Life after Ghost: Tanya Sarne is back with a new line in her signature style

When Tanya Sarne, founder of the Ghost label, announced last year that she was launching a new line called handwritten, her legions of fans were delighted. The first collection, created in collaboration with the New York designer Gary Graham, is just as relaxed, pretty and wearer-friendly as might be expected, given the motivating force behind it. Having sold her remaining shares in Ghost to Kevin Stanford and the Icelandic retail investment company Arev, in 2006, Sarne had agreed not to work for a year. By then, while many might have just basked in the glory of past successes – and, it is hoped, considerable means – this irrepressible character had decidedly itchy feet. And that is good news for women the world over.

"My aim was always to make beautiful clothes that make women feel feminine, attractive and confident," Sarne says today, and dressed from head to toe in her own designs, she looks just that. "I want to make women feel good."

In fact, while Ghost is busily expanding – even with Sarne at the helm, it had grown to the point where she describes the collections as "huge" and "rambling" – handwritten harks back to a time when she ran a small but perfectly formed West London-based business, working with a skeleton staff of suitably cool characters and a series of guest designers, from Nicholas Knightley and Sherald Lamden to Alister Mackie and Suzanne Deeken. Ghost, you see, was ghostwritten, hence the name.

Although all of the label's designs were adapted and often inspired by Sarne herself, she transformed it into a great British success story by working with up-and-coming young talent as well as a handful of more permanent pattern-cutters and the designer Sophia Malig ("my right hand"), who rejoined her at handwritten. It was always a winning formula: Sarne gave her designers both a platform and the resources to produce a collection. They gave her an injection of bright, young creative talent in return.

Then, of course, there are the fabrics. It is by now the stuff of fashion folklore that the vintage crêpe effects that Sarne developed are in fact achieved by shrinking and dying a new, stiff, woody material, not dissimilar to net curtains in consistency. This was a process that Sarne rediscovered and many others went on to appropriate. Certainly, the original material bore little or no resemblance to the finished product, which, at its best, bore more than a passing resemblance to the fabric of slip and tea dresses of the Thirties and Forties (when the process originated), but could be machine-washed and -dried, and stuffed at the bottom of a suitcase from which it would emerge pristine – well, pristine after five minutes hanging in a steamy bathroom at least.

Handwritten follows a similarly pragmatic approach, in as much as the label's identity comes from the fabrics first and foremost, allowing Sarne to flit between designers at her leisure – Robert Cary-Williams has also worked on a small holiday line due in the shops in early November. The weight and texture of the yarns she is using in the organza, georgette and crêpes are new developments and are finer and more delicate, but the colours are the instantly recognisable, unashamedly romantic and subtly faded shades that Ghost was known for. For spring/summer, ultra-feminine skirts and dresses come with bubble hems and the Victorian-lingerie details that are Sarne's trademark – covered buttons, lace trim and gauzy layers, the effect of which is subtly precious.

"I feel my previous work was becoming a little 'lady', and handwritten is slightly younger," Sarne says. "It is also a much smaller collection, every piece has to count." That is not to say that the need to cater to all shapes and sizes has been cast aside. "Of course, every piece has to be forgiving. Every piece has to have stretch to adapt to the changes in a woman's body."

If this sounds like an extremely personal and individual approach, then that is good to see. After all, Sarne's sudden split from Ghost, the company she built up from scratch into a multi-million pound operation over more than 20 years, was something of a blow, both personally for her but also for anyone running an independent fashion business in this country.

Sarne started Ghost, she has always said, because she was a single mother with two children to support, and her flamboyant personality and colourful lifestyle was as much a part of the label's identity as the clothes themselves. As is often the way, her at times idiosyncratic approach to running her company sat uneasily with the more corporate nature of the brains behind Ghost today, and so Sarne stepped down. "I love fashion," Sarne says in explanation of her seemingly tireless wish to remain involved. "I don't know what I'd do otherwise."

The autumn/winter handwritten collection, which arrives in stores at the end of August, includes signature bias-cut slips and more covered-up and typically versatile dresses, but they are joined by structured, tailored pieces, still predominantly following an hourglass line, lace jackets in fashionably downbeat colours, and fitted knitted garments, too.

Tanya Sarne sweeps past a mannequin dressed in a narrow-waisted, shrunken olive-green jacket and matching A-line skirt. "Look, this is new," she says. "I've never done wool like this before". It looks lovely but, truth to tell, its creator seems more excited by the fact that it can go in the washing machine.

You can take the girl out of Ghost...

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Life and Style
tech
News
i100BBC political editor Nick Robinson had a lot of explaining to do
Life and Style
Nappies could have advice on them to encourage mothers and fathers to talk to their babies more often
newsTalking to babies can improve their language and vocabulary skills
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Female Support Workers / Carers - From £8.00 per hour

    £8 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To assist a young family with the care ...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

    £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Executive is required...

    Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

    £55000 - £70000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world lead...

    Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

    Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

    Day In a Page

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

    Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

    You know that headache you’ve got?

    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

    Paul Scholes column

    England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

    Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
    Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

    Frank Warren column

    Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines