You'll be able to hear the soft squeals of fashion girls everywhere when British designer Mimi Wade launches her online store this year — and she deserves all the hype. It's almost inconceivable that the 25-year-old Central Saint Martin's graduate has created an instantly recognizable brand without giving you access to it, but Wade's breakout success is both a testament to her talent and an indicator of her promising longevity.
A former model and granddaughter of '50s starlet Pamela Curran "Granny Pammy," Wade draws on the debauchery of Old Hollywood and explores our collective nostalgia for Golden Era Cinema through her collections, with one-of-a-kind prints featuring vintage movie posters and comics. Similarly, Wade co-opts long-retired slogans and signs to send her own modern messages, taking them out of context to examine beauty and female-roles through a contemporary lens.
Learn more about the designer, below, and watch the PAPER premiere of her Fall '18 collection video, inspired by Granny Pammy's 1965 film, The Loved One, and styled by Wade herself.
You've become a beacon of British fashion without even opening an e-commerce store. What do you think is the key to new brands generating buzz?
It's hard to pin down exactly what creates a buzz, but I think authenticity and originality are really key. I've never sat down and thought about how to strategically create a buzz, I just create my own little world inspired by all the things which excite me and that I feel passionate about.
You're known for your prints. What's the process behind creating them?
I spend a lot of time researching graphics that I love and analyzing what makes them successful. I look at old advertisements, comic books, movie posters, packaging, and old cartoons. Recently I've been collecting old gothic romance novels, which formed a major visual reference this season, I love the balance of the kitsch and the macabre — something that's both dark and comedic. Playing with word and image has always been integral to my work. I love low-brow camp humor, double entendres, taking slogans out of context and giving them new meaning. This season "Open Book" and "Easy to Read" are emblazoned across dresses, the definitive message being that beauty is measured on imperfections and honesty. I screen printed the graphics this season using CMYK onto white uncoated leather and then hand painted elements over the top to achieve a quality as close to these book covers as possible.
What was your vision for the brand starting out?
I've heard so many horrifying stories from my Granny's experiences in Hollywood from 1950s to the early '70s, and in the wake of the Weinstein scandal all of this seems more relevant than ever. Although I'm continually inspired and fascinated by Old Hollywood, that's not to say that it isn't problematic. My work is both an appreciation and a critique. Creating things has always been a way for me to express and make sense of how I feel as a woman in the world, while also celebrating and championing the women I admire. I tend to have a muse in mind when I design; this season it was one of my favorite authors, Daphne du Maurier. The prints were a reference to her frustrations at being lumbered into the gothic romance genre, despite her seminal 1938 book Rebecca not being in the least bit romantic. It was a label thrust on her purely based on gender and quite possibly her overtly romantic sounding name and not much else.
How much has your own connection to the Golden Era of Cinema influenced your style?
My granny really opened my eyes up to the Golden Era of Cinema; I'd stay up late at her house on Fountain Ave in West Hollywood in the summer watching Casablanca with three cats on my lap and 10 dogs yapping at our feet, each with our own tub of Hagen Daaz almond ice cream, swigging Sambuca from the bottle, surrounded by her vast collection of posters and movie memorabilia. Getting to know her has been such an education and has provided me with limitless inspiration.
What does femininity mean to you?
Gracefulness, resilience and power.
With accounts like Diet Prada, there's a big emphasis right now on inspiration vs. appropriation. How do you navigate that?
It's okay to look to the past for inspiration, but what I find boring is people copying what's out there right now so that everyone's collections look the same. Also, major fashion houses stealing from lesser-know designers is pretty shitty but that's nothing new. There's a difference between stealing, paying homage and directly copying something. It's about taking references from the past and making them into something that's your own.
You have fans like Lana Del Rey. Who would you absolutely love to dress?
I've been so lucky to have so many women I admire wear my clothes. It made me so happy to see Grace Ladoja wearing my dress and Abra too (who also did the music for my presentation). PJ Harvey and Princess Nokia would also be a dream come true and if Sofia Coppola wore something I think I would cry. I'm swapping a dress for a painting with my friend and amazing artist Faye Wei Wei, which I'm also really excited about.
Mimi Wade Film by Laura Colada
Styled by Mimi Wade
Hair by Alex Brownsell
Makeup by Celia Burton
Set Design by Derek Hardie Martin
Casting by Madeleine Østlie
Supported by Converse