Welcome to the fourth edition to this little series about the amazing talent that Winchester, my home town, has nurtured into high-flying success stories of fashion. Please give it up for Ruth Walker… not only is she one of the most dedicated workers I’ve ever met and an amazingly talented wardrobe mistress, she is also one of my closest friends. Lucky me! Here’s my interview with her conducted for Winchester Fashion Week:
Name: Ruth Walker
Work: Freelance Wardrobe Mistress
Connection to Winchester: Grew up in Winchester
Bio: Ruth studied Fashion with Marketing at East London and found her first graduate position in a distribution company. After a year or so she realised that her real passion was in costume and decided to retrain. After taking a Costume for Stage and Screen course at St Martins Ruth became freelance and began doing dressing for the theatre. Now Ruth works as a freelance Wardrobe Mistress and has worked with prestigious companies such as The Royal Shakespeare Company and Opera North. This summer Ruth will be working at The Holland Park Opera’s after previous successful seasons with them.
As someone who has grown up in Winchester, how do you think it has influenced your personal style?
Winchester creates an atmosphere which allows you to experiment with all kinds of styles, you can be casual, smart, retro, dressed to the 9’s, wherever you go there will be a mix of styles and a very chilled atmosphere.
You’re shopping on Winchester high street, what are you wearing?
Comfortable shoes! I always spend hours wondering round, there are so many good shops, which stock good basics and ‘on trend’ must haves, which saves you from having to sort through masses of rails. I also make sure I have an easy outfit for the changing rooms, jeans and T-shirt or dress and legging something which isn’t going to drive you crazy taking off and putting back on again.
As someone who studied fashion but now works in costume what advice would you give a young student now who’s not sure which way to turn?
Make sure you utilise all your skills, you’d be amazed what skills can be transferred from one industry to another, and don’t forget skills you have from part–time work, summer jobs, and charity work; like handling cash, working with the public, even filing, these jobs all show you can handle a task and understand attention to detail.
Winchester Fashion Week’s 2012 theme is Best of British and in a costume career you often deal with all sorts of traditional dress. How important is it to have a good understanding of the history of fashion as a fashion or costume student now?
It’s vital! You’d be amazed at the mistakes that are made even on large-scale TV and film production. The biggest problem is that many performers will have no idea how restrictive period costume can be and will try to move as they would in jeans and T-shirt, so it’s not just making sure the look is right it’s working with the cast to make sure they can fulfil their roles on stage without destroying the costume or fainting.
Who is your favourite British designer and high street brand?
My favourite designer would be Vivienne Westwood, her collections are very dramatic, she takes inspiration for the past and recreate with a modern twist. I also admire her work ethos, she’s worked her way from a small shop too an international super designer. Oasis would have to be my favourite high street brand I know I’m always going to find something which will suit my shape, that’s what fashion is all about, work out what styles work with what you’ve been given and always keep adding, try new colours, accessories, shoes, hair, make up, have fun! That’s what fashion should be about.