Meet the Designer: Diane Logan

1970s, Diane Logan, Golden Hands, hats, Roger Charity

Ten years ago hats stopped being obligatory outdoor wear even for country’ matrons. A whole generation has ignored them since then, but the signs are that times are changing. A minute spent watching the crowds in any major city and one can see that hats are definitely back. Last year there were big mushroom berets. Before that there were costermonger caps and huge stetsons. All three styles were initiated by Diane Logan.

Diane Logan’s original ambition was to become a textile designer. Part of her training for this, at Camberwell Art College in London, included a week at the London College of Fashion where George Malyard, who makes hats for London’s theatreland, was visiting tutor. Diane took some of her printed felts along with her and spent the week making them up into dotty hats. She finished six fast work when the usual student output was one hat a term.

When Diane left art college and discovered that she hated the solitude of being a freelance textile designer, this experience in hat making gave her something to fall back on.

Small beginnings

She began by making big peaked costermonger caps. The first batch shown to the boutiques in London’s King’s Road produced orders for dozens more. She and her husband turned their flat into a work room and Diane did the cutting and stitching at a big table which let down over their bed. For two and a half years they lived in this way and Diane meanwhile built up an enthusiastic clientele. Buyers from New York stores wanted her creations and in the autumn of 1970 she was able to branch out into new premises with a shop and her own work room.

The shop, just behind London’s Baker Street, is also her showroom. Enormous candy pink hat boxes are stacked waist-high along one wall. Hanging on the walls and in the window are her hats, all shapes and colours and sizes. At first sight, it looks as if everything in Diane Logan’s shop has been individually confected. In fact the reverse is true. Diane works with only a few at shapes at a time, but makes them up in an enormous variety of different fabrics.

Fabrics and trims

She is interested first and foremost in shape, often buying up old hats in jumble sales and taking them to pieces. Using rolls and rolls of old millinery materials, some of them made before the war, she puts together her hats, often accentuating the separate sections by mixing different fabrics. A beautiful example is a desert hat with the crown in six sections and a wide brim: one variation incorporated a flocked spot, dapple and leopard smudges on variously coloured grosgrain, with a stitched and colour sprayed brim.

Last year’s floppy beret which she made in poodle pile fabric and big blanket checks is still being reworked. The shape is basically the same, but the construction is altered so that the hat sits a little flatter on the head with a pom pom on the top. Diane Logan has altered the concept of the bowler hat too, by cutting the crown concentrically, enlarging the brim and making it in soft fabrics and gay colours, multi-coloured gingham, plain unbleached canvas which gives it a classic air, and ice cream sundae shades of pink, blue and yellow with an emerald brim. This shape is in her next collection too, the brim slightly enlarged and this time made in soft pigskin, velvet and fine velour.

Diane’s passion for unusual fabrics extends to trimmings. The search for new ones is constant and she quite casually mixes old and new as she does with her fabrics. On top of a stack of blocked straw shapes, waiting to go to the little old lady who does the flower trims is a sample hat, trimmed by Diane herself with exquisite faded silk anemones, at least 40 years old, and with tiny rose buds just arrived from Hong Kong. This was the pattern the outworker was to follow for trimming this style, but Diane was quite prepared to accept that, by the time the hats were finished, the lady’s own modifications would have crept in and no two hats would be alike. In this way, Diane Logan’s customers can buy hats with a distinctive look, but each with their own touch of individuality.

As an arbiter rather than a follower of fashion, Diane’s designs are widely copied: the cheeky costermonger cap was taken up by almost every wholesale manufacturer. With great delight she recounts the story of a fabric salesman who tried to sell her the very poodle cloth she used and introduced for hats, two years ago. As he was shown the door he was still protesting ‘But it’s going to be all the rage…’.

Interview by Caroline Shaw.

Photographed by Roger Charity and Chris Lewis.

Scanned from Golden Hands Monthly, November 1972.

Embroidery for a dream

1970s, Angela Salmon, embroidery, G Murrell, Golden Hands, Inspirational Images, St Martins

Romantic in concept and evocative of another age, the embroidered clothes illustrated on these pages were designed and made by Angela Salmon, while a design student at London’s St Martin’s School of Art, for her final diploma exhibition. Although painstaking embroideryis not commercially viable in the ready-made clothing industry, it is comforting to know that students of design continue to produce exquisite work such as this, adapting traditional techniques to modern design concepts. The lilac silk and black velvet dress, worn with pantaloons, has flowers and leaves of machine embroidered organza applied to the bodice with realistic-looking plastic blackberries to complete the motif. The caped coat-dress, made of olive-coloured chiffon, is worn over a strawberry printed chiffon dress. Strawberry flowers, leaves and fruit motifs, made of matt satin and machine embroidered organza, are applied with some of the edges lying free of the background fabric. The blue and white ensemble consists of a blue organza apron worn over a full-sleeved chiffon dress. The designer has chosen field flowers for her inspiration—poppies, buttercups, speedwell and wheat heads—embroidered and applied to the background fabric. Surface embroidery has been added to enrich the design.

