The Fashion Folk S01 ep13 : Bruce Oldfield, Oldfield Fashion, [London]
Interview with Bruce Oldfield
There was always glamour in American fashion . It was always something simple and sleek and it was always poo-pooed by the Europeans, because it was seen, and in fact to some extent it was true, that they made a necessity out their manufacturing capabilities. They made an art of it, because their manufacturing was quite poor.
What is Bruce Oldfield? Bruce Oldfield is simple, elegant, well put together, not
madly interested in fashion, not madly into fashion, not madly in fashion, not
madly out of fashion. At the moment its garments, it is courtier dresses, and
suits, and it is also turning into things you might sit on, a chair or treatments for
things for the home.
I was bought up with a foster mother in County Durrum and she was a
dressmaker so I was always interested in it and she always thought that I was
going to be a fashion designer about the age of 7. There was a report that said
FM - Foster mother believes boy will be a fashion designer which is quite
perceptive of her in 1958 but in fact like every well bought up young lad the
idea, the notion of becoming a fashion designer was frowned on slightly - it is
not what boys do.
I ended up at St Martins in fact but simply because I stood on the door step of
the principal's office - I was very persistent and so she did and I did.
What was good about St Martins was that it gave you a really good um
platform for jumping into the industry because they were the press went to look
for the talent. They assumed that the talent would be there and so I left after
one year, so I left in the second year because I really had had enough and I
had had offers from America, I had an offer from Henry Bendell. Because I
had been written up in women’s wear from my St Martins days. Because while
I was at St. Martins, because I was a bit of a mouth, and if ever there was a
journalist in the building I'd sniff them out.
I was there for three months. Here is a work room, here are five, six
seamstresses, the collection will be shown at the Palm Court at the Plaza on
the 9th of November get on with it. It was like "Ooo say what??" I think that it
was far too early, but one did it and it was a baptism by fire.
From a fashion point of view I really liked American fashion and I came out
doing very, very simple clothes. There was always glamour in American
fashion whether it was that very peared down wholesome stuff or it was... it
was always something simple and sleek and it was always poo pooed by the
Europeans, because it was seen. And in fact to some extent it was true that
they made a necessity out their manufacturing capabilities, they made an art
out of it, because their manufacturing was quite poor.
KM – The fashion business you are here today and gone tomorrow...
This is what I have never liked about it. It is a state of mind, but I think that I'm
here simply because I have side stepped it all the time. You can't be in fashion
25 years. It is impossible. When I look through my editorials, when I look
through my press cutting books - I do have press cutting books lots of them.
You find issues of Vogue where you have 9 pages in a row. Nine pages in a
row and you know that out of the, I think then there used to be 16 issues of
English Vouge a year, and out of the 16 issues you probably had 30 pages in a
KM – Is that how you really know that you are at the top?
Well that's it you see. Now I am really at the bottom now, because I don't get
any pages in Vogue yet I am always in the social pages and I am always in
this that and the other.
KM – Of all the fashion Designers you have heard about, which one did you
have the most sympathy with?
There is an American called Claire McCartel she truly made something positive
out of mass manufacturing and she actually used technique. I mean I am
always impressed by people who use technique well, and she did wonderfully
modern things in the 40's and everything was double top stitched and she
was.... like Gene Muir carried that banner on actually. She was like the Mary
Quant two decades earlier doing it in America. Not making it as young as Mary
Quant made fashion in England. She was one of the very first good ready to
wear designer who weren't just making knock offs of Paris.
KM – How do you create?
I work from technique, I work... I rarely sit down and draw.... My shapes tend
to stay more or less the same......
KM – What are you looking for when you are creating?
I am sick of dresses, honestly.. I got sick of dresses ten years ago.
KM – But you still obviously do dresses. What turns you on today then?
I more interested in, in decore and treatements of furniture.
KM – What are you in the mood for today?
I have had enough of one thing but I am not prepared to leave it completely
because I am rather good at it. But I want to do extend it, I want to extend my
interests into things which, extend my ability shall we say, the mind processes,
the thought processes…
KM – The challenges
KM – How does the design you know and you are completely familiar with the
techniques of fashion, how do they translate to these new things?
Piece of cake.
KM – Really
KM – Explain this to me
Well if I do a... I mean it is usually the detail and the actual techniques that you
are using - say you are doing something with panels there is no reason why to
cover a sofa - I mean once you have got the frame work of a sofa or a cushion
or an ottoman or whatever, there is no reason why you can't treat this and
clothe it in the same way in which you clothe a body. I mean the nicest thing
about it is that it does not talk back - it just sits there and shuts up. It doesn't
say anything - you know you can stick as many pins as you like.
KM – What stopped you from going to Italy or France and basing yourself from
Everyone always asks me that, because I love England. Everyone asks me
why have you got a house in the country, here! It is always raining. Yeah, fine I
don't mind rain.
KM – What is it about England that turns you on that keeps you creative?
Because England is a funny place it is always edgy compared to France.
France is not Edgy, England is edgy.
No, France is not edgy but neither is Italy.
KM Some of the Latino's would say, the English are good at fashion because
they all dress in lingerie and put on high heels in their private time and so they
get a bit of a feel for it.
But how does that explain Vivianne Westwood
KM – Well she is a man!
No she is not a man, we all saw her fanny at Buckingham palace when the
skirt blew up, when she went to get here MBE or OBE or whatever.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Bruce Oldfield, Oldfield Fashion, London