Monday, 28 October 2013


In yesterday's Sunday Times STYLE magazine there was an article entitled Meet the Theresas.*  "They are over 50, fabulous and living proof that your fashion shelf life doesn’t scale down with age", says Laura Weir, Fashion Features Director at the magazine. Well, Halleluja to that.  Despite that fact that her referenced photos include 2 Hollywood actresses and the divine Inès de la Fressange (guaranteed to make most of us sigh with the knowledge that we are never going to look that good), I see myself and my friends in the women she writes about, and my list of regular clients certainly fit into the category of women who create their own style that suits the life they lead, aren't frightened of fashion, and have the means to make it happen. Laura Weir says that the 50+ age group spend more on clothing, footwear and accessories for themselves than any other age group, worth £2.7bn, or a whopping 41% of the total UK clothing market.  

I made my fashion victim errors in my youth, as did we all, and by the time I started designing my own collections for others, that desperate need to wear the 'latest' fashion was long behind me and I had found the joy of designing clothes that were in harmony with my aesthetic taste and my need to create my own statement about who I am, rather than trying to cram a square peg into a round hole, so to speak. The fact that my designs are about how I dress obviously means that they do not have universal appeal, given my body shape, but it's the only way I know how to design.  In fact, I believe it's this very element that attracts the clients I have, like-minded women who are looking for individuality, comfort, elegance and quality fabrication, and are prepared to invest in pieces that they know they will wear again and again, regardless of what is happening in the 'fashion' world.

The lovely Fronza, from the SS12 collection

I also believe that the 50+ age group can wear clothes that a younger woman can't. It takes the sort of confidence that comes with age and experience to be able to wear such pared down clothes and choose the right accessory to make the look yours and yours alone.  You should wear the clothes, not have the clothes wear you. 

One of the best compliments I ever received was from a French woman in the village. She said how much she'd always loved choosing what she'd wear each day, but after a few months of living in Lagrasse got fed up with the comments "who does she think she is?" However, since I had opened my shop and she'd seen me around the village each day in my designs, it had given her the confidence to get back out into the fashion world and put on her gladrags, even if it was only to go and buy her baguette. Of course, it's not Lagrasse that's the problem here, and it would take too long to go into the pyschology behind that silly comment, but it's proof that the more inspiring examples you see, the easier it makes it for you to assume your rightful place.

It's encouraging to see that high street brands are finally realising that there is a huge market out there that until now has been largely ignored, and with more and more older women demanding their place in front of the camera and media eye, laughter lines and all, it would seem our time is finally come.  In any case, I shall carry on doing what I always have, putting my style out there for anyone who appreciates it, walking the walk, talking the talk and loving it.

* You will only be able to access the full article if you have a Sunday Times subscription.  If you don't but are curious to read it, email me and I'll forward you a copy.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


A good few years ago now, I was getting dressed to go out to dinner, and I had 'nothing to wear'.  So I started playing around with what I had in the wardrobe, and took out a long semi-circular wrapover skirt that I hadn't worn in a while.  The urge took me to pull the skirt up under my arms, twist the waist ties together and pull them around behind my neck.  I looked in the mirror and gaped ... behold a fabulous dress!  That was the dinner outfit and the next day production started,  A skirt that doubles as a dress, and visa versa.   This is that very "skirt":

In Lagrasse by the river, with the old footbridge in the background

There's nothing I like more than a garment that can be worn more than one way (and that will be the subject for another post).  I refined the cut and made the design up in lots of variations and it was a winner from the start. Its bias cut flatters almost every shape, is multi-size, so allows for those holiday waistline variations, and is about as feminine and flattering as you can get.  Yet again, simplicity is the key.  Here are two versions:

Fronza photographed in the full length version, in the Monk's Dormitory at the Lagrasse Abbey

Joëlle wearing it as a dress, then a skirt,  from the SS11 photoshoot

When I asked Kate McLean, my graphic designer, to design a logo for my business, this was literally her first proposition, and it's stayed ever since.

The great thing about this garment is that there are so many ways of wearing it.  Here are some photos of Laure, one of my lovely clients, who has that je-ne-sais-quoi when it comes to wearing clothes.  She dived into the shop a couple of summers ago, grabbed this dress off the hanger, disappeared into the changing room, reappeared a minute later with it tied like this, and hung around long enough for me to take a few shots.  And she walked out of the door wearing it, the ultimate compliment to the designer.

As a wedding dress:

 Some colour variations:

This dress is so popular, so classically beautiful and so much part of me that I'm not ready to push it out of my collection any time soon.

Monday, 14 October 2013


As my regular clients will know, I design and produce two collections each year.  Each collection features new designs, but I also keep a basic 'capsule' collection within the main collection itself, made up of timeless designs that have universal appeal. 

