Earlier this week Wendy Dagworthy announced her retirement. She will leave her position as Dean of School of Material at the Royal College of Art in the summer at the end of this current academic year. Wendy originally joined the RCA in 1998 as course leader and Professor of Fashion and in 2001 became head of the School of Fashion and Textiles. Yesterday I enjoyed a lovely day with Wendy and her fabulous team at the RCA so it seemed appropriate to post this piece, which I was asked to write in 1985 for the Fashion Aid programme that accompanied the massive charity fashion show at the Royal Albert Hall. Wendy, you will be much missed but I guess I can always play the record (see below)…
WENDY DAGWORTHY – FASHION AID November 5th 1985
If somebody ever asks you to describe Wendy Dagworthy, or explain away her style, tell them to go and see one of her seasonal shows. On such an occasion all would be revealed as the models piled on layer after layer, or divested themselves of (almost) every stitch.
But it’s not just the clothes I’m talking about; it’s the ambience, which is indistinguishable with the designer.
A Dagworthy show is a continual event. A tide of models ebbing and flowing as the music persuades them out into the spotlight. It was in fact Wendy who was one of the first to use this kind of presentation. The looks merge into one another, as the models look each other up and down. Long and well hard.
A full-skirted beauty will happily walk side by side with a loosely belted button-through shirtwaister, but both will take time out to show you their long contrast pants.
Wendy D. has a floral finery time held up with braces, or a pair of the baggiest pants holding nothing back. Wendy D. is a beret bobbing on Ben Shaul’s head. Her models are always the latest, youngest, happiest looking bunch of hooligans she can find. They look as though they enjoy wearing Wendy Dagworthy. They enjoy dancing Wendy Dagworthy. They are Wendy Dagworthy, from the top of their pixie hats to their very souls. Wendy D. has been a breath of fresh air for anyone with a fusty wardrobe. You want brights – we got ‘em. You want prints – let me see what I can do. Baggy? We got it. Fitted? Yeah, that too. The soundtracks to these shows cut across tracks, and run unlikely noises back to back. The clothes too make unlikely bedfellows, but ultimately all are wearable, happy, smiling sort of clothes.
You want to know about Wendy Dagworthy? Blag yourself into one of her shows. You won’t regret it, or forget it. To this day every time I hear one record, ‘Friends’ sung by Amii Stewart, I immediately think of Wendy Dagworthy and a catwalk full of her imagination. I wonder what Wendy thinks of? Her next show, I guess.
*Sketches of Wendy Dagworthy collection shown at London Fashion Week. c 1986, from my notebooks.