While the whole big world knows the style sway held by Kates Moss and Middleton, fashion-focused folk fixate on Kate Phelan, whose feminine, wearably daring clothing sensibility should be in your inner inspiration files if it’s not already. Phelan dropped out of Central Saint Martins for an assistant position at British Vogue in 1987 and eventually became the fashion director. She stayed for 18 years, conspiring with photographers such as Nick Knight and Tim Walker to create unforgettable stories such as the Northern Mongolia editorial where she drew the fantastical out of luxurient layers while staying just this side of costume-y, so you could dream yourself onto that white reindeer.
Then, in a surprise move that made waves in the front rows, Phelan left in 2011 to become creative director of Topshop, overhauling the retailer’s product development and visuals, and adding warmth and specialness to its uncannily on-trend quick-fixers. And, in a “then…and then again” play, this past spring she rejoined the magazine while maintaining her role at the high-street house.
“I love my job at Topshop, but I was struggling with not creating a story for a shoot,” Phelan explains. “I’m going to continue as creative director but reduce the amount of time that I’ll be there. I will be quite eyes-on-everything, if not always hands-on. And then at Vogue I’m going to contribute about six stories a season, but it’s more [involved] than just freelancing.” As she starts to navigate the intricacies of her new, self styled (how apt!) career niche, one thing is certain: She’ll hold even greater influence over what women want to wear. “The whole point of a magazine for me is to inspire you and give you this incredible vision. I love pictures―they should make you want to tear them out and stick them on the wall.”
Hooked On Phelan
“We’ve taken the idea of outerwear from British classics [and] some worker utility ideas and added a real softness and a bit of a luxury in there. It’s all about opposites working together.”―Kate Phelan on the latest Topshop Unique collection