For those of you older than 30, you may remember that the original Whistles was founded by Lucille and Richard Lewin and for most of the 80s and 90s it was the go-to place for great clothes. Lucille designed her own range for the brand as well as buying in designers such as Dries Van Noten (she introduced him to the UK) and it was generally considered that she had a brilliant fashion ‘eye’ for new designers and nurtured many a young star.
But rather than resting on her laurels after selling Whistles (it is now being run admirably by Jane Shepherdson) and leaving fashion retail, she went back to college (City Lit in Holbern) to study ceramics, and had her graduation show this week. Anyone who is thinking of retraining, mid life, after career No 1 might take inspiration from what Lucille’s done here.
Lucille’s always had amazing style; everything she did, what she wore, her studios space, the store interiors, even the bits and pieces she’d put on her shelves just made you think ‘I wish I could do that’. It appears this annoying trait for brilliance extends to ceramics too, as her work is good.
I caught up with her at the show just before she was swamped by family and friends to ask her about the works, which she describes as ’emotionally autobiographical’ and ‘tiny worlds, built with a new history, a new narrative and frozen in time”. They are very intricate and delicate, like coral washed in from the sea.
“It takes a long time to make each piece,” she told me “I make it, then break it up, reconstruct it and rebuild it until I’m happy. I glaze the pieces many times too, so the colours and textures become interesting.”
There’s a really strong sense of beaches and and a life spent close to the coast -she has a house on Plettenberg Bay in her homeland of South Africa -that comes through in in the work and the colours – shades of cream, white, tan and charcoal -are enough to inspire a fashion range all on their own.
I loved the pieces protected by glass vitrines, and ever the visual retailer, her presentation on the night was inspiring, with a magnifying glass provided to help you appreciate the detail and very covetable zinc shelving to hold the works. So should we now get used to calling Lucille ‘artist’? “Yes, this is what I’m doing now, I love it!” she said.
If you can nip along to City Lit today, go take a look at Lucille’s work, the show is on until Saturday at 1.00pm. if you are quick you might even be able to buy a piece before they all get snapped up. I bet you it’ll be a good investment. For details on the show opening check here.
For those of you who I know, will want to know, Lucille looked amazing in a Dries Van Noten skirt , ‘It’s a really old one, a gift from Dries,’ she told me “in fact it’s a toile, you can see the pencil marks on it still around the embroidery” and Marni shoes. Not surprisingly I suppose, she had very stylish friends, some of whom were kind enough to pose for shots…
Above is Rebecca Willer, who looked drop dead gorgeous in her Issey Miyake and bold accessories and below is Hedda, whose Prada necklace I really, really wanted. I’m not going to tell you how old Hedda is because that would be rude, but I just hope I can carry off a Ralph Lauren top and Etro trousers like she can when I’m her age.
The light was tricky in the studio and the place was swamped with well wishers so I’m sorry for the poor quality shots, but even in poor light, Anna Valentine looks amazingly cool in her linen top and side stripe pants, she’s a designer herself, so I guess that helps.
Finally, my favourite dress of the evening was on knitwear designer Julia Pines, ‘Its old Betty Jackson’ she told me. The print was gorgeous and the shape looked so cool to wear.