In 1978 while studying fashion at St Martin’s School of Art I designed a collection inspired by aircraft blueprints. The look was meant to be ultra-modernist, monochromatic and bereft of fuss. Silhouettes followed the construction of aircraft fuselage, patterned with a geometric crosscut of linear stitching that traced the detailed specifications featured on the plans. The collection featured oval-shaped shift dresses that hugged the knees (a favoured hemline of mine at that time although not a favourite with the poor girls who had to hobble about in these dresses), teamed with cropped bolero-style jackets and longer line jerkins and waistcoats. There were also a series of seriously structured swimsuits. Pieces were given names taken from the aircraft’s various serial numbers – a jacket was called D.H.110 (from the de Havilland Sea Vixen), a plunge-neckline dress A-7AII (from the Corsair subsonic light attack aircraft) and a suit F7U-3 (the Vought Cutlass carrier-based jet). The original samples were produced in utilitarian cotton gabardine – I liked the idea of a cocktail suit being made from something so functional and un-chichi. For my end-of-year presentation I asked the wonderful Luciana Martinez if she would model one of the dresses for me – a halter-necked version of the F-105B, based on the Republic Thunderchief supersonic fighter-bomber. We decided that she might prefer something a little more glamorous so I stitched up the dress in black metallic lamé. We did the photo shoot in her devilishly exotic red boudoir in the Beaufort Street house in Chelsea that she shared with fellow artist Kevin Whitney. I think Kevin took these photographs for my presentation. I have always loved these colour photo copy images. Luciana kept the dress but wished the silhouette had been a bit tighter so that it showed off her curves a bit more.
By the following year I had started writing about fashion as well as the stylish folk I encountered day-to-day and after dark, so I entered the Vogue Talent Competition. I once again turned to Luciana. I felt that as an artist and modern-day style icon she was the perfect subject for Vogue’s Question 4: Interview someone whose outlook and work you think would interest Vogue readers and write a short profile.
Sadly, Luciana died in 1995.
For the same presentation I also stitched up a jacket (with the help of our sewing teacher Miss Vera Watling). My classmate Anne Callaghan kindly modelled the jacket for these black and white photographs by Peter Ashworth.
Original designs from my sketchbooks.