William Banks-Blaney looks a bit like a 1930s matinee idol. Maybe that's because of the impeccably knotted tie and perfectly-tailored three-piece suit. After all, they say the clothes make the man. They make the woman, too. Which is something Banks-Blaney knows all about.
A former interior designer, Banks-Blaney founded his company, WilliamVintage, in 2009, pursuing his personal passion for vintage fashion. Five years later, his business is booming. His bijoux London boutique, elegantly crammed with exceptional pieces, does brisk trade, as does the website – Banks-Blaney's vintage Diors and Chanels offering an alternative to fresh-off-the-catwalk designer glamour. And this month he was named style ambassador for American Express, a position that marries his intimate knowledge of styles past with his love of contemporary fashion.
Women trust that eye – that knack for pinpointing a moment from the past that feels relevant for today. Banks-Blaney maintains it has nothing to do with labels. "One of the things with our approach to vintage – you don't necessarily have to know where it's from," he says. "It's about a great dress that's right for the occasion." Hence the fact that, when approached to create a selection of red-carpet looks using key pieces from his store, Banks-Blaney included everything from an anonymous bustled Victorian dress to the grandest Balmain ball gown.
William Banks-Blaney's favourite red-carpet outfits
William Banks-Blaney's favourite red-carpet outfits
1/8 Shirt, £375, and knickerbockers, £475, by Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, 1977
"1977, Russian collection, Rive Gauche, not couture. Not a million people can wear it. But it’s incredibly, evocative, and amazingly strong.”
White gold medallion necklace with diamonds and sapphires, price on application, by Adler, 13 New Bond Street, London W1, 020-7409 2237; 'U' Sandale, £835, by Roger Vivier, 188 Sloane Street, London SW1, 020-7245 8270
2/8 Ballgown, from a selection, by Balmain Haute Couture, 1954
“It’s the most knock-out dress. Even though it’s Balmain, to me, it’s Sabrina Fair. Post New Look, nipped waist, full skirt, spring 1954. And for all of its purity, it’s an incredibly sexy dress. If this was on a red carpet, it would have to be nothing less than the Academy Awards. On a winner, or a seriously iconic woman. It’s a lot of dress.”
White gold earrings with diamonds, white gold three-row bracelet with diamonds, white gold bracelet and yellow gold bracelets with diamonds and white gold ring with diamonds, all price on application by Adler, as before
3/8 Gown, £2,475, by John Galliano for Christian Dior Haute Couture, 1997
“To me, this is the ultimate red carpet dress. The velvet, the silk satin, the neckline, the double-train. It does everything that you want. I love a red dress on the red carpet. When you do it, you can own it in a really strong way. It’s a really beautiful, timeless approach to red carpet.”
White gold earrings with rubies and diamonds, white gold rings with ruby and diamonds, ‘Cashmere’ necklace in white gold with pigeon’s blood rubies and diamonds, and white gold, rhodiumplated ring with ruby and diamonds, all price on application by Adler, as before
4/8 Trouser suit, £975, by Halston Couture, 1975
“It’s great fun, for a really cool red carpet: it’s Berlin Film Festival, nailed. It’s cool, it’s dark, it’s edgy. Yes, it has the resonance of Halston and Studio 54 but it’s basically pyjamas.”
'Paradiso' earrings in titanium and white gold with sapphires and diamonds, and ‘Julia’ rings in white gold with sapphires, both price on application by Adler, as before
5/8 Chiffon dress, £2,875, by Karl Lagerfeld for Chloe Haute Couture, 1980
“Lagerfeld is so extraordinary. He’s Chanel, but he’s also Fendi. In the 1960s, he was Patou. He was Chloe. It’s not about him just having one look. This dress is spring/summer 1980, runway, haute couture. I love that it trails two foot on the ground behind. It’s totally impractical. It is something fairy-like. It’s like watching a butterfly.”
White gold earrings set with diamonds and white gold bracelet set with diamonds, both price on application, by Adler, as before. ‘Lance’ sandal, £525, by Jimmy Choo, 32 Sloane Street, London SW1, 020-7823 1051, jimmychoo. com
6/8 Cocktail dress, £475, by Hardy Amies, 1958
“You immediately think of red carpet being big long dresses, but there are many red carpets that aren’t: Sundance, Berlin, Cannes. London is very unusual. It’s a very urbane approach. You don’t feel like you’re dressing like your mother. There’s also the importance of the LBD, and of Hardy Amies. London produced some great couturiers, too.”
‘Maglie’ earrings in white gold with black and white diamonds, and blackened white gold ring with grey diamond, and black and white diamonds, all price on application, by Adler, as before
7/8 Victorian silk dress, £725, c1900
“I very rarely have Victorian clothing, because it’s very matronly, very upholstered, very heavy. But every now and again you see a dress like this. And it’s not wildly expensive. Not everything that’s beautiful or red-carpet worthy has to be from a superstar. It’s still relevant 125 years later.”
White gold and titanium earrings with white bead diamonds and black diamonds, price on application, by Adler, as before
8/8 Style ambassador
Banks-Blaney marries his intimate knowledge of styles past with his love of contemporary fashion
It's an unconventional selection of looks. But that's precisely what super-stylists such as Rachel Zoe and a devoted cadre of celebrity clients come to WilliamVintage for. They want to look like a million dollars – but not like everyone else's million dollars.
"Every woman who walks the red carpet has spent weeks in training and dieting, has spent hours in hair and make-up," reasons Banks-Blaney. "However effortless she looks, everyone knows the effort that goes into it. So having a dress that doesn't just make people think, 'Wow, she looks a knock-out', but actually does spark the imagination... the red carpet is the only place you can do that"
All vintage clothing available from WilliamVintage, 2 Marylebone Street, London W1, 020-7487 4322, WilliamVintage.com.
All fine jewellery, price on application, by Adler, 13 New Bond Street, London W1, 020-7409 2237.
Photographed at Rosewood London, 252 High Holborn, London WC1, rosewoodhotels.com
Photography: Jackie Dixon
Styling: William Banks-Blaney
Model: Hannah Cassidy at Storm
Hair: Soichi at Saint Luke Artists
Make-up: Clare Read at Caren using Chanel Le Lift and Spring 2014
Retouching: Jam Imaging
Digital operator: Kelly Mitchel
Photographic assistance: Joseph Seresin
Thanks to Tim Beaumont, Amy Elizabeth Hill, Brenda Laguna, Anna Nash and all at Rosewood London