In each capsule collection, there will always be a dress, a skirt and trouser and a couple of tops, a jacket and in the winter range, a coat.  Essential items that create several stand-alone outfits, and that mix easily with the rest of your wardrobe to extend their range even further. 

My Jenna jacket is just one of these and I thought it would be interesting to see it here in various fabrics, on various models, to illustrate just how versatile it is.

Summer 2011, Winter 2011/12 and Summer 2012

Winter 2012/13 and Summer 2013

And below, further variations.   These coats are all variations of the same basic Jenna jacket design.

Winters 2011, 2012 and 2013

Tuesday, 8 October 2013


In my last post I explained how my height ultimately led to my current career.  Last night I came across the article "Things you should never say to a tall woman" in the Huffington Post.  Very apropos.  My son, who was looking over my shoulder, read the list and said "do people really say those things to you?". " You betcha", said I, "and more".  Here are some from their list and from mine:

"I'd date you if you were shorter."
"Good luck finding a husband!"
"It must be hard to find a man who's comfortable with your height."
"You must have played basketball in high school!"
"Do you play volleyball?""How TALL are you?!?!"
"Oh my God, you are HUGE!"
"Have you always been this tall?
"You shouldn't wear heels."
"Being petite is so much harder than being tall."
'You're an Amazon."
"How's the weather up there?"
"Could you grab that for me?"
"You could be a model... you know, height-wise..."
"You have long feet."
"When are you going to stop growing?"

"You must have trouble finding nice clothes." (not any more)

Gwendoline Christie (of Game of Thrones fame, 6' 3") says she always felt at times pretty genderless because of her size.  I confirm.  I have lost count of the number of times that I've been called Monsieur.  Try coming back from that.  

The other day, the husband of a client actually stood in the middle of my shop and told me and the other clients that  I reminded him of one of the characters in Avatar.  He called in his brother to come and "look" at me, and asked if he could take a photo.  And at a recent dance workshop, a woman warned me about hitting my head on the hanging lamp (that cleared my head by over half a metre) then proceeded to double up laughing at her marvelous wit.

And then there's the Giraffe factor.  Arianne Cohen, author of The Tall Book and 6'3", relates how a woman said: "Oh, you look just like a giraffe!"  Then the woman said, "Don't worry honey, it's a compliment."   Most of the time you don't even get the qualifying remark, just the giraffe bit. A giraffe.  Really?  

On the left, a giraffe, on the right me (in case you weren't sure)

Of course, I am aware that we all have our crosses to bear.  Women in particular, are assessed, by men and more worryingly, by other women, by their appearance.  Fat, thin, pretty, (not sure about those last two) ugly, short, tall, big boobs, no boobs.   And of course, I don't know what public comments these other cardinal sins provoke (well I do about the no boobs).  I just get tired of going out into the world, having put on my best face, dressed myself up (see last week's quote "People will stare, make it worth their while") to be reminded by some passer by, lest I forget, that I am "tall".

Maybe it's a cultural thing. When I was in India, where I am most definitely tall, the only comments were accompanied by such obvious admiration that it was a lovely experience.  "Ah Madam, you have great height". When I'm in South Africa it's "You are so lovely and tall".  In London or Paris no-one even notices.  But here in the Midi it's a constant source of comment and apparent amusement (apparently irrespective of their nationality).  I won't risk irritating anyone here with my speculations as to why that might be, but all I would say is that they obviously need to get out more!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013


That's what I learnt very early on.  As a 6'2" woman you never disappear into the crowd, and I realised when I was quite young that once you're over a certain height, you're just 'tall', whether you're 6'2" or 6'5". So on went the high heels and the 'bring it on' attitude.  And thus the designer was born.  Whilst at 6th form college (16-18 years old) I had a Saturday job in a local fabric shop and I returned home each Saturday evening with armfuls of fabric, which I would transform into my latest idea on my sewing machine in my bedroom, listening to Greg Edwards on Capital Radio, rushing downstairs to eat my dinner (thanks Mum!) in between seams, then dashing out around 10 to meet my night club partner-in crime, Catherine, and we would dance our socks off and parade around till 3 or so in the morning.  The outfit went in the bin the next day and the following Saturday it all started again.

Younger days

And now, I really just do a more sophisticated version of this routine.  Unfortunately I don't have Mum to get my dinner ready any more, and sadly no longer go out dancing till 3am, but I practice new ideas out on myself that I wear to gauge customer feedback, and then put those ideas into future collections.  My collections are always based on my personal style, and unashamedly influenced by my height and the premise above: Give people something to look at, cos honey, at 6'2", they are gonna look!

From my first ever brochure, in 2009