Born and raised in leafy Devon, Middlesex University Fashion & Textiles graduate Olivia Ann May (aka the Duchess of Devonshire: www.oliviaamay.blogspot.co.uk) has been drawing a significant amount of attention from models, designers and fashion journalists alike since she unveiled her final year collection back in April earlier this year. Blending a rich mix of exotic colours, textures and fabrics, May’s designs are bold statements of unrepressed individuality, drawing heavily on vintage 1960s glamour, a focus which was offset brilliantly by her choice of models for the show: Pam Lucas (62), Daphne Selfe (83) who has been shot by everyone from Nick Knight to Mario Testino during her lifetime and Jan de Villeneuve (68), wife of the iconic fashion photographer Justin de Villeneuve. Proving that even beauty gets better with age, we caught up with Olivia following her show at London’s prestigious Graduate Fashion Week to talk about her inspirations, what she plans to do next and taking the ladies to tea.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where have you come from? Where are you going?
I’m a farmer’s daughter from deepest darkest Devon, but came to London for university three years ago after a year out travelling. I’m currently graduating from Middlesex University with a BA in Fashion Textiles – specialising in Print – and at the moment the plan is to continue with what I am doing, designing collection after collection for older ladies. It would be amazing to have my own boutique so that women could pop round, sit down, and have a cup of tea and good old natter before buying my designs.
What was the concept behind your collection?
I wrote my dissertation on Ageism within the Fashion Industry so the whole concept stemmed from there when I realised hardly anyone was designing with the older 60’s in mind. I follow fashion blog called ‘Advanced Style’ (www.advancedstyle.blogspot.co.uk) by a NY photographer who snaps pictures of stylish older women, I look at it every day and think, ‘I want to dress her’.
How did you get in touch with Jan, Pam Lucas and Daphne? What was it like working with them?
Jan and Daphne were from Models 1 and Pam is from Ugly Models. I literally searched through model agencies online, then rang up. They are all absolutely lovely. Sometimes I receive little texts from them to see how it’s going, and I went to watch Daphne in a show yesterday. The three ladies walked for me again at my Graduate Fashion Week show, along with thee others, but this definitely isn’t all, I’m looking forward to working with them for a long time yet!
… your poison?
My poison is without a doubt Gin, which means the hangovers are killer
… good for a hangover cure?
Always give yourself whatever your body needs to get through, you should never deny your body anything on a hangover.
… the best thing about where you’re from?
The best thing about Devon is that it is nothing like London, absolute escapism when I go home.
by Tom Curry