‘It’s gone, hasn’t it? We’ve sort of lost it,’ he says, shaking his head. ‘I don’t know why it’s happened, but in a way it’s become an age thing. I can think of a lot of women clients of mine who are well into their 50s or 60s who are still quintessentially very elegant. They wear simple, good-quality clothes and they just get it right – but there don’t seem to be any role models among the younger women.’
It’s a rather surprising sentiment from a designer who has counted a number of high-profile celebrities among his clients – Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jemima Khan and Sienna Miller, not to mention that ultimate clothes horse, Diana, Princess of Wales, who for a time cited him as her favourite couturier
Nonetheless, he is adamant: despite the slew of polished, svelte A-listers currently stalking Planet Celebrity, Oldfield, 58, is ‘hard pushed’ to think of anyone who has anything approaching an effortless natural style who is not currently in their sixth or seventh decade.
‘I can think of plenty of women in their 60s, the [Catherine] Deneuves of this world, but I can’t think of any under 50,’ he insists. ‘The only one I can really think of who doesn’t make many mistakes is Princess Caroline of Monaco – she always looks sharp and chic. But then she’s in her early 50s, too.’
Hooray for mature ladies then, hmm? *wink*
But there’s more…
‘I don’t like too much warpaint and hair. I think very few of them have got that pure style that Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly had. It’s the sense of underlying polish that’s often missing,’ he says. ‘If someone’s got good, clean skin, with not too much make-up on, and good, clean hair that’s bouncy, and the nails are clean and not overly done, then you can put anything on her and she’s going to look good.
‘I don’t like to see serried ranks of the same dress in ten different sizes. It drives me to despair, in fact. It’s hard to see anything and get excited – it just makes it look like everyone and her mother is going to have the same frock. There’s a lot of rubbish out there and people accept it. It’s a case of doing it properly and not taking the mickey out of customers.’ Most people, it must be said, don’t seem to mind – if they can get a top for £10 they don’t expect, or perhaps more pertinently, couldn’t care less about, quality stitching.
Now, if anything, it is almost a badge of honour among the shopping public that their clothes are cheaper than a round of drinks. ‘There’s definitely this feeling with the English that it’s kudos to have found something cheap and they think they’re fooling everybody. But things that are cheap usually look cheap,’ he insists.
I rather concur. “Letting it all hang out,” is fine as an attitude of honesty; but when it comes to fashion, it’s, well, casual Friday every day & everywhere. It’s ruined many-a-thing.
But then, hasn’t the designer heard of foundation garments?
‘My aim was, and is, to flatter. It always has been. My clothes do well because they’ve got structure – they look soft on the outside but they’re hard on the inside, they’ve got things to pull you in, bottoms and tummies etc, and people like that. My aim is to make you look the best you can and if that means a little bit of internal pulling and hoisting up, then so be it.’
I daresay all the looks he loves are due to proper foundation garments.