It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a Dawn O’Porter fan girl. When you meet someone who not only loves and knows vintage, Game of Thrones and Sunday morning pancakes you know you’ve found a ruddy good egg. Having loved her documentaries and writing since the word go, read Paper Aeroplanes in a record few hours on holiday (so much so that I couldn’t put it down that it came in the pool with me) and admired her style (and so-glossy-how-can-I-get-that bob) from afar for longer than I can remember; you can only imagine my excitement when an email dropped into my inbox announcing her new collection, BOB by DOP, and the chance to catch up with the lady herself and talk the new collection, not having a stylist (yup, girl can dress herself- bloody well) and only the best flea markets…
How did the process all begin, was it always something you had mapped out?
I’ve been buying vintage for about five years, with no business- picking pieces and perhaps thinking ‘oh this doesn’t work on me’ but just kind of hoarding them. I’ve always wanted to design dresses, I just didn’t know enough about it, so I really swotted up and educated myself about how dresses used to be made and why they used to be more charming than they are now. After filming the series (This Old Thing) I thought ‘Ok. Now I know what works on other women now’, and in the whole thing I learnt so much about how a dress should be made, so as soon as I’d finished the process of filming and the show was up, I was like ‘I know now that this is the right time and I feel educated enough to start this’.
It’s nice that is has that background behind it, and it’s not just you saying ‘I want to make some clothes!’…
It definitely wasn’t. I could have done this five years ago, but I didn’t know enough and they wouldn’t have been the quality that they are, or the standard; so it’s absolutely the right time, and it’s all come from me as well, so what’s been really good is that I’ve been able to totally steer the ship.
It’s so important though, and definitely gives the collection a real sense of authenticity- with everything from the fabric content to the way it’s made too. Which is your favourite piece in the collection?
Every time I pick one up I say ‘this is my favourite!’ but at the moment I love The Lou that’s the dress you’ll be wearing for 25 years and it’s never going to go out of fashion, the fact that it’s kind of prommy, but not too prommy makes it the perfect cut dress. It’s the one that I can’t wait to get in to! But then again I love them all, and would definitely wear all of them- that’s the worrying thing; you make dresses that you want to wear, but then wonder whether other people will want to wear them too! I’d like to think that there is something for everyone.
What eras did you take inspiration from, there’s obviously some nods to the sixties…
It’s sixties, seventies and a bit of eighties. The block dress is a bit more eighties; but those are the eras that I think are the most wearable and that I love the most. I want my first collection to be pieces that I’m known for wearing, and that people understand the way I’d done it- but in the future I’d love to bring in some twenties, and fourties- which I love too.
It’s nice that you’ve added in the eighties, as usually that’s the era people dismiss in terms of style!
I love the eighties! I think there’s a way of doing it that can make it very wearable. Also, my thing with the eighties is that I feel incredibly nostalgic about it. It’s what my mum and aunties looked like, it’s what I thought I would look like when I was a grown up lady- so actually I don’t think it’s that hideous, and I love eighties day dresses!
Do you have any style icons, or anyone you look to for inspiration?
More than people, I do look at images from fashion shoots from the sixties and seventies. I love Peggy Moffitt- I could just stare at her all day. I love looking at all of the old fashioned videos, so it’s more that kind of thing for me than actual icons. In terms of modern icons, I think Tilda Swinton always smashes it, fashion is art to her. I think even if you make mistakes, there’s a duty to be the forefront of inspiration in fashion when you’re standing on the red carpet. Take some risks and express yourself. I feel it can all be a bit obvious sometimes.
So, when did you first fall in love with vintage- has it always been in your blood?
I think it has! My aunty and uncle raised me, and my aunty used to dress windows on Oxford Street in the sixties and my uncle had a furrier business and did bespoke furs for all sorts of people. All through my teenage years they would talk about how the sixties were in swinging London because they were there- and that must be where it comes from. Clothes weren’t talked about as disposable or throw away, it was instilled in me that quality and charm was what fashion was meant to be; so I think it was always there. When I moved to London and started to make my own money in my mid twenties, I started really venturing in to vintage and stopped trying to follow the herd, and stop bothering with trying to keep up with fashion, as it just wasn’t ‘me’. I must have been about twenty-five when I went in to a vintage shop in Parsons Green, and there were all these bazaar fifties and sixties dresses and I put them on and I was like ‘this is it!’- One of the dresses I wore out that night, and I still wear it now- that would have been ten years ago. It was a seventies wrap around sundress!
Is that your favourite ever vintage piece?
No- but definitely one of my most important. My favorite would be, my biggest investment ever, which was a mid-sixties Courrèges haute couture holiday budget dress.
What I’d give to go in to your wardrobe!
Oh there’s some good stuff! Although I have got rid of a lot of it to put on BOB, I had to clear some space, and be a bit brutal- I don’t give away or sell anything that’s remotely valuable or important!
So, let us in to a secret- which are your favourite places to hunt down vintage?
Favourite places would be the Rose Bowl in California; which is a massive flea market with the most unthinkable buys, they have the most amazing vintage designer dealers there and you can pick up £10 dresses too. I go every month and it’s my favorite place on earth. I also live a 5-minute walk from another flea market that’s on every Sunday. It’s nice to get a relationship with all of the dealers, so they hold stuff aside for me and wait. I also bid for a lot of the designer stuff on eBay. Because we travel so much, wherever I am, I love going to all of the markets; there was a great vintage fair in Bristol last Saturday, I bought an amazing sundress for £8 and I’m still not over how good that feels! I might make my investments with a big piece of Courrèges, but it’s such a thrill finding a piece like that.
Do you find the vintage is different from the U.S as it is in the UK?
There’s more of it; I do think the UK is really, really good for vintage shopping, I think some of the boutique shops are so good, they are really well selected and I think it’s really impressive here, but the vastness of what you find in the US is quite something- I feel like in LA I don’t ever have enough arm space.
Do you have any hidden gems in London?
The shop in Parsons Green was the first one I loved, it’s a real jimble jumble. If I do red carpet I’ll go to William Vintage- he’s just an amazing buyer. There’s also a really good one on Endell Street, and I love Bang Bang. The thing is, with so many vintage shops- it doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad, if you find one good dress than you’ve done well, and you never know what’s going to be in each of them.
And finally, what does a normal Sunday look in the O’Porter household?
Probably getting up about 9- Chris makes pancakes on a Sunday, and then we’ll have a dog walk and I’ll make a roast about 3 or 4 o’clock, followed by movies or Game of Thrones. I always put something really fun on on a Sunday, like a big seventies stupid floaty gown, Chris said the best thing ever the other day, he said: ‘when we’re not together I just think of you walking into the back garden in a big floaty seventies chiffon number with a Margarita’ I was like, ‘the fact you’ve picked up on that, and that you think of me that way is exactly how I want people to think of me!’ I don’t know how often it happens, but it must have happened a few times!
You can shop BOB by DOP here