|12 Oct 2023
Press cuttings charting the controversial catwalk show were among the treasure trove of memories rediscovered by the much-loved teacher as she cleared her desk this summer ahead of her retirement after 36 years at LEH.
Louise Finlay, Class of 1998, who was 17 at the time, and Kitty McKibbin, Class of 2000, then aged 15, were the two pupils from LEH selected to take part in the catwalk show which opened London Fashion Week back in 1997. More than 25 years on, and Louise is now a Marketing Strategist based in Miami, while Kitty is an Interior Designer and runs her own design studio in London.
No stranger to controversy, the doyenne of British fashion Vivienne Westwood asked her team to visit four independent girls’ schools to find “well-bred English Roses” to model her new ready-to-wear Red Label collection aimed at the younger buyer.
The use of underage models generated coverage in The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian and Paris Match. The headlines labelled those that took part as “Lolitas in tweed” and “catwalk schoolgirls”. But in actual fact, there wasn’t a raised hem, plunging neckline or punk safety pin in sight and the young models were accompanied by their parents at all times.
“There was such excitement when the casting session was announced in assembly,” recalls Mrs Angliss. “A long stream of girls formed, all eager to sign up. The casting was held after school and was attended by more than 100 enthusiastic pupils. Talent spotters drew up a shortlist of 12 pupils, who were photographed and tried on shoes and so on. The two students who were finally picked to take part were absolutely delighted and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.”
The fashion show was held at the Dorchester Hotel in front of an audience of 600, including Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall. After it hit the headlines for its use of teenage girls Head Mistress Miss Candy told The Guardian: “We made sure a full explanation of how it was going to be dealt with was made to us, such as supervision and the sort of people the girls would meet. The way it was organised was very professional and there is a great difference between young girls taking on a full-time modelling career and a girl modelling in a one-off.”
The press cuttings will now be stored for posterity in the LEH School archives.