Last Saturday saw the arrival of our much awaited Semple Secrets event. The event took place at the Southbank Centres grand Royal Festival Hall, set against a backdrop of the London eye and Big Ben, the space is impressive and bold. As we prepared to welcome our guests and the room which overlooked the river began to buzz with creative conversations, the sun shone through the panoramic windows, creating the perfect view of London on this bright but bitingly chilly day.

Women and guests of all ages took their seats to find Semple Branded goodie bags gracing each chair and we invited guests to take home a lasting memory of MSL in the form of our Semple book; the perfect night time reading material for lovers of fashion stories. Our audience sat in awe to hear the legendary designers Roland Klein and David Sasoon and Southbank Centres own Artistic director Jude Kelly, talk candidly about careers that span decades.

All three of our guest speakers brought with them a treasured garment to discuss. Roland Klein came with a maroon jersey dress that wouldn’t be out of place on the catwalk today, Jude brought her much loved vibrant red Ossie Clark warp dress and David treated us to a fitted noir fish tailed ruffle gown, a first hand view of the couture evening wear he is so famous for.

David revealed picture after picture of the rich, famous and beautiful women who have worn his clothes, having such a respected designer take a seat in the audience and talk through each shot was a rare moment for fashion lovers. Along with his stories of dressing the royals and meeting the Queen, David also brought along a belt from his past. A staple item from his swinging 60s wardrobe, the hand clap belt attracted much audience participation and laughter.

Roland talked about how the dress he chose to bring was one of the most copied items by a retailer and how he tried to sue the companies, only to fail upon realisation that they had more money than he had at the time. He gave opinions on toady’s fashion industry and how he felt that the fact designers cannot draw anymore leaves garments lacking in movement and he offered insight into how to take a vintage dress into the modern ages buy simply changing accessories. His quest to constantly move forward and live in the future means Roland never kept hold of many of his dresses, but a bid to collect back his designs has led him to Ebay where he has managed to buy back 50 dresses so far.

Jude Kelly brought along her stunning red Ossie Clark dress which is steeped in memories and humour, some of which she would rather forget. This dress has seen her as the ‘Man Basher’, the ‘Hero’ and the ‘Heartbreaker’, the stories from her dress brought the audience to life in rapturous applause and laughter. As she spoke out about her brave choice as a younger Jude to buy the bright red dress, complete with thigh high slit, she confessed to having dealt with the issue many women face; how to dress feminine and embrace our sexuality, but still be taken seriously professionally. It seems Jude has found the balance and says that with ages come the outlook of “stuff it I will wear what I fancy.”

As Maggie led the audience in a Q&A with the guest panel, it came to light that one particular guest had previously worked for David Sassoon; she had worked along side his milliner at Bellivelle Sassoon many years ago. As David cast his eye amongst the audience and focused on the speaker, a huge smile lit up across his face. As the two began to divulge stories from the past, the audience learnt of how David had made the women’s wedding dress many years ago during her time spent working for Sassoon; such a wonderful story, and such a wonderful note to end such a perfect day on.

Thank you from all of us here at MSL, we hope to see many more of you at future events.

Team MSL have their say

“Like all of Semple Secrets I sat in awe listening to three people who had between them over 100 years of cultural and design experience. Talking with them was easy as they were generous with their thoughts and discrete with their stories.” Maggie Semple OBE

“I remember my first Semple Secrets with a sweet smile because it felt like being with my friends. I didn’t know the MSL team back then but I felt at home, this is the uniqueness of these fantastic events, and I am glad that we created the same atmosphere and all the audience left with a smile. We were so lucky to be able to count on an amazing panel of high profile personalities. The previous week, I remember enjoying an afternoon tea with David and Roland when preparing everything and I think that the audience got the same feeling during the event: a conversation with a friend that happens to be a genius” – Laura Roig Fashion Brand Manager

“Such a great event and an amazing opportunity to work with leading designers of their time, a day full of fabulous and fascinating stories, but if I had to pick one moment it would have to be David Sassoon and his pervious employee reuniting. Such a small world that two pervious colleagues, from different walks of life, now find themselves reconnected at an event we made happen. It is these kinds of connections and stories that really bring to fruition the core premise of what we believe in here at MSL. I couldn’t be more proud.” – Sophie Maguire Fashion Journalist

“This was my first ‘Semple Secrets’ event and I was pleasantly surprised at how interesting the event was. Jude Kelly, had some amusing stories to tell about her red dress, telling us how three important events happened to her whilst wearing the garment. It was nice to hear how Roland Klein is now working for a online retailer re-using some of his designs from 30 years ago – it just goes to show how trends come back into fashion and David Sassoon bought in a 60s belt, and a picture of himself wearing it back then. He looked so young and stylish!” – Marta Zaforteza PR Assistant and newest addition to Team MSL

Sophie Maguire


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