Designers Dish: Jenny Packham
The British evening wear and bridal designer spills on her fall inspirations, favorite binge TV show and sportswear aspirations.
When Angelina Jolie, Kate Winslet and Taylor Swift are fans of your impeccably detailed, ultra feminine designs, it’s a pretty good sign you’ve made it. But when Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, wears your gown out not one, not two, but three times, that’s a whole new kind of win. The designer who got the duchess to publicly recycle her dress is Jenny Packham.
The U.K.-based blonde first started designing wedding dresses in 1988, and has since expanded to include ready-to-wear, lingerie, accessories and, of course, red-carpet gowns that are loved by celebrities across the globe. Packham visited LA recently to show her fall/winter runway collection, and naturally, Pret-a-Reporter jumped at the chance to sit down with her and talk all things fashion.
Pret-a-Reporter: Tell us about what influenced this collection.
Jenny Packham: It’s inspired by the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, so we got the colors from the paintings there — lovely classical images and Spanish aristocrats. The oil paints are quite indulgent and the fabrics, I think that was what I felt about the whole museum was textures and colors. We wanted to make the collection really textured, so we have organza, chiffon and these sort of crunchy, folded sequins. Then we’ve got velvet bonded onto neoprene, ostrich feathers, different things going on in the collection. It’s all about texture.
What do you think is the biggest fashion event of the year?
Our fashion show! But we love the Golden Globes. The pressure sort of grows for the Oscars. The whole thing has changed since the images are going out all over the world instantly. You do feel that puts these stars under a lot of pressure, and they don’t want to get criticized so I suppose some of them try to be a bit more classic so that won’t happen to them. But at the same time it’s an amazing opportunity to do something different and wow everyone.
Whom do you personally like watching to see what they’ll wear?
Cate Blanchett. I always think she looks absolutely amazing. And Carey Mulligan. To me it’s how they move up the red carpet. The ones who have these massive dresses look great, but then you do have to walk in them, so I think we always try to do quite fluid things that people can actually move in and feel comfortable in. It’s more about them than just the dress.
Obviously it’s not what you make clothes for, but what do you think about Coachella fashion?
This is perfect! (pointing to an ostrich-feather bedecked gown) I would really like to go one day. We come here every year and everybody is talking about Coachella. I go in the U.K., but I can imagine this is quite a bit more glamorous than Glastonbury, because the weather changes everything in the U.K., doesn’t it? The festivals have created a whole fashion in itself, with the Wellingtons and shorts and everything. When you come here that whole California style is obvious, with the slightly hippie boho-y sort of glamorous look.
We know you loved Breaking Bad. Now that it’s over, what’s your new favorite show to binge-watch?
That was a difficult stage coming off those box sets, wasn’t it! We’ve just done True Detective, and now House of Cards. It was great when we came last time — because I had been watching Breaking Bad, we started dressing Anna Gunn, which was really great.
You have a lot of tops with trousers in the collection, and of course we saw some great looks like that in the recent award season. Do you think that look is becoming more popular?
I think with the amount of events you have going on here it just adds another element. It looks good as long as it’s done in a glamorous way — then it’s no different, really. I think in fashion people really want something a bit different at the moment. We’ve done the vintage thing and now it’s really looking for something exciting and fresh, I think.
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What current or past trends do you think will make it to vintage status in years to come?
I think it’s so difficult to say at the time what it is. Guys wearing their trousers falling off and things like that will come back as a particular era, but there are so many different styles now going on. Sportswear is completely different at the moment, and the whole thing with fancy trainers with high-level designers, that’s going to be something that’s very much of this moment. I reckon it takes about 10-15 years to actually look back and see what it was. Certain things come out and others disappear. It’s like the ‘60s, not everyone was walking around in a miniskirt, but that’s what we came out with.
So is sportswear something you have any interest in doing?
I’d love to do some sportswear. I’m absolutely fascinated by the design and look of it. It’s so high tech. When you look at these dresses, the actual techniques of making them, the hand-beading, nothing has changed since machines came in, whereas sportswear is completely different — really modern and fascinating. I’ve got a little bit of neoprene; I’m working towards it.