By Alison Jane Reid
There is a new mood sweeping through the world of luxury and heritage that would delight the wasp wit of the Dowager Countess of Grantham. As everyday life speeds up, luxury is defiantly heading in precisely the opposite direction. Today, luxury is all about the art of the artisan and savouring the art of ‘slow living’. It started with the slow food movement, and a re-discovery and appreciation for exquisite artisan products made with love and fascinating regional traditions, and now the most discerning fashion lover wants her fashion to be slow and fabulously authentic too.
Made in Britain fashion is firmly back in the fashion spotlight and the epi-centre of the revolution isn’t in London – it’s in Derbyshire at a remarkable family run company celebrated for its timeless, alluring, beautifully crafted fashion masterpieces – created with extraordinary passion, pride and love by a rather dashing visionary –
David Nieper and his son and heir apparent, Christopher.
Blame It On Downton Abbey
Blame it on Downton. As Lady Mary dares to look like ‘ a cross between a Vogue fashion plate and a stick of dynamite’ with her artful new bob and twinkling, fairytale flapper gowns – the most discerning style lovers increasingly crave fashion with provenance, heritage and attention to detail that goes back to gilded heyday of fashion as the highest form of art from the twenties to the fifties, with our Queen and her film star beautiful sister, Princess Margaret, dressed like celluloid starlets in Norman Hartnell’s gossamer gowns.
Real luxury simply cannot be hurried. It has always been about storytelling, sustainable values and rediscovering the lovely idea of a bye gone era of elegance, precious fabrics, the couture art of the seamstress and the twinkling, style references that belong to a golden age of British power, imagination and influence on the world stage.
The Finest Fabrics Coloured with Seaweed Dyes and Glacial Water
Imagine fabrics handpicked from the great European cloth houses in the French Alps, where seaweed dyes and glacial water create alchemy in colour and texture together with extraordinary softness, purity and aesthetic beauty. Then, marry them with delicate English laces still produced by talented artisans working at home.
This is the marvellous world of David Nieper. I first discovered this jewel of an English fashion house and their utterly sublime creations, when I was working as a contributing feature and fashion editor for The Times Magazine.
We needed a truly glamorous Garboesque, form-fitting silk nightgown and wrap for a leading actress. After an exhaustive search, David Nieper was the only company that came close to conjuring up my wide-eyed teenage memory of observing sassy, mortal goddesses like Rita Hayworth, Greta Garbo and Marilyn Monroe breezing confidently around their glamorous bachelorette pads in marvellous silk pyjamas and floor sweeping robes. Reader, that was the moment I fell in love with celluloid glamour. How I wanted to be the glam reporter about town, writing about the icons of the day in a pair of lustrous silk PJ’s! – So it was move over London, Paris and New York and Hello Alfreton!
Selling Le Style Anglais to the French!
Today, fifty-three years after David Nieper decided to go against the new fangled tide of cheap, mass produced fashion and manufacturer high quality lingerie and nightwear in an English town famous for rope making, mining and King Alfred – they are now selling a stunning amount of Le Style Anglais to that most tricky of fashion connoisseurs – the Paris fashion maven. What a cause célèbre! It doesn’t stop there. This season, David Nieper has rather cleverly played up the return of the smart yet feminine heroine of literary history. Contemplate pretty chinz prints and Liberty silks in garments to be treasured and thoroughly admired. Why, they even come with the signature of the person who made them. Now that is my idea of real luxury.
There is so much to admire and fall in love with in the ever growing collection of day wear, special occasion evening stars, seriously good lingerie and a long-awaited new cashmere collection which features the perfect, throw on boyfriend sweater. My star edit from the current collection is a goddess draped maxi dress, the colour of a summer’s night, a wildflower shirt in a darling Liberty print silk to rival anything seen on the catwalk at Burberry and a jacket that is so deliciously pretty and evocative of travel and magical gardens that it destined to be snapped up by a stylish mother and no doubt stolen by her admiring daughter!
Time to Embrace Our Inner Lady
So, as Downton fever continues unabated and Lady Mary ushers in the roaring twenties – isn’t it time we all embraced our inner lady and rediscover the pleasures of investing in head-turning, Made in Britain Fashion that stimulates a beautiful chain reaction – creating jobs, delighting princesses (Princess Anne) and reviving artisan garments skills that are in great demand from Derbyshire to the smart salons of Paris, Zurich and Mayfair.
