Martin Kidman, who is well known for his quirky sweaters, is selling a new line - the source of his inspiration. Clare Coulson reports
Anyone who disputes the influence that vintage has had on fashion over the past few years should consider the evidence. New designers rework vintage clothes into their collections, chic boutiques combine old and new to make one bohemian statement, and major labels, from Prada to Dolce & Gabbana, are reissuing past classics.
It"s a good time, then, for Martin Kidman to launch his own spin on the craze. His vintage collection, which is being sold exclusively at Fenwick, includes delicate, blush-coloured silk slip dresses, Fifties printed dresses and black circle skirts speckled with tiny white bows. All the pieces for the collection have been bought from dealers and then altered or simply cleaned. In his light Brighton studio, which is filled with elegant French gilt chairs and sparkling chandeliers, the rails of clothes look as if they have never been worn. Vintage shoes edge the room, and delicate little evening bags hang from ornate chairs.
"I"ve collected it for years, just to have it," he says, "but it"s also a constant source of inspiration. My collections have always been vintage-based." However, Kidman has not always found it easy to part with pieces that have provided a starting point for his designs. Along one wall of the studio hangs one woman"s collection of glamorous evening dresses and separates, and Kidman is reluctant about selling it. "They are supposed to be going to Japan but part of me wants to keep them here."
Kidman, 44, who is better known for his quirky sweaters, headed up Joseph"s knitwear label, Joseph Tricot, during the Eighties, having been snapped up straight after his first show at London Fashion Week. "Joseph [Ettedgui] approached me after the show and I thought he was God. I was a little boy from Chingford who didn"t even dare go into Joseph shops!"
Later, Kidman set up his own label, and became a regular feature of London Fashion Week. But despite running a flourishing business, he realised that the high-flying fashion life was not for him. "You have to realise what you are and what you"re not. And I hated doing shows. I wouldn"t sleep for weeks before them. Some designers love it. They really like the adrenaline rush and the stress, but, in the end, it made me ill."
Alongside the new line, Kidman continues to design knitwear with a retro feel. "I have always been interested in the craft more than anything," he says. "Even when I am not working, I am always knitting
And in keeping with his craft roots, the designer is moving to Ditchling, the Sussex village made famous by the sculptor and engraver Eric Gill. For Kidman and his sprightly cocker spaniel, Susan, the only means of transport will be a rural railway station two miles from his home, which will no doubt inspire more nostalgic clothes.