Designer Jenny Packham has to be one of the UK’s most successful exports in the fashion industry. Internationally renowned for her fantastic collections of breathtaking dresses, Jenny’s designs have graced many red-carpet events, with a star fan base that includes Keira Knightly, Sarah Jessica Parker, Halle Berry, Beyonce and Helena Christensen.
Glamorous evening wear is purely Jenny Packham domain, the designer has been dubbed evening wear supremo by Drapers, the fashion weekly trade magazine, and Vogue.com declared that Nobody makes dresses like Jenny Packham.
Jenny launched her own ready-to-wear collection in 1988 after graduating from St. Martins College of Art. Known today as Central St. Martins, the famous college in our capital city has spurned much of London’s successful design talent including the likes of Stella McCartney, Clements Ribeiro, Hussein Chalayan and Matthew Williamson. But it was not until the year 2002 as an established international luxury design house that Jenny chose to show her collection at London Fashion Week, presenting the international press with her collection for spring/summer 2003. Since 2006, when Jenny was first invited to show her collection in Milan, the designer has gone on to wow fashionistas with catwalk shows from Moscow to Los Angeles and more recently Dubai.
Jenny Packham’s collections provide a riot of colour. Her designs are luxurious with fantastic embellishment that is second to none. In 2006 she won the Hollywood Style Fashion designer of the Year award, presented to her by Anastasia during Los Angeles fashion week. Her autumn/winter 2007 collection embraces far-eastern influences with kimono styling and intricate peacock feather detail worked into her designs. From shimmering burnished gold to demure black, leopard print to the hottest of fuchsia pinks, Jenny Packham delivers an eclectic range of styles with various degrees of embellishment to suit her diverse range of devotees. From rock chick to red-carpet allure, a Jenny Packham dress is sure to hit the mark wherever you choose to party.
In addition to her glamorous catwalk collections Jenny designs an immensely successful bridal collection which is sold on an international scale. She has won the prestigious Conde Nast British Bridal Award on eight occasions and this year won the Bridal dress designer of the Year 2007 at The Wrapit Wedding Industry Awards. This year also saw Jenny opening her first By Appointment Only bridal boutique in London’s Belgravia. The luxurious bridal collections are inspired by her much-coveted ready-to-wear label, created from the most sensual fabrics and embellished in pure Jenny Packham style. A wedding dress designed for your special day by Jenny could easily be an evening gown to last you for life.
While in the depths of preparation for her spring/summer 2008 catwalk shows, Jenny took the time out to talk to LUSSO about the inspiration behind her current autumn/winter collection and give us some insight into the woman behind the international Jenny Packham brand.
I love the eastern glamour of your autumn/winter 07 collection. I read that it was inspired by the movies House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon; can you expand on this?
I was inspired by Zhang Yimou and Ang Lees unbearably beautiful use of shades and surfaces and tonal and textural eclecticism. The AW 07/8 is a celebration of fabric craftsmanship and the reinvention of traditional methods.
Patricia Field styled your autumn/winter 07 catwalk show – how did that come about?
Patricia and I first worked together in Sex and the City and we connected over our mutual passion for unadulterated glamour. I admire her enthusiasm for creating revolutionary style. It was fantastic to have her styling her first ever show on our catwalk as she fused an urban influence with dresses inspired by oriental exoticism.
You’re currently preparing to show your new collection – what do we have to look forward to next season?
For spring/summer 2008 I was inspired by the grandeur, modernity and innovative designs of King Tutankhamuns treasures uncovered in the Valley of the Kings. The craftsmanship was exquisite with classic composition and groundbreaking detail. The youthful indulgence of yesterdays Pharaohs with their exuberant decadence as well as ancient icons of glamour like Cleopatra. Bay Garnett, who I initially met through Vogue Magazine, will be styling the show and bringing a new edge to the collection.
The detail that goes into your dresses is amazing – how long does it actually take you to produce one?
Depending on the design and detail of the dress, anything from 8 weeks to 4 months.
You were invited to show in Milan for the first time in 2006; how does this experience compare to London?
Milan fashion week is renowned for its glamorous evening wear so it has become a fitting arena to show our collection. It is also perceived as more international with regards to press and buyers. London was a fantastic way to introduce our collection in 2002 and the energy in the design at London Fashion Week is always a pleasure to witness.
Do you show your collections in more than one country every season?
Milan is where my collection premieres each season. In addition to this, for many seasons we have been showing in Moscow and last season in Dubai for the first time. The opportunity to experience showing in these cities has given me wonderful insight into these markets.
Where is your favourite place to show?
Milan represents my collection and designs perfectly. It represents luxury, glamour and craftsmanship. One of my favourite fashion cities to spend time in is Paris.
You have a fantastic celebrity following and are recognised for your designs internationally – was this an aim when you started out?
I have always been driven by the desire to create gorgeous evening wear that makes every woman feel beautiful. The fact that celebrities love the dresses is a wonderful compliment to this and of course a perfect way to present the dresses
What are your memories of the early years?
Arrogance, ignorance and enormous determination to learn fast.
You’re also recognised internationally for your bridal design; how and when did you break into this market?
I have been designing my bride collection for almost as long as ready-to-wear. The collection is extremely glamorous, contemporary and has a strong fashion direction as it is inspired by my ready-to-wear collection in Milan. This year I created Elizabeth Hurley’s dress for her Indian Wedding celebration.
How did you find designing Elizabeth Hurley’s wedding dress; did she have a lot of input or were you given free reign?
Elizabeth has worn my designs for years so we already have a great appreciation for one another. I presented her with a sketch of the dress I envisaged her in and she loved it immediately.
You have your first bridal boutique in Belgravia; do you have any plans to expand on this?
The Bridal boutique is an absolute pleasure to have and the response to it has been phenomenal. With increasing demand from brides to be, I am opening another boutique on Elizabeth street later this year called The Boudoir. It will offer a decadent and glamorous range of bridal accessories and gifts to complement the collection.
Can you tell me a little bit about the woman behind the brand; what do you do when you’re not designing?
I am dedicated to both my work and home life as I have 2 young daughters. I am privileged to be able to fuse these two worlds and the girls come to exhibitions and galleries with me and I am called upon to help at the school. It makes my life more dimensional and not so departmentalised as many other women have to endure with working. I love to travel and this year we covered Egypt from temple to tomb.
What would be your career in a parallel life?
In a parallel life I would love to be a burlesque dancer.