DESIGNS ON LIFE
by Judith Frankland
It's good practice to be wary when someone declares that their careers in designing, painting, singing, writing novels, etc., began at the age of two, or in some cases just after entering the world! However, sometimes these claims are in fact true. I was two or three years old when I was introduced to fashion and design. Do I remember? Alas no, my dear Mama told me. I do however believe a seed was firmly planted for the future.
Mum would take me almost daily into Newcastle city centre where she would leave me at one of the high end clothing shops she had worked in while she went off shopping. Evidently I would quietly watch as assorted ladies tried on a myriad of garments. These hung neatly in glass cabinets and were treated with the utmost respect and care. After this we would go to Fenwick, which at that time, had the fab carpet with the name on it throughout the store and you were served individually with a very personal touch. Up to the terrace coffee shop next where I would turn into my alter-ego Lila, and in answer to the waitress, "No, the little girl would have a coffee, not pop" and wanted to be treated like a grown up.
Back home Mum would draw ladies and ballerinas for me and encouraged me to draw dresses. Soon I was making countless books of designs, even pricing them. We got Vogue monthly and it was not long before I pawed endlessly through it. Mum made my clothes and I remember vividly a fuchsia cape, pinafore dress and beret. When I would get my hands on Dad's newspaper (The Telegraph) I headed hastily to the fashion page and its usual row of illustrations of the latest looks. From this, the one and only designer I have ever truly been a devoted fan of, was the genius Bill Gibb (See Bill Gibb, Fashion and Fantasy by Iain R Webb), who sadly left us way too soon. His amazing, innovative clothing was a wild and wonderful mix of contrasting fabrics, florals, stripes , tartan, anything and everything. It seemed he took his references from history and the world in all its glory. He was quite simply an inspiration and continues to be.
I have just finished taking part in an exhibition of a mix of artists and designers. My presentation of seven outfits is part of a work in progress to be finished very soon and used for promotional purposes in anticipation of presenting a small collection next fashion week in London. It is the first I have undertaken in eight years. The main reason I took part was a way of dipping my toes back into the water, rather than throwing myself in at the deep end, and to that end it was a worthy experience. The look of the collection is strong - I like to say "for the woman who likes to say hello"- and bold, lots of colours and textures, using some marvellous school uniform fabrics I chanced upon. Manny More wonderfully illustrated the clothing in his unique and brilliant style that captures the exact feeling of the garments. (Denise will be talking to Manny in depth about his work soon.)
Fashion is my life, it always has been, even when I took detours running clubs in Italy and moving to different countries rather than towns. I was still making one-off commisions, and for several years had a line of a more commercial nature than the one I am now working on. I have finally found my niche. My life experiences are vast and varied and time will tell how this lust for adventure past and present influences my work as I enter my grown up period. I'm excited and have found immense pleasure in pattern cutting and want to explore the possibilities this can create in my next pieces. I would love to work with a professional pattern cutter in the future, and frankly, I feel they do not get the applause they deserve. We can all play with and drape fabric, but boy it takes talent to bring that to life. I want to stretch my imagination using the limitations a one woman venture has in a positive way, perhaps combining textures and colours to create my own personal cloth. I want to burst out and let my mind run riot and enjoy every minute, I'm ready.
All in all, the exhibition has made me focus and come to the ultimate conclusion that indeed my passion is for fashion, something I never really doubted in the first place, but a nice nudge is a good thing.
David Johnson at Shapersofthe80s.com has given a detailed account of my work in the exhibition.
Illustrations by Manny More
To read the whole Frankly Frankland series see here