It's great being a girl. Because when you're a girl you can get dressed up. Properly dressed up.
There's a photo of me, one of my Mum's favourites, when I'm about eight years old. My hair is "up", my face has a decidedly grown up expression because I am taking the occasion of my older friend's birthday party very seriously indeed. I am wearing a purple and white sixties style little dress. With three tiny gold buttons on the front. I can still feel that dress now. The way the white bits had bobbly texture against my fingertips, the smooth contrast of the slightly shiny purple bits. The long white socks with lace tops I only ever wore with that dress, the soft brown Clarks T bar shoes, specially polished by Dad. The pleasureful pain of having my hair combed back into a facelifting ponytail before being smoothed into a kirby grip bun. The just skimming my bum length of the dress that made me feel so long legged and free, like I could run forever in the wind and the sun.
I don't think girls ever lose that delight in getting 'dressed up'. Even though I've never been a girly girl, always more inclined to put on the battered Doc's with the little flowery dress, I always adore the ritual of getting ready, of being given time to indulge in all things essentially female.
So, imagine my delight when Young British Designers met Minna for the second time. The first time we met Minna was at Estethica, the ethical representation of London Fashion Week, back in February. One look, one touch and we knew that we had to feature clothes from this very beautiful, very talented lady in our launch collection. She very much liked the idea of YBD and a few weeks later we arrived at her then- she was in the process of moving- home studio.
I can only liken it to being let loose in the very best ever dressing up box. A beautiful attic space filled with light and rails overflowing with Minna's lovely creations. There is nothing neat and ordered about Minna's designs. They are gorgeously wanton, trimmed, ribboned, exquisitely detailed and just about the girliest garments I have ever seen.
Apparently it all started in the beautiful Dorset countryside where Finnish born designer Minna Hepburn began collecting lace brooches, buttons and other beautiful random delights from strolling around local antique markets. Not really knowing what to do with them she started making tops and dresses from vintage Scottish lace and embellishing them with her finds.
From the beginning Minna wanted to minimise the impact on the environment and so used organic, fair trade and recycled materials wherever possible. Everything in her range is handmade in the UK and Minna takes care to ensure that all remnants are used to embellish the garments, leaving no waste at all.
This ethical stance can't help but feel like a wonderful bonus on top of the designs themselves. Each item we plucked from the rails felt like a discovered treasure. Each piece has a vintage feel, draws from you that gasp of joy at having been lucky enough to find it. Makes you long to shed the tired old garbs you're wearing, pull it over your head, swing your hair free and gathering its skirt in both hands, run to the mirror and twirl!
I was lucky enough to have been sent a Minna dress to wear for an important meeting. The Lucinda dress. The girliest dress I can recall wearing since I was eight years old. Cream Scottish lace madras, silk lining, frilled sleeves. I nearly couldn't wear it, felt abashed by the weight of its sheer loveliness...was worried I didn't deserve to be this indulged at my much more than eight years old age. But I slipped into it and smiled with secret delight. I felt pretty. Not attractive, not beautiful, not sexy (although deliciously sensual!) but Pretty, with a capital 'P'.
I was transported back to being a girl. And loving the joy of it. Feeling dressed up. And not uncomfortably so. Minna's designs are remarkably easy to wear, and can be made even more girly with heels or- like me- dressed down some with battered cowboy ankle boots.
But always Pretty.
Pretty, pretty things are what Minna makes.
We are delighted that she does and that she gives us every excuse to be girls. Pretty, pretty girls.