Monday, 7:00am
12 March 2012

Look for the purple lining

Catherine Griffiths on another link between fashion and photography.

As a graphic designer in the late 1980s, working my career in London, I used my first ‘real’ camera, a Ricoh SLR, to take fashion snaps that pitched fellow designer Fiona Fry and me into a ‘Best Dressed Designer Awards’ feature in Design Week (December 1990), writes Catherine Griffiths.

The feature – ‘Dressed to Kill – Design’s Sartorial Stars Show They Mean Business’ – also included a Coley Porter Bell designer doing a Brando, Newell & Sorrell in evening wear sophistication, and Rodney Cooper, the winner, in Armani.


Looking now at Cooper in the DW spread (below, three pics beneath the headline), suited and suave, his floral shirt a window to the autumn garden he occupies, it’s more Paul Smith who leaps to mind, given his association with photography, than Armani.


Fiona and I (above, to the right) went for 1960s chic. We posed on a rooftop in our first ever credit card acquisitions: Fiona in elfin haircut and flats, I in thigh-high, black leather lace-up Martine Sitbon boots from Jones in Floral Street.


The shots were on colour film, processed as black and white prints. Slow exposure, extreme angle, our cues were taken from i-D, Blitz, The Face (see ‘Birth of The Face’ and interview with i-D founder Terry Jones in Eye 30) – cult literature we aspired to in our practice as nascent graphic designers. Thierry Mugler’s book Photographe in which he portrayed women as ‘victorious, strong, sensual and sexy’, took centre stage on the shelf in my London flat, its cover a daily reminder of how I wanted to be.


Two decades on, I use and wear a Leica D-Lux 5, snug in its classically styled brown leather case. It is an accessory, essential to my waning self-curated image.

Leica D-Lux 5

Leica and Paul Smith are an apt pairing, both highly styled, yet restrained. Try a pair of Men Only lace-ups for women, quietly decorative in soft inky line, or gaze at his Spring/Summer collection (‘modern, masculine aesthetic for women’) to know that a Leica in its limited edition case slung across the breast or over a tailored jacket shoulder, would make the ultimate accessory.


It’s right that the camera should enjoy the pleasure of fashion, as with Paul Smith for Leica. If I were not building my studio right now, I’d swap my steel-cap boots for Men Only’s and spend the money on the light grey, mock croc embossed leather case lined in luxurious purple.


Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It’s available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues. Eye 81 has the theme of ‘Designers and clients’; Eye 82 will be out later this week.