Two girls, two leather lace-up dresses and one moment of true romance.
by Mimi Wade
Reading time 10 Minutes
Baby-doll dresses decorated with Girl on a Motorcycle, Devil Girl from Mars and The Last Woman on Earth poster art. ‘Dial M for Mimi’ angora sweaters and lace-trimmed ‘Mimimount’ logo t-shirts. A cherry print gown with ‘Suggested for Mature Audiences’ emblazoned across the frilly chest… No doubt about it: designer Mimi Wade is obsessed with Hollywood, B movies and film noir; we have her grandmother Pamela Curran, a former glamour girl of the silver screen, to thank for that.
Kitsch cinema meets super-cute fashion? Mimi was always a no-brainer for this project and I promptly commissioned her to design an outfit inspired by Chained Girls. Her reaction to the film was refreshing. Rather than focusing on any lurid lesploitation elements, Mimi wanted to zoom-in on the one thing missing from the entire 65-minute production: a genuine, truthful connection between lovers. Back at her studio, she began creating two leather lace-up dresses, one black and one white, made specifically for her friends Bee Beardsworth and Daisy Maybe, and covered in a screen-print of their caressing hands. The result, photographed by artist Kingsley Ifill, captures a private, sensual moment between a real couple.
Here, Mimi discusses designing for pleasure not practicality, the hazards of beauty and brains, and just what Marlon Brando did to her grandmother on the set of The Chase…
How would you describe your work?
Ultra-feminine, sexy clothes with a sense of humour and an emphasis on textile and print.
What elements of Chained Girls inspired the two dresses you created?
Chained Girls is narrated by a bloke with all these hilarious pseudo facts about lesbians and kitschy terminology for the different types of gay women – ‘baby butch’, ‘bull dyke’, you get the picture. The women in the film have no voice, so that’s why I wanted to use my friends Bee and Daisy and make this project very much about them and their relationship. With the designs, I responded to the sexy, trashy, funny parts of Chained Girls, which I loved. It was important to bring all those aspects into the designs but for them to be rooted in something more authentic.
What was the process of making the dresses?
I used Japanese leather, which is super soft and light. I always keep the raw edge and have lace slips poking through underneath, it’s my signature. The lace is from Sophie Hallette in Paris. The dress and top are fastened with rouleau loops up the back and laced with velvet ribbon. They take a long time to get on and off… these pieces were designed with pleasure not practicality in mind!
Who has had the biggest influence on your work?
My Granny Pammy has been a big influence, and my mum and godmother Dominique L’Olive.
Your grandmother, Pamela Curran, is quite a character…
Yes, my granny had an amazing life. She was a beautiful debutante, on the cover of Life magazine aged 17, married and divorced a year later, a single teenage mother. There were slandering articles written about her, because she chose to follow her dreams and went against social expectations. But she’s never cared what anyone else thinks; she’s always been this defiant, sexy, funny, strong, talented woman. She says she never made it big-time in Hollywood because her motto was ‘ne touchez pas’. But she was still in some iconic films and shows like The Blob, The Man from U.N.C.L.E and I Dream of Jeannie. She comes on the TV from time to time when I’m visiting her in LA, and she still remembers all her lines and acts along. Movie posters adorn every inch of her wall space, along with pictures from her heyday and her own paintings – naïve landscapes that look like Chagall meets Anna Nicole Smith.
Any good stories from her time in Hollywood?
When she did The Chase with Marlon Brando, he came up to her on set and asked, ‘Are your breasts padded?’ because her boobs were so enormous and her waist so small he didn’t think it was possible! She went back to her trailer to find all her clothes on the floor, as she says ‘like a cheetah had torn the place up’. Turns out he had been checking all the busts of her dresses to see if his inclinations were correct. It’s an amusing story but the reality of that harassment everyday when you’re trying to do your job must have been exhausting. It’s quite sad actually because she ended up having a boob reduction and dying her hair brown in an attempt to get more serious roles. I went to see a documentary about Jayne Mansfield the other day and I felt my granny went through similar struggles. Mansfield was a violin-playing intellectual who spoke five languages but if you’re that sexy you can’t possibly be clever too, right? I think people still have trouble with those things coexisting.
Who would you love to dress and why?
Sofia Coppola. She’s directed my favourite films of all time.
INTERVIEW Hannah Lack
Bee and Daisy Gallery
Photography by Kingsley Ifill
Granny Pammy Photo Album
Mimi Wade graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2015 with a BA Fashion Print. She made her London Fashion Week debut the following year with talent incubator Fashion East, presenting an Autumn/Winter 2016 collection of intricately hand-painted leather party dresses. For Spring/Summer 2017 she showcased ‘Mimimount’, a collection inspired by her grandmother’s Hollywood home; the following season she held her first runway show at Tate Modern. Recently, Mimi was appointed Contributing Fashion Editor of Tatler and launched a ‘Polly Pocket’ capsule collection.