Photographed by G Murrell.

Scanned from Golden Hands Magazine, Part 58 Vol 4. (1972)

Meet the designer: Thea Porter

1970s, Golden Hands, Inspirational Images, John Carter, thea porter

Thea Porter describes the women she designs for as “thirtyish, tall and slim,” but she laughingly adds that “I design clothes that I know will suit me too, so they do just as well for short, fat people.” Whatever their shape, Thea Porter’s customers live a high-society, jet-set life. Their clothes must be dramatic, brilliant and packable, and Thea Porter designs are exactly what they need; the clothes are among the most coveted in the world. How did Thea break into the rarefied atmosphere of high-fashion design?

In 1965, Thea and a couple of friends launched an interior decorating service. “we started the fashion for enormous cushions, and we were just beginning to make a name for ourselves,”‘ Thea reminisced, “when I happened to bring back an antique caftan from overseas. I wanted to use the material in a decorat-ing scheme. Suddenly caftans came in to vogue but the only ones you could get from abroad were either minute or voluminous. So, with the help of a dressmaker, I started making caftans from lovely old fabrics. Then a photo-graph of Fenella Fielding wearing one of my caftans appeared in the Daily Express. More people began wanting them and eventually I decided to bring out a collection which I showed in a Kensington restaurant. I was still mainly a decorator but from then on things started snowballing. I had designed some jackets with masses and masses of braid which the Beatles bought, for instance. At the end of 1967, I took the plunge and started the shop in Greek Street.”

Without any formal training, Thea Porter became a dress designer. She knows nothing of cutting and sewing, and recalls her only attempt at dress-making as a child when she succeeded in cutting through her own skirt! An assistant takes all her designs to the pattern and cutting stage. The import-ant thing, to Thea, is the designing. She describes her philosophy quite simply. Using her hands to emphasise, she explains “you know how a line of poetry sounds right, as if it has been waiting for someone to write it down. That’s how it must be with a dress. It must be a complete entity and nothing must jar —unless clashing colours are an intrinsic part of the design. The shape, colour and fabric should be in perfect harmony. I put together every detail of the dress myself — down to the last button.”

Thea finds that she designs best away from her Soho shop, and works in spurts according to her mood, but she finds it difficult to describe the sources of her inspiration. “My two absolute standards are that I must like the dress myself, and every season I try to bring out five good shape’s. The collections are different every time. It can take me three weeks to do a collection — or three months. Some-times I get my inspiration from a fabric. Sometimes I do a sketch and then choose a fabric. I often buy fabrics without having the least idea of what I shall do with them.”

“I don’t use a method that you could describe”, she continues thoughtfully. “There are so many influences. For example I got the idea for a nautical theme when I was leafing through a book on Victorian painters. To be a designer I think you need a broad culture — certainly my knowledge of the East has shaped my creative thinking. A conventional art course would have been a waste of time for me.”

Thea Porter specialises in glamorous evening clothes and if there is a theme running through her creations, it is that the materials are almost invariably soft, flimsy and graceful and chosen to reveal the contours of the body. She buys them from all over the world: from India, Italy, Switzerland, France and England. She designs some fabrics herself. “I do a sketch, give it to a textile designer to translate, we work out the colours and we have it made up.” Expensive? “Very,” she agrees.

The tiny Thea Porter shop in Greek Street, London, is full of the exotic feeling she translates so expertly into her clothes. Amid the display of dia-phanous dresses, rolls of richly coloured fabrics are heaped on shelves and piled several deep against the wall in glorious disarray. From a battered cardboard box, a profusion of braids and ribbons tumble like wild flowers. A litter of photos, sketches and other paraphernalia are pinned around her desk. The casual atmosphere is typical of Thea Porter’s spontaneous approach to designing. There is, however, nothing at all naive about her ideas and plans for the future.

Until recently, Thea, was thinking on two planes, Britain and America. “The main difference between the two markets is that American women have such perfect figures and they like waisted clothes with plunging necklines.” Now she is working in yet another dimension — ready-to-wear. Not content with this, she is already planning new outlets. “I would like to do wedding clothes, children’s wear and lingerie. But there would always have to be lots of evening dresses. A woman feels different in the evening, more relaxed and prettier.”

Interview by Rosemary Simon.

Photographs by John Carter.

Scanned from Golden Hands Monthly, September 1972