Remember the Ra-Ra skirt ?, I remember being a bridesmaid at my sisters wedding back in the 80s. I wore a turquoise Ra Ra skirt outfit from M&S and felt amazing.
Well I was lucky enough and oh so privileged recently to interview the joint creator of the Ra-Ra and Midi skirt, and of course the person responsible for many other amazing pieces of fashion history.
The “Gifi Fields”…………….
Real clothing is genuine – designed with emotion, sincerity and love – is true, brings joy, is a pleasure,”
Gifi owns Coppernob, a fashion house located in London that sells their collections to Retailers such as Miss Selfridges where they had a very popular collection called “Ginger nut” . He has also been very successful in Topshop , Harrods and of course with the new fuller figure range “Scarlet & Jo” at Evans.
Coppernob’s current brand range includes “Scarlet & Jo” at Evans, “KT Maternity” at ASOS, and “Julia” at Tescos.
Gifi Says “The Ra-Ra skirt was created with Angela Stone who is a designer I worked with from about 1979. She had an obsession with tu-tus. We simply made one first in a single jersey and then made one in a printed soft fabric, a lot of time was spent on the dimensions. Sold out in Top Shop in 3 hours in February 1981. It was crazy.”
So onto the questions ……………….
Qu1 – Janie B – How old were you when you came up with your first business idea, what was it and was it successful?
Gifi “I was very young, do we count lemonade stands, if so California as an 8 year old. Yes it was successful. Seriously though, I had a lot of success with the Ragfreak and Gingernut labels I started more than 40 years plus years ago when I was 19. I worked very, very hard and sold a majority shareholding when I got into trouble to a business partner, I was 23. I learned a lot more about business administration which is all important. Fail out left and started Coppernob just before my 25th birthday, ”
Qu2 – Janie B - Do you find fashion to be a closed shop or do you think its easier than it was to break into the industry.
Gifi ” I think the mass market is virtually a closed shop and it’s very unhealthy. However, it is opening through the Internet and producers with nous and hard work there are opportunities but not as great as mine in the late 60’s early 70’s.”
Qu3 – Janie B - You seem to be a bit of a romanticist at heart and are well know in the fashion industry for innovative designs. Where do you think your inspiration comes from?
Gifi - “My childhood really. Women have always inspired me. I am more than a bit of a romanticist. I am unashamedly so, my job is to create and deliver fantasy and to some extent illusion that enhances female form and femininity. I try to create an easy to carry/wear image that a woman can project. A lot of the stuff we do is simple. It’s all in the cut. ”
Qu4 – Janie B – Why did you decide to invest and go into the fuller figure market with the collection “Scarlet & Jo”?
Gifi – “Yeah, that is interesting in that I got involved through luck in timing when Evans launched their shape initiative. Strictly speaking I am not a designer, I am more of a tailoring engineer. I had done some things for Evans back in the 80’s basically we were very big, in fact enormous with Top Shop at the time, and one of their directors goaded me to do it, and I have always been a bit of show off. So I had a bit of insight. The business imperative was the close shop. The way the high street is set up is preventative from a lot of great product ever seeing the light of day because it doesn’t fit in with the stories or themes set by retail design departments. It is not about the product, it’s about whether the product fits cohesively into the product range story. I can have great product but no retailers who want to buy, distribute and sell it.
With the Evans thing, I had been a very big player at DP for many years, I felt about the time that they were going down the wrong product route, said so, and they gave me the opportunity to develop a brand for them called Billie & Blossom which became a hugely successful in over 400 stores and online and it became political and I was subject to a lot of interference with the product ranges, back at square one. I approached Evans, I needed a challenge, there was a deal to be done that would suit both of us. There is no greater pleasure for a designer than to have collections well received. The whole Internet thing has been very important as it’s pretty instant the blogging community are customers, critical reviewers, model it gringo it to life.
We launched with the powerfit illusion dresses and they were an overnight sensation. Think I got sucked into it, carried away a bit. You know Evans have been very supportive. Our mandate is broadly speaking 20 -35 year olds attitudinally.
To my delight I discovered that there was a like for vintage and retro. I am walking retro in the sense that I was an original supplier to Top Shop and Miss S in 1970. The late 60’s and 70’s looks were really retro with exponents like Barbara H at Biba; Ozzie Clark and the other designers at Radley, where the background was more hippy and hand painting; tie and dyeing. Alot of my girlfriends were designers and the other were into clothes and that was a big influence on me.”
Qu5 – Janie B – How do you build a cult brand ?
“Gifi” – “I wish i knew, never thought of it like that, niche sometimes works re a destination brand exclusive At Evans.”
Qu6 – Janie B – Out of all the pieces that you have created which one has given you the most satisfaction?
“Gifi” – “The first velvet maxi , but really there has been so many. The 2 in 1prom series. The current Oriental print prom in midnight. The entire 40’s dress series. The fit & flare series. The hanky hem fit and flare.
Qu7 – Janie B – Is it harder to stay on top, once you get there than it is to rise to the top?
“Gifi” – ” Yep, the reason that it is, is because you always have to meet customer expectations as a minimum and they grow. You have to hit the mark consistently every time.”
Qu8 – Janie B – Are you still up for the challenge Gifi :0)?
“Gifi” – “Gosh yes and more than ever. Its fantastic but we have so many hurdles to get over. It takes a lot of years work and all my guys sharing the vision and being exact in execution.”
So thank-you to Gifi Fields for his honesty and humor , such an interesting chappie and hopefully we will cross paths soon. Enjoy all xx
Janie Bs favorite Scarlet & Jo creations:
Coppernob Fashions – http://www.coppernob-fashion.com
Scarlet & Jo - https://www.facebook.com/ScarlettandJo