‘People’s emotional relationship with what they wear has always been intriguing to me. More than any other aspect of fashion, I have always maintained an interest in how clothes make us feel’ said Louise Chunn of the concept behind Semple Secrets. Louise’s career trajectory spans the most discerning fashion titles on the market including British Elle and Vogue and so it was refreshing to hear her personal take on an industry that is becoming ‘more and more serious’ by the day.
Louise has previously edited The Guardian’s Woman page and Good Housekeeping and currently resides as the editor at Psychologies magazine, where to her delight, she is even able to contribute self written articles and believes to have found a truly genuine publication. At present, the magazine does not carry any regular fashion features, however Louise is questioning this absence and aims to implement some key style elements into future editions.
Louise knew from the moment she could speak that she wanted to be a writer. Starting her career in her home country of New Zealand as a music journalist, she has had the privilege of interviewing Bob Marley, The Ramones, Elton John and a particular favourite, John Taylor of Duran Duran. When she arrived in London in 1982 for the New Romantics era, she found it simply extraordinary that all the young people were dressed like peacocks, ‘it was so much fun!’
Louise’s interest in fashion appears to have been passed down from generations and leads her to reveal her cherished item of clothing to the Semple audience. ‘My mother was and still is into fashion and had her own dressmaker. She bought British Vogue until 1976 before controversially switching to the American version! However, she is a different shape from me and so I could never wear her clothes.’
Louise did manage to source one item in her mother’s wardrobe that she felt particularly captivated by and more importantly fit her almost perfectly. It belonged to her Grandmother, who preferred to be known as Dona, the Spanish translation of lady. ‘She was only 40 years old when her first grandchild arrived and she felt far too young to go by any other name. She was extremely glamorous and not like a traditional Grandmother at all!’
The dress is a late 1950s or early 1960s design from Dona’s dressmaker, comprised of a delicate lose weave of brocade fabric. The print projects red and white overblown roses and peonies sitting against a black background, just below a gold gyspophila design. The dress is nipped in at the waist; fish tailed and features customary dart detail, satin lining and an intricate bow at the back, all personal additions of the dressmaker.
‘When I wore the dress to the Vogue office, Alexandra Shulman said “Oh my God, I love that dress! That’s the kind of dress I loved to wear before I started this job” and then I thought I better start wearing my trouser suit again.’
‘I have worn it to work since but it’s essentially a cocktail dress. I have always been extremely fond of my grandmother and strangely enough, I was roughly the same age as her when we both started wearing the dress. I feel great when I wear it and it’s extremely Mad Men, which is fantastic because now women can enjoy celebrating their shape and womanly curves again.’
It appears as though Louise is relishing the thought of returning to her core desire to explore the feelings we have with clothing, rather than chasing the latest trends across Paris and Milan in a desperate bid to report on all the catwalk shows. ‘I liked going to Paris and viewing all the collections. It can be incredibly emotional and special but it’s also exhausting!’