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My fashion life - Dawn O’Porter

The TV presenter, author and journalist drew on her love of vintage for her clothing range.

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While you might have seen her famous bob as she presented hit TV shows such as Channel 4’s How to Look Good Naked, Dawn O’Porter also runs her own online vintage retailer and has just launched her first wholesale clothing collection, Bob by Dawn O’Porter.

You’re a vintage fashion fan. What do you love about it?
I love the charm, the quality and the exclusivity of the clothes. I love that I never know what I’m going to find when I go shopping and how I can build my wardrobe around the styles I love rather than what is in fashion. And I love that I rarely walk into a room wearing anything like what anyone else is wearing.

You run your own online store, Bobbydop.com. Why did you set this up?
Because so many people tell me that vintage is impossible, they don’t know where to start, they don’t have the time and they wouldn’t know what to look for. So I thought I’d do the edit for them. [Online is] a much less daunting way to buy vintage as the collections are much smaller than when you go into a shop. So I do the hard work for my customers by finding great pieces, then all they have to do is choose.

You’ve also just launched your first clothing collection, Bob by Dawn O’Porter. Tell us about it.
It’s my absolute pride and joy. Beautiful dresses and skirts inspired by my favourite vintage shapes, lovingly made to a high quality with very close attention to detail. I started with classic shapes from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s - shapes that suit a range of figures and timeless classics that are built to last. [Wholesale prices range from £64 for a skirt to £278 for a wool crêpe maxi dress.]

What is it about the vintage look and classic shapes that appeals to you?
I love what each decade of vintage fashion represented, and where women were at: the revelation of the 1960s mini, the chilled-out vibes of the hippie look and the kick-arse structure of the 1980s. So I’ve incorporated all of that.

What do you think is key to designing in a flattering way?
From a design perspective, I just stayed true to what I want from a dress. Can I eat three courses in this and not have to suck in? And dresses that don’t require body stockings to make your body look gorgeous. For my more structured designs, I back them with 100% silk organza and fuse them to hold their shape. I don’t want the women who wear my dresses to be uncomfortable; I don’t want ‘shapewear’ to even come into it.

You are wholesaling the collection too. Where would you like to see it stocked?
I’d love it to be somewhere that people can try it on. As much as I love online shopping, I think people still love to feel the quality, especially for a new brand. They need reassurance. There are some great UK independent stores, which I love for their diversity and customer service experience, but I’d also love it to be stocked in one of the bigger online stores [like] Net-a-Porter or Matchesfashion.com. That would be really great.

Was your famous bobbed hair the inspiration for the name?
It certainly helped. But I also love the way Vidal Sassoon revolutionised hair in the 1960s. The bob was as pivotal as the clothes and, as I have a small obsession with the decade, it just felt right to call the brand Bob.

As a vintage fan, what’s the most treasured item of vintage clothing you’ve ever found?
A 1965 André Courrèges dress [the French designer, now aged 91, was known for his space-age styles]. It’s bright green, in his classic heavy wool and has a dramatic A-line. It’s couture and such a piece of history. I love it so much that one of my best friends wore it when she married me and my husband. But it cost that year’s holiday budget, so it’s hardly a bargain find.

What vintage trends do you wish would come back into fashion?
Well, I think we’ve seen most trends return. The past influences so much of what we see. But I do think that now women are in a stronger position in society, the ultra-feminine shapes of the 1950s could return so we could enjoy that little waist, exaggerated bust and bum look while kicking arse at work instead of doing the washing up. I love how 1950s tailoring was about the female form - keeping it classy with high necks and modest lengths, but all about the shape of the body.

Other than vintage stores and markets, where are your favourite places to shop?
Online. I spend hours trawling eBay and Etsy for great stuff. But I also love department stores; they kind of fascinate me. I love the idea that I can
go into one place for hours and hours and buy whatever I want, eat, drink, get my nails done, leave with new clothes, candles and dinner. I wander around aimlessly dreaming that everyone leaves, the doors get locked and I throw on some loud music, try everything on, use all the products and sleep in the beds. What fun that would be!

If you could only wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The pure wool crêpe blue maxi Gem dress I designed for my new range. I love everything about it. It’s fitted but long with tons of fabric. I love the colours, the sleeves, the scooped back. I’d sleep in it, walk the dog in it, and host lavish parties in it. It’s my favourite dress in the world.

You’ve written books, presented TV shows and launched your own clothing line. What’s next?
I have four books to write in the next four years, so I’ll be very busy. Although there will always be a bit of TV, my focus really is on Bob for the foreseeable future. And I suppose I’d better squeeze this baby out at some point. It’s going to be a busy few years!

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