in fittings and pulled from fashion editorials, any imagery is notable not least for its (often quite twisted) sense of humour. Over these pages, the designer with his friend and business partner, Gerard Wilson, pick some of their favourite pictures and explain the reasons why.
Later this week, meanwhile, a selection of Jensen's designs – current and archive – may be seen in the flesh and in an appropriately grand gallery setting. He is celebrating his anniversary with a retrospective fashion show at the Victoria & Albert Museum, as part of the gallery's Fashion in Motion series.
Jensen says that he has always loved the V&A, having first visited on a school trip to London from Denmark as a child. "It is a truly inspiring place," he says, "and one that I have always dreamt of being locked in after hours or for a whole weekend without anyone else about."
Who knows what merry havoc he would wreak once there.
BY SUSANNAH FRANKEL
Fashion in Motion: Peter Jensen is at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London SW7, from Friday, at 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, and 8pm; admission free, but booking essential: www.vam.ac.uk/page/f/fashion-in-motion/. 'Peter Jensen', with written contributions by Emily King and Susannah Frankel, is published by Dent De Leone
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