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Suzy Menkes Международный редактор VOGUE
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Thea Porter’s Bohemian Rhapsody

14 апреля 2015

The heady scent of the souk, a passion for pattern, embroidery inspired by a silken sari and gypsy dresses in Liberty prints – Thea Porter’s look in the Seventies was the perpetual reincarnation of her Middle Eastern childhood in Damascus and Beirut.  

The Thea Porter exhibition at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum
The Thea Porter exhibition at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum
Lebanese writer Hanan al-Shaykh modelling Thea Porter at Leighton House, 1981
Lebanese writer Hanan al-Shaykh modelling Thea Porter at Leighton House, 1981
The Thea Porter exhibition at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum
The Thea Porter exhibition at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum

The London-based designer, whose abaya robes and gypsy gowns dressed the famous from the Empress Farah of Iran to Elizabeth Taylor, had slipped out of fashion sight since her death in 2000. But the founder of Bohemian chic has been brought back in all her floaty-chiffon glory in a London exhibition. 

“Whatever else clothes may be about, I believe they must add to the enjoyment of life,” was the designer’s mantra. And /Thea Porter, 70s  Bohemian Chic/ at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum (until May 3) is a joyous and colourful journey from kaftans to couture. 

Individual room-sets, with layers of oriental rugs and furniture as a backdrop to the richly patterned and colourful clothes, play out Thea Porter’s description of following her mother through the Damascus Bazaar. 

“I learnt about the spices and condiments, about ice cream scented with mastic and pistachios… But also about fabrics and trimmings and buttons and lace; about gold bangles and precious stones; about perfumes, scents and essential oils,” she said. 

A model in the window of Thea Porter’s shop. She wears a silk-chiffon dress with the Samawa carpet print by Sandra Munro. Greek Street, Soho, about 1970
A model in the window of Thea Porter’s shop. She wears a silk-chiffon dress with the Samawa carpet print by Sandra Munro. Greek Street, Soho, about 1970
The Thea Porter exhibition at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum
The Thea Porter exhibition at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum
Maudie James modelling a multi-layered silk-chiffon skyscraper-print dress in 1970. Photograph by Patrick Hunt
Maudie James modelling a multi-layered silk-chiffon skyscraper-print dress in 1970. Photograph by Patrick Hunt
Thea Porter exhibition at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum
Thea Porter exhibition at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum

This exotic side of the Seventies is vividly expressed in an exhibition that includes a television news reel of Thea Porter’s Bohemian rhapsody, in her boutique in London’s Soho and among a caravanserai of artists, poets and hangers-on. An accompanying book, by Thea’s daughter, Venetia, and curator, Laura McLaws Helms (V&A Publishing) opens a window on an almost forgotten period of London fashion. 

That was when Thea Porter was selected in 1973 as an envoy of British fashion – one of 10 British designers including Ossie Clark, Bill Gibb, Jean Muir, Mary Quant and Zandra Rhodes. 

I hope today’s fashion students can take a look at the exhibition and the book to understand the real spirit of the Seventies – not the twenty-first-century’s pale photocopy. 

A model wearing a printed silk dress with brocade panels at the press lunch for the New York opening, July 1971
A model wearing a printed silk dress with brocade panels at the press lunch for the New York opening, July 1971
A Collage of materials and spices make a face motif
A Collage of materials and spices make a face motif
Thea Porter reflected in the mirrored dining room table at her flat in Bolton Street, W1, for the Sunday Times, 1971
Thea Porter reflected in the mirrored dining room table at her flat in Bolton Street, W1, for the Sunday Times, 1971
Фото: Kirsten Sinclair; Courtesy of the Venetia Porter collection / Image © V&A Photographic Studio; photograph by Jim Lee. Courtesy of the Venetia Porter collection / Image © V&A Photographic Studio
дизайнер · Сьюзи Менкес · Тенденции весна-лето 2015 ·