Amelia’s Magazine | In conversation with Amanda Wakeley

Free Range has been showcasing the very latest in design, pilule dosage photography, art and interiors for the last 8 weeks, giving fresh student talent a platform to strut their stuff. Sadly, however, all good things must come to an end and so, with a heavy heart, we went along for our last opportunity to get inspired (and tipsy off free wine!)

It was a bit of a free for all in Free Range’s final week. Whereas all the past weeks had been categorized by artistic discipline, this week saw a melting pot of illustration, art, graphics, photography, textiles… you name it, it was there. This was great as the last Free Range fix of the year, but not so easy to sum up in one neat and tidy blog entry.

Our first stop was the Bournemouth Arts Institute BA hons Photography exhibition (it’s catchy title of ‘Chirp’ perhaps drawing us in). Here we wondered at Nathaniel Gaskell‘s silver gelatin prints. The silently scientific black and white images of strangely crusted spheres had us begging the question; ‘Is it a tiny microbe viewed through a microscope? Or a huge planet viewed through a telescope?’ Either way (or neither way) this enigmatic series really captured our imagination.


Our imagination was also highjacked by Chloe Greenhalgh‘s ‘Hotch Potch’ horse collages (what can I say? I’m a sucker for collage!) and Nicola McBride‘s Royle-Family-reminiscent ‘Transfixed’ series (presented on flickering televisions around the room).



On to the next room of delights, then, which was a showcase of the furniture and the product design courses of Nottingham Trent University. Lots of problem solving designs were on display, which I found to be an admirable oasis of sanity in the sea of unpractical arty loveliness. Product design may never be quite as ‘sexy’ as fine art but, in the long run, it’s the creative discipline that will be shaping our future lives more than any other. And with Paul Williams‘ ‘Dunken – The Biscuit Saviour’ invention, it seems we have a bright future ahead of us!


Then it was time for us to dunk ourselves back into the sea of pure aesthetics. University of Plymouth was just the thing to quench our desire, showcasing the work of it’s BA Hons Design: Illustration students in ‘Plymsoul’. Sara Wilkins‘ french fancies and Pepto Bismol pants proved pleasing…


As did Stephen Daoud‘s ‘Discontended Bear’ series. With an intense shading technique, reminiscent of Tom Gauld, Daoud brought to life a melancholy fairytale of a bear searching for something more in his life.


We also had fun with a magnifying glass and Tom Joyce‘s Where’s Wally type ‘Hide n Seek’ images. ‘Could we find six knights in each picture?’ we were challenged…alas within his finely penned visions of a Victorian steam punk era and a futuristic space port, there just wasn’t time to find all the knights, as more art was beckoning…


Staffordshire University’s BA Hons Fine Art show ‘Vivify’ was last on our tour under the roof of the Truman Brewery. Here, Joseph Booker‘s illustrations made us smile (if in a slightly puzzled, disturbed way). Overheard conversation fragments had been spun out into short stories that we could read, each accompanied with a bizarre scrawled snapshot.


Rebecca Edmonds
strange landscape paintings also caught my eye. From afar this series looked like delicate watercolour landscapes, but looking more closely it became evident that Edmonds’ brush had been no where near a traditional paint palette. Painting her hometown of South Wales meant that salt, coal and other debris were more fitting materials.


Time to brave it outside the Truman Brewery and head over to Dray Walk. Bring on the printed textiles!

We’re all really excited here at Amelia’s because Issue 9 featured artist Philippa Lawrence has won the title of ‘Welsh artist of the year’. Lawrence’s bound bonsai beat a hefty 500 entries to snap up the accolade, buy although we’re really not surprised. As you’ll see in issue 9, visit this site Lawrence’s stunning art series (entitled ‘Bound’) involved travelling through Wales, finding a dead tree in every county and binding each one in coloured cotton. Her pure and simple works unite art and nature is a curious way.


So it seems that the RCA printmaking graduate has moved onto smaller things, well..smaller trees, at least. When asked why Lawrence had chosen the bonsai as her new focus she commented that ‘the wrapped bonsai is more poetic because it’s a form which has already been constrained.’ Though the scale is smaller, the work is just as beautiful – something which did not escape the judges’ eye! All of us at Amelia’s would like to say ‘Well done Philippa!’ and advice everyone to keep an eye out for this talented artist in the future.



