Amanda Wakeley’s latest collections show women how to dress down in style
PUBLISHED: 00:00 30 October 2013
She’s famed for designing red carpet gowns, but Chester designer Amanda Wakeley also does ‘dress down’ beautifully
Amanda Wakeley is the go-to name for sophisticated red carpet gowns. She’s best known for dressing the A-list, including those icons of style, Princess Diana and the Duchess of Cambridge. But Amanda insists she doesn’t just do high voltage glamour.
The Cheshire-born designer’s latest collections show women how to dress down and yet still maintain the feeling of fabulousness that comes with wearing the Amanda Wakeley label.
‘I think for us, it’s just getting the message across that we do lots of gorgeous things,’ she says.
‘We love the red carpet and love the chance to get dressed for that- that’s an element of our lives, but we want to dress for the more complete lifestyle.’
The designer herself is proof that you can sling on a silk tee, black trouser and a leather biker jacket ‘all from my A/W collection’ and look the epitome of relaxed elegance. There really is no denying that her collection of pieces in silk, cashmere, leather and fur are currently flying off the rails at Harvey Nichols in Manchester, and they are supremely desirable.
There’s a muted grey chiffon skirt that Amanda will wear at home with a chunky belt and biker boots, then dress up for the evening; fur gilets that can be thrown over a sweater and teamed with a pair of versatile stretchy pants; and beautiful accessories such as furry arm warmers that are created to be worn again and again.
It’s a range designed for weekends at a country retreat, when you want to feel relaxed but also special.
Although worldly and well-travelled, there is still a part of Amanda that belongs to rural Cheshire where she grew up. The family home was in Mickle Trafford outside Chester and her mother now lives in Cholmondeley which was where Amanda was staying when she came to Harvey Nichols for the launch of her collection.
‘It’s very much coming home to me, even a Manchester event,’ she reveals as she sips cappuccino in the Personal Shopping area of the store prior to the event.
‘Just driving in reminded me of being 17. I had just passed my driving test and coming into Manchester to buy skins or fabric or shopping.
‘I had made clothes ever since I was a child. We had dressing up boxes and two very glamorous grandmothers who threw in all their cast-offs and my mother was incredibly tolerant about me chopping things up and putting them back together not only to see what the mechanics were like but I also wanted to see what the end result would be.’
Self- taught Amanda says she’s been using a sewing machine since she was seven-years-old and nobody knows why!
‘That’s the joke in the family,’ she laughs.
‘Where did that come from?’
Living in the USA when she was in her 20s honed her aesthetic and when she returned to the UK she realised there was a gap in the market for the kind of clothing being designed by Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.
‘ I was getting stopped in South Molton street in London and asked where I had got my black suede duster coat from and that was it. I was designing for friends and friends of friends of friends. I started in a tiny way.’
‘I wish I could say I had a massive big business plan but I did what I did because I had a passion for beautiful things, making women feel great, taller, skinnier, sexier. Really my raison d’etre is making people feel confident in what they’re wearing.’
Her company, which she established in 1990, has gone through many ups and downs but she explains that she’s always been an optimist.
‘Very few people go on an upward trajectory in life. Most very successful people I know don’t, and the real successes are the ones who are able to pick themselves up pretty quickly and say “well, I won’t do that again”’.
‘You learn your lessons along the way and I think that’s the lovely thing about getting a little bit older as a woman: you’re actually a lot clearer about a lot of things. But I don’t think I’ll know it all until the day I die. I feel there’s a greater clarity now for me with the collection, with the business, than I probably ever had before - and you know the opportunity last year when we sold out some of the private equity - and now turbo charged the next phase of growth. It’s a really exciting journey.’