Alison Jane Reid – Alison Jane is a former Times and Lady Magazine journalist specialising in interviews with icons, fashion and heritage luxury. She is the founder of online slow luxury magazine – www.ethical-hedonist.com
Alison Jane’s Star Winter Edit of Made in Britain Fashion By David Nieper
Fashion is all about a marriage of opposites and luscious floral prints to brighten winter nights…. Downton Abbey is back on our television screens, revolution is in the air and this exquisite jacket picks up on key trends from the catwalk, with Burberry’s love affair with the Bloomsbury set and Dolce and Gabbana’s fairytale, twisted florals…. this opulent, fully lined jacket hints at foreign lands, hot house blooms and is that rare, lovely find– an investment piece, worthy of the Countess of Grantham. Snap it up and wear with a simple, elegant LBD or smart jeans and trousers. Oh and I will let you into a secret… it looks great with the demure, ruched LBD!
A clever girl can never have too many oversized, effortlessly luxurious sweaters and now David Nieper adds covetable cashmere to the equation, with its very first collection lovingly made in their Derbyshire studio. This oversized perfectly slouchy number in winter plum or oyster (super flattering to skintones) picks up the trend for the oversized boyfriend jumper beautifully. I will be layering mine over sassy sixties skirts, svelte jeans and smart leggings.
The goddess draped maxi dress in sumptuous, silken jersey owes everything to the fashion genius of Diane Von Furstenberg. La Furstenberg knew how to drape and flatter the female form to perfection. If you want to turn heads and receive a galaxy of compliments snap up this marvellous maxi in stellar cobalt and see how clever a dress can really be. Every drape, every ruched detail, and every cinched knot is designed to caress your curves, glide over the tummy and be sublimely flattering to all body shapes.
A girl can never have too many little black dresses! This demure, alluring number is my new object of desire – it’s all about the fit and clever ruched detail – held perfectly in place by the art of the couturier – a tiny weight. This darling fashion treasure would make a great investment piece, looks seriously expensive (but isn’t) and will never let you down. It comes in slinky stretch jersey to hug, flatter and fit like a dream and give you extraordinary confidence – and it can even be thrown in the washing machine. What are you waiting for?
I adore pink. It is the colour of happiness and not following the herd. If you are seeking a divine, statement winter coat, then look no further. This exquisite coat in the palest of pinks, pays homage to Savile Row tailoring, and will never date. It would make a wonderful investment piece.
Who in their right mind would dress down when you could can wear a divine sliver of Liberty print silk worthy of Dietrich, Garbo or Rita Hayworth and feel like a celluloid goddess? Of course this fit and flare gown is far too lovely just to be worn as a nightgown. The wrap features lovely piped edges – for peerless, hard to find quality and craftsmanship – and even the dainty ribbon is made by hand. Both garments come in longer lengths for floor sweeping decadence. Let’s all wear our Liberty masterpiece for cocooning, lounging weekends at home, for being an alluring couch potato, watching Gilda or How to Marry a Millionaire.
The humble T-shirt transformed into a sublimely luxurious wardrobe star in timeless silk. What’s not to love? The problem is sticking to just one. I want every colour under the sun, but most especially Oxford blue and the rather ethereal sea foam – and I’m impressed with the attention to detail. Notice the key hole back detailing, the flattering side split and sheer, luxe simplicity.
I have a thing about sparkle! I guess it is the eternal fashion magpie in me. I adore the idea of a fashion staple being utterly transformed by luxe detail. In this case a stellar dusting of sequins and multi-faceted buttons that twinkle and catch the light – while the choice of mohair, shot with tiny sequins just adds to the idea of adorable, twinkling luxury. I know it will live in this cardigan, and I will team it with everything from smart leggings to mini dresses and skater skirts. Can we have more colours please?
Fashion is having a love affair with the Bloomsbury movement. Just think of the rebel Lady Mary in Downton Abbey looking like ‘a Vogue fashion plate and a stick of dynamite’! This is the perfect stumble upon, heirloom piece in a verdant, Liberty print silk of wildflowers, with fabric-covered buttons. I like the brilliant, relaxed styling and would wear it with an elegant pair of cigarette pants, jeans or sassy, secretary, pencil skirt and serious heels. Snap it up, bask in a dash of style envy and revel what we do best – English eccentric whimsy.
For more info or to buy the clothes featured in Our Best of British Fashion www.davidnieper.co.uk