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Katy Close:Girls Can Be Rockstars Too

by HQ

As KATY CLOSE prepares for the launch of Vespertine’s Spring/Summer collection, BRIDGET DEVINE gets to know the designer behind fashion’s newest, music-inspired label.

When meeting Katy Close I was greeted by the doorman and invited inside the pink front door of the Broadwick Hotel in Soho, then up to the 7th floor where I found the Flute Bar. A hidden gem of a place, recently opened, fitted with an opulent jazz age interior and a metallic hexagon-tile ceiling. Katy is a fashion designer with a wealth of experience and fascinating background who started her label Vespertine in July last year. I couldn’t wait to find out more about her Spring/Summer 24 collection she’s releasing this April.

Katy explains how Vespertine is about ‘creating these really beautiful vintage inspired pieces with a music driven edge’. The label has featured in British Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, Alexa Chung is a regular in Vespertine’s silk blouses. Katy tells me the collection is being photographed later this week ‘on an incredible country estate, so we’re very excited’ and by ‘we’ she means herself and her business partner Lili Sumner.

One can only imagine the collection’s gorgeous countryside setting and it seems nature has always played a part in Katy’s life and work. I actually first met Katy, very briefly, in a little country pub in a village in Kent, perched on the greenbelt that surrounds the bustling city of London where she is based. She grew up in the rural Scottish countryside of Stepps, near Glasgow, which had beautiful ‘farms, fields and rivers’ and ‘nice places to play’ as a child. After studying at London College of Fashion and doing an internship at Vivienne Westwood, Katy spent much of her career working for fashion labels such as Finery and RAEY by Matches. Like Katy, Vespertine was born in Scotland too. In early 2023 Lili visited Katy in the Highlands of Scotland just after New Year and the two ‘went wild swimming in the lochs, roaming around the hills and just having a beautiful time in nature’. It was there Katy and Lili exchanged ideas and just 6 months later the pair were ready to launch the label, ‘it all came together really naturally and all of a sudden Vespertine was born’.

Katy’s previous collections have all the low-key glamour of the 1970’s music scene paired with the authenticity of her beautifully crafted design. She tells me how the new looks will be styled with ‘animal print knickers’ following the success of her Alemoor and Anna leopard print briefs and thongs that are crafted from the offcuts from the silk blouses to ensure as little as possible goes to waste. Katy tells me that Vespertine is moving towards embellishment and ‘all things disco and shiny’. The label’s party collection later this year will feature ‘bejewelled fabrics and really fun sparkly things’. Rather like one of Katy’s favourite childhood memories – the story of the sparkly pumps.

As a young child Katy would visit her cousin in Paris and describes being ‘mesmerised’ by the treasures they found in flea markets. She became ‘a bit of a magpie’, despite coming from a rather ‘anti-fashion’ household. So when she stumbled upon ‘a pair of silver, glitter ballet pumps’ in a shop with her mother, a lady who always ‘made a t-shirt and jeans look cool’ but has never even painted her nails, Katy was equally delighted and surprised she was allowed to buy them as they ‘didn’t really have things like that’. Unsure if it’s attached to the memory but even now Katy says ‘I love a sparkly shoe’ and she has ‘a collection of silver glitter shoes in all shapes and sizes’.

When designing the up and coming collection, Katy and Lili looked to this childhood wonderment of the fashion world by asking ‘What is our dream garment? What do we want to wear to feel great on an evening out?’ The plan for the photoshoot reflects

‘the idea of girls in a state of dress or undress, getting ready to go out into the night’


and to style the silk blouses with underwear and headscarves to pull together the floaty bohemian look. ‘Whether they make it out or not remains unknown’, Katy explains, ‘it’s about the joy and excitement of getting dressed in a beautiful setting’- which is a feeling I’m sure all Vespertine girls can relate to.

‘Music is a big part of my existence’, Katy tells me how she and Lili would ‘go to Glastonbury and lots of small London gigs together’ and ‘it was always such a big part of our lives, with many of our friends being musicians’, so Vespertine had to be very ‘music driven’. She grew up inheriting the music tastes of her father, listening to Led Zeppelin and Steely Dan as well as Patti Smith and the New York Dolls, becoming ‘really taken by the Punk movement’. From tartan t-shirts to leopard print dresses, Katy explains her favourite thing about music culture is ‘the gender bending’ dressing. Be it ‘Robert Plant wearing his girlfriends t-shirts’ or ‘Patti Smith only wearing men’s tailoring’ and Robert Mapplethorpe’s shirts. Glam rock has always featured men wearing women’s blouses and with the recent resurgence in this look Katy wants to push this idea but make it modern. ’We love that men want to wear our blouses and we are delighted to see them out on Jack Guinness as well as Max Hurd who was one of our male muses from the beginning.’

This was a key part of Vespertine’s initial concept – ‘we wanted anyone to be free to wear our clothes regardless of gender’. Katy met Miles Kane, a musician, years ago at ‘a Queens of the Stone Age gig and (they) just instantly got on really well’. He has one of Vespertine’s shirts ‘the Jura in leopard print’, a traditional boyfriend shape but is ‘worn by everyone’ demonstrating the ‘genderless’ qualities of her blouses. ‘I love that fluidity’ and despite it ‘not being a new concept, there is a modern spin to it’. Katy continues to look to musicians like Donna Summer, Diana Ross, Kate Bush, Karen O and Stevie Nicks as sources of inspiration. Lots of singers and songwriters have already gravitated towards the brand, worn by Izzy Phillips from Black Honey, Nick Allbrook from Pond as well as Nadine Shah, a singer songwriter with Newcastle roots, who describes the brand as ‘elevated and elegant’. From the timeless design to quality materials, Nadine says that ‘Katy makes clothes that I will wear and re-wear for a long time. And a side note… she also makes it sexy.’ I ask Katy what she thinks of the rockstar-girlfriend aesthetic and she refuses to subscribe to that stereotype of women in the music scene. She replies,

 

‘girls can be rockstars too, and they often are doing it better than the boys. I’ve always been in awe of female musicians and artists’.


From flitting through real life memorabilia from Vivienne’s SEX Shop and working with Vivienne herself, to creating quiet luxury garments with exceptional fabrics at RAEY, Katy’s career is something that she’s always put first. Although she doesn’t herself have any children, we talk about the ‘modern battle’ women face in this day and age, juggling having a career and having children. Katy explains how ‘it’s a difficult balancing act for many women with living costs going up and up, the struggle for equal pay and the insane cost of childcare’.

This marriage of music and fashion is reflected in the powerful yet understated softness of Vespertine’s garments, and is a concept that lends itself to the aesthetic of  Chemena Kamali’s debut collection for Chloé this Paris Fashion Week. If I myself had to compare Vespertine to anything, this would be it. Chloé’s vintage-style sheer ruffles and soft 70’s colour palette emulated everything Vespertine and as Katy puts it, ‘it feels like we have something new that is really relevant’.

The lights are dimmed in the bar, I look around and see lots of people huddled around glasses of wine, lounging around and chatting as the evening draws to a close. Katy ends our conversation saying ‘there is a movement towards a softer, more feminine, way of dressing across genders’ and that’s what Vespertine is all about. ‘Our point of difference is that our music driven design is coming from a female point of view, and I think that’s really important.’

Lili Sumner and Katy Close wearing the LOMOND BLOUSE and AWE SILK BODYSUIT @vespertinelondon, Instagram, 2023. Photographed by Billie Jane, @billiejane.

writer
Bridget Devine
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