Ever since I saw Liz Hurley wearing that little black dress, salve I knew there was something special about the garment that now occupies half my wardrobe. So it was fitting (ha!) that I took a stroll along to the Fashion and Textile museum to sit in on a conversation between LBD goddess Amanda Wakeley and the FTM curator Dennis Nothdruft. I take a quick peek at the Little Black Dress exhibition as a sort of appetiser (it was delicious) before I sit myself down in the event room consisting of around 20 chairs. It’s intimate. And as soon as Wakeley swoons in she makes it so personal as to start by asking us the questions. So where are you from? Why is everyone here? Do you work in the fashion industry? It’s turning into an actual conversation. I’m surrounded by a lot of aspiring designers, students and passionate Wakeley followers. With her catwalk shows streamed on the wall behind her, it becomes clear the aesthetic Wakeley designs by is the chic, bold and sensual woman. Not surprisingly, it just so happens she epitomises these qualities herself. A familiar feeling grows up inside me and I think it’s been dubbed jealousy. She’s beautiful, well groomed (obviously) and pretty darn fabulous, with one of those Nigella Lawson type voices that you know for sure seduces anyone who is so lucky to converse with her.


But let us not forget successful. She tells us of her whizzing off to New York in her twenties to be ‘fabulous’ and every now and again a model, and subsequently found herself craving the clean American aesthetic when she returned to our fine shores. Wakeley first started up her label in 1990, occupying a small flat in Chelsea fitting the rich and privileged with their made-to-measure garments, and caused such a stir with Vogue that she had the Princess of Wales knocking on her door, as you do. Three years and a hunger for the ready-to-wear market later, and the Amanda Wakeley Fulham Road store was born.


Now I’m just going to stop you here, although I’m sure you’re just riveted by this, but something really exciting happens. Space silver-clad and fuschia pink dyed, fashion goddess Zandra Rhodes just saunters in on some serious wedges. And by serious I mean huge and really really cool. I can’t believe she is sitting a couple of rows in front of me! This is just like when I was in a room with Colin McDowell and somehow lost the ability to be sane and spent the whole time constructing in my mind different ways in which I could climb into his Louis Vuitton suitcase. Three ways, if you’re asking. But no, I’m being a wannabe journalist now and couldn’t possibly detract my mind from the subject at hand. Get back into the moment Nicola, get back into the moment…


So, Wakeley was emerging as a proper designer, and was keen to establish her brand, she says. An image of the interior of a vintage Aston Martin with Kim Basinger lounging in dark glasses comes to mind, epitomising the Amanda Wakeley woman as grown-up, mysterious and above all, sexy.

Oh no, it looks like Zandra Rhodes is now falling asleep. It’s not like I’m staring at the back of her head or anything, but it’s nodding, and flopping, further and further down. It’s true! Wakeley stops her speech, exclaims that she’s not that boring and Rhodes wakes with a startled jump. Brilliant! She’s actually human! And they fashion never stops. Pah! This woman needs her sleep damn it!

Anyway, from now until the rest of the conversation Rhodes interrupts, contributes, enlightens and is very much awake. The topic swerves onto Wakeley’s core team and how they operate, with Wakeley and Rhodes both discussing the steady decrease of youthful and willing pattern cutters. This lost art, apparently, is something in which colleges are no longer pushing for, with so many inspired young things wanting to make their own mark with their name on the label.

An interesting point crops up over the recession and how it will effect Wakeley’s business and equally her fashion designs. Every collection heralds a little black dress, she assures us, but it’s just whether us mere peasants will be able to afford one that worries her. While we shall sulk in black it seems; others will not. Wakeley reveals how her high-end marketing and sales in Russia and the Middle East will certainly keep her afloat, with ready-to-wear attire costing around £40,000 in Harrods still walking off the shelves. And here was me thinking we were all living off baked beans.

So the future for Amanda Wakeley? Possibly some handbags if she can rustle up quarter of a million quid. And she’s got herself a US PR agent to dress famous ladies in pwetty dresses for award shows. Let’s just hope the Golden Globes don’t get cancelled again this year then. And she’s definitely not jumping on the Eco bandwagon, brandishing the issue as a ‘big con’ for fashionistas, with fake fur being one of the most toxic products to produce. Faux enough I say (sorry).



Categories ,Fashion Garment Textile Catwalk Design Chelsea Amanda Wakeley Louise Vitton Collection Handbag Eco

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