Today’s fashion trends are tomorrow’s fish and chip paper.
– Bruce Oldfield at the V&A while chatting to Bryony Toogood, Fashion Director at Brides Magazine.
There is a certain image that comes to my head when someone says couture designer. So let’s sit down on a nice sofa, I’ll grab a notepad, a pipe, dim the lights and put my pretend-Freud name badge on. You don’t have to call me doctor but if you do, you will definitely contribute to the theme.
And now, let’s compose a chain of words that come to mind when someone says couture or couture designer:
Expensive, beautiful, serious, detailed, unattainable, wedding, dress, lace, embroidery, luxurious, not affordable, not for everyone, desirable, dreamy, wealthy, rich, aloof.
Close enough. What you probably didn’t consider to include in the word salad was funny, approachable, humorous, down-to-earth and could-he-please-be-my-best-friend.
But this is exactly how I would describe Bruce Oldfield, one of the most famous British couture designers of all time. I don’t throw around titles lightly but Bruce Oldfield is a name that is synonymous with fashion legend. He has designed iconic dresses for iconic people, including Queen Rania of Jordan as well as Princess Diana of Wales. His designs are not only regarded as incredibly desirable but they are perceived as parts of history because of the calibre of Bruce’s clientele. Even Kim Kardashian was snapped in one of his pieces looking nothing like her usual self. At heart, I almost want to keep Bruce’s work exclusively to royalty, but at the same time there isn’t a designer out there who doesn’t understand celebrity appeal and Bruce is no exception.
But making the right business decisions doesn’t mean he has to follow celebrity culture. I don’t follow fashion, he tells us, the audience. This is because couture lives in world of its own. There are no couture trends. There is no theme that editors can sniff out and call it the next new thing. Couture is personal. It is what you want it to be as long as you can pay for it. Does that mean that the couture client is always right?
They come to me with ideas, I come to them with opinions. Then they come to me with more ideas and I come back to them with experience. It is evident that Bruce Oldfield would never consider compromising quality. I am considered by many to be, and I hate this phrase, a safe pair of hands. Hearing the intonation with which Bruce says this makes me understand why he dislikes this title. There is a hint of rebellion about him, a good dose of hearty sarcasm but there is also a softness. A safe pair of hands is just too boring a phrase to describe his work and that’s why he hates it, at least according to my pretend-Freudian-badge-moment.
Meeting Bruce Oldfield made me feel joyous and hopeful: Joyous because I saw another person who loves hopping from subject to subject as much as I do. Hopeful because all of the sudden couture stopped looking as distant and unattainable. A fashion legend gave me a hug, could I get any closer to couture than that?