Emilia Wickstead pays tribute to her idol, Lee Miller with her double vision prints and veiled shift dresses
“I never save anything for a special occasion” comments the Auckland-born, Milanese bred Emilia Wickstead from her two-storey Sloane street store with its striking Carrera marble and Rose Alicante checkerboard floors (and matching bar) that remind one of a Florentine palazzo. Now filled with Spring’s distorted floral print dresses, Wickstead is serving a new slice of her ‘non-mumsy,’ polished pieces fit for Ascot, a summer wedding or just a ‘nothing special’ Saturday.
The Central Saint Martins graduate that made heads turn when Samantha Cameron introduced herself as the PM’s wife on Downing Street in one of her signature tea dresses, has grown her label into a lifestyle brand. Back when the young twenty-something Wickstead was collecting entry fees at a nightclub on the King’s Road to pay the rent, and designing made to order dresses from her hybrid studio/living quarters, the vision of a flagship (renovated by interior studio Nenmar) is as good as pipe dreams get.
Yet the smart and refreshingly grounded Wickstead, had the pluck to get her venture off the ground with the helping fiscal hand of a £5000 loan from her boyfriend (and now husband). She has found custom amongst diverse women who are attracted to her non fussy, yet wonderfully feminine, approach to dress up that draws on the ‘femme femme’ silhouettes of 1950s Christian Dior. These are dresses that command attention by their flattering cut and prettiness but not in a shouty or clichéd Cinderella way. There’s an alluring sense of mischief sewn into those precise seams and bodice tops.
Whether you are 20 or 40, the designer argues “sexiness can be about a high neck and a fitted sleeve.” Or in the case of actor Minnie Driver who wore a strapless, cape backed blurred floral jacquard to the Oscars Vanity Fair after party, it can be about playing off fit and flare. Or more reveal and conceal when it came to White Lotus star Simona Tabasco in a scarlet plunge decollete scarlet siren dress.
This season’s line up plays with distorted floral patterns overlaid with organza - a spin on the Spring cliché - topstitched linen day dresses and oversized shirting in an ode to the ‘freewheeling sensibility’ of the fearless polymath woman of the arts: Lee Miller. The late American photojournalist, responsible for the happy accident of a process called solarisation, led a dynamic life as a model, war reporter and, most notably, muse to her boss and lover Man Ray. The story goes that she was in the darkroom when someone flipped the lights and the black and white film developed a hazy, inverted-halo effect on the photographs that were dubbed Rayographs. The blur and the soft focus veiling lend an optic twist to Wickstead’s offer.
There’s more to delight. A bridal and bespoke service plus a fully fledged collection of homewares including table linen, ceramics and glassware build out the sunny picture with holiday wear as well. One might choose the pleated mini and bralette Francine set to host a poolside BBQ or slip into the shirt collared Monique dress for the Cartier Polo. For that extra extra, find her deluxe carrier bag made of piped sheer gauze. New Zealanders take utility seriously.