Designer profile: Frost French
Melissa Mostyn looks at Frost French, the fashion design duo with a celebrity following in its midst.
Sadie Frost was always my kind of girl…
Loyal friends, hip lifestyle, devoted husband, great beauty, determined outlook, masses of children, cool postcode, pop-star associations, art-house tendencies, and most of all a natural flair for self-styling, regardless of whether she was pregnant or not: the actress/film producer/socialite/fashion designer once seemed to have it all. Maybe I feel an affinity with her because we’re both brunettes, but she has exactly the attitude I like. She always comes across as that little bit aloof, yet slightly scuffed, like a prom queen after a quick fumble in the school locker-room. Yet in the flesh, she’s so approachable.
OK, so the marriage is no more and she’s not above depression and toy-boy tomfoolery, but what do you expect from a girl with a liberal communal upbringing? At least she’s doing one thing right and that’s FrostFrench. In partnership with her best friend Jemima French, whom she’s known since they met as 15-year-olds at a Dalston squat party, she has been casting out visions of girlish naughtiness since 1999 when the duo first began with vanilla- and rose-scented ribbon-tie briefs.
No formal training – just plenty of commitment
Neither designer being formally trained, Frost French bases its runaway success on a combination of commitment, hard work, consistent bright ideas, styling flair and a feel for the zeitgeist. Obviously its marketability has been boosted no end by Sadie’s celebrity friends, but in a world full of Heat readers what harm can some free publicity do? Matthew Williamson does it all the time and he was a nobody, at least to begin with.
To be fair, Frost French operated until this year from Jemima French’s own kitchen and was initially financed with only £5,000 like most fashion businesses. With the belated recruitment of an accountant and children to care for in mind, credit must be given to the duo’s resolute dedication to their own project. As Holly Davidson, Frost’s little sister, quips, “Sadie’s doing her fashion label. I don’t know whether she’s returning to acting.”
Originally a small mail-order lingerie company intended to help Sadie combine motherhood and work (an opportunity that Natural Nylon, her film production company, didn’t provide), Frost French just took off, expanded into clothing, and now takes repeat orders worldwide including the UK, Europe, Asia and the United