Medieval Magic

GILES celebrated fashion from the Middle Ages at Port Eliot Festival

Billed as the festival for creative souls, Port Eliot’s annual gathering on the Cornish coast drew a strong fashion crowd this year with its focus on medieval influenced-style through the ages. In the 10 years since it began, the event has attracted revellers looking to enjoy all things literary, comedy, gastro, musical and fashion. Organisers have continued to add new areas to delight and inspire including The Wardrobe Department - an area dedicated to style.

Sarah Mower, the British Fashion Council’s Ambassador for Emerging Talent and director of The Wardrobe Department, was at the helm of its fashion show this year. “In frightening times, fashion is often caught regarding itself through the mirror of history.  As we hurtle at digitally-enhanced super-speeds through the horrifying and bloody news of 2015, that rear-view mirror is oddly angled, flashing back multiple images of medieval times,” she said. “At Port Eliot Festival this year, we’re marking this phenomenon. A unique open-air staging of mediaeval-influenced clothes - examples of today’s fashion, reeling back through the Nineties, Eighties, Seventies and Sixties - is accompanied by a ransacking of all their meanings by Alexander Fury, Fashion Editor of the Independent, and myself.”

This critique of medieval-inspired fashion focused on everything from Pre-Raphaelite style to the modern day. Each period was illustrated with a display of pieces from vintage archives or contemporary designers including GILES, Thea Porter, Mary Katrantzou and Rick Owens. It was a visual feast, as Sarah Mower went on to explain, “I saw the effect of wearing GILES on real girls when we cast thirty people from the Port Eliot festival to walk in our show. [They] went from camping in a Cornwall field to wafting through the gardens transformed as modern damsels, princesses and intimidating Queens. All of them absolutely loved wearing GILES and wanted to know all about the ideas behind his beautiful references (I loved telling them that he is a closet English history buff, like me!), and their friends and mothers staggered back in astonishment at how incredible they looked.”

“My thesis is that we are looking back to mediaeval times now because real life is so scary today...the feeling [is] completely captured in Game of Thrones, which is where my thought-process started. The gloves worn by the girl in the dusty pink are from Dolce & Gabbana's 'Normans in Sicily' collection (discovering they were there for 200 years, because it was a garrison stopping off point on the way to the crusades is just one of the astonishing history lessons you can learn through fashion). Oh, and the ' Lady Macbeth' bloody glove was borrowed from Hannah Williams, who's just graduated from the RCA this summer,”

It was a roaring success, Mower exclaimed, “So many people volunteered to make a bit of magic happen [which] is totally due to GILES, the girls who wore him so well, MAC and Bumble&Bumble who were there to do hair and makeup and everyone else who loaned clothes. A massive thank you, Giles, for helping make this day so happy and memorable for so many girls. And for me."

Giles Deacon was also invited to talk about his boyhood obsession with nature and how flora and fauna have inspired some of his most memorable creations to date. Meanwhile Game of Thrones star, Gwendoline Christie, together with Production Designer Gemma Jackson and Costume Designer Michele Clapton, discussed the creation of the characters and costumes for their hit TV series that was pivotal to this year’s medieval focus. Gemma Jackson also teamed up with Port Eliot’s Creative Director Michael Howells to create a Dark Age tableaux for re-enactments.

As always, attendees were encouraged to get creative. Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki led drawing classes and Jenny Dyson was on hand to teach children how to make their own clothes. Fashion blogger Susie Bubble and luxe knitwear designer Katie Jones gave audiences a live lesson in crocheting and sustainability, while Production Designer Andrew McAlpine (of The Piano, An Education and Made in Dagenham fame) offered budding film buffs an insight into the machinations of a film set.

The festival also paid homage to its Cornish roots with attendees able to try their hand at everything from fabric fish sewing to lobster pot making and Elle’s Lorraine Candy (a Cornish native) was among the style contingent leading a series of workshops and interviews.

Darren Gerrish/Port Elliot 2015 Darren Gerrish/Port Elliot 2015 Darren Gerrish/Port Elliot 2015 Darren Gerrish/Port Elliot 2015 Darren Gerrish/Port Elliot 2015 Darren Gerrish/Port Elliot 2015 Darren Gerrish/Port Elliot 2015 Susie Bubble Susie Bubble