Meet the new model army
Designer Warren Griffiths (above) has turned to his high- flying customers to model his collection for London Fashion Week. Katie Sampson talks to three of them about what the Nineties career woman really wants to wear
Monday 24 February 1997
What does the successful career woman really want from her clothes? As London Fashion Week kicks off, this is the sink or swim question exercising the minds of designers, buyers and retailers as the attempt to transplant catwalk glamour and glitz to street level begins.
The designer Warren Griffiths may have found the answer in his "Votes for Women" collection which he launches today. Eschewing the costly formality of the traditional show using models "of perfection", Griffiths has chosen to unveil his autumn/winter collection from his own shop using seven of his customers - including an investment banker, a barrister and a sculptor - as "role models".
"I want to dress dynamic women - my muse is the type of woman who has a lifestyle I admire and emulate," he says. "I'm not interested in dressing young girls."
His inspiration comes from hearing his customers discuss what they need from an outfit; the results are clothes which are conversation pieces in themselves. The materials used include reflective glass thread, paper, silk, denim and raffia. Yet these garments are far from eccentric: the fabrics are sculpted into outfits that tend to transcend the boundaries between daytime and evening wear. Here, three of Griffiths' models wear clothes from the new collection and reveal exactly what they look for when preparing to shell out their own hard-earned cash on a garment.
Warren Griffiths, 30 Lambs Conduit Street, London WC1N 3LE (0171-404 3987)
I used to make my clothes, but since I started potting 10 years ago I've had no time for anything but work. Consequently I spend most of my life in legging and T-shirts. I work in these outfits and am ashamed to say that I also pop out to the shops in them, but I've always gone to a good hairdresser and will spend a lot of money on shoes - the last pair cost about pounds 140 from Pied a Terre.
There is an irony in the fact that the more successful you become, the less time you have to look it, yet a successful look is expected of you. I need to find clothes to suit a limited budget that will also feel and look special - wonderful, casual and comfortable clothes.
Dressing-up becomes difficult as you get older, because you want to look attractive yet not overly sexy. Frantically busy professional women need to be able to rely on clothes that they feel and look good in. For me there's the additional desire to have sculptural clothes that move with the body. I don't need fashion for my sense of well-being, but I do admire spirited, fun and comfortable clothes. When I met Warren it was a magical experience, because his constant search for materials was totally unusual, much more akin to an artist's outlook.
It always amazes me that you can see wonderful, glittering things in fashion shows yet the outfit of the average woman in the street looks far from exciting. Drabness saddens me desperately. We all know that you feel different when you put on something you love, yet people seem frightened to express themselves with clothes.
I don't feel pressurised to dress in a certain way because I want my outfits to be right for me. I certainly won't dress to fit in with someone else's ideal. You shouldn't say things that you don't mean and you shouldn't wear things that you don't feel are right for you either. I would suggest that people who've got the time should go to the London fashion week as a means of stimulating the imagination, but whatever you do, don't take what's on show as "the truth".
Efua Baker, singer, songwriter and former model (left)
When I was younger the desire to buy a particular designer garment or beauty treatment could completely consume me, but I'm glad to say I no longer live in that constant state of misery. I still love clothes but I've become more choosy over the years and I now hate shopping. In the last six years, since having a family, I've become increasingly turned on by clothes that are washable and durable and whereas I was once willing to fork out for a pounds 60 face cream containing caviar I now swear by beauty products like Vaseline. Recently I rang a shop to complain about an expensive designer jumper which had disintegrated after three wears and the assistant said "but you're not supposed to wear it that much!" - how ridiculous!
I dress for myself nowadays and it is important to me that I feel good in what I am wearing. At the moment I'm keen on my beige army trousers with big pockets - actually I probably wear them a little too often as they are so easy to match with a sparkle top and a pair of Prada slip- on's for inside/outside wear. I like eclectic outfits, but they usually include something special. I won't wear clothes that give me a slouchy feeling; I believe that if your clothes are stained or saggy then that's how you end up feeling. For this reason I also dress for bed; I stand in my wardrobe and think about nightwear that reflects the mood I am in or want to be in. My friends think I'm nuts, but it makes sense to me.
My wardrobe is humungus, but I have the excuse of sharing it with my husband Jazzie B [of Soul II Soul] and he has a devastating collection of clothes - unlike me, he never buys one-off rubbish items. I've got a lot of shoes, many of which I rarely wear, some never. I also borrow things from my daughter's dressing up box since things that look ridiculous one year can look great the next, a pink shirt with frills for example.
I like the recent trend of using more real people on the runway since there's nothing especially inspiring about supermodels. The fact that the model is a person doesn't come into many designers' minds.
In my experience London Fashion Week doesn't mean much for people's wardrobes. I will be going to a couple of the shows but more for the social side of it. I am definitely more interested in seeing interesting genuine people wearing genuine things than models whose clothes appear to be wearing them.
Jenny Runacre, actress and artist (above)
Most of the clothes in my wardrobe are variations on a similar theme. For example, I've always worn men's suits, mainly because I'm tall with broad shoulders which makes them the most comfortable of garments. I also like wearing mini skirts and have a fabulously elegant Antony Price cocktail dress which I've been wearing for years and years. I have never had that desperate need to know what is being worn for this season. I prefer unusual, comfortable and stylish clothes which I can put together myself. If I can find a garment incorporating all these factors I am likely to buy it and wear it again and again.
Designer gear is so wonderful when it's well cut or hangs nicely that I will save up for something like a Yohji Yamamoto or a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes, but I don't necessarily go looking for expensive clothes. Sometimes I discover a shop like Warren's, fall in love with a particular line and stick with it, yet I am just as likely to go to find something fabulous at Kensington or Camden Market. Part of the art of dressing is the ability to accompany a garment with the right accessories in such a way that no one necessarily knows where the outfit is from.
For an actress I am a little off-beat in the way that I dress. In order to be even considered for a glamorous part in a big budget film one needs to dress accordingly for the audition: designer gear, usually involving `legs' rather than trousers, and everything accounted for down to the last detail. But fringe shows allow you to wear more or less what you wish, which in my case could well be combat trousers, a long sleeved T- shirt and my patent DM boots with the ubiquitous leather jacket.
Few people want to be dowdy and there's nothing wrong with following fashion, but being enslaved to it gives the impression of the wearer not being entirely sure either of their identity or what they want from life. I prefer the simplicity of clothes you can take home without being taken over, clothes with enough room for your own personality. One of my teenage daughters is in a band and when I watch them dressing up it's riveting because of the totally individual way that they style their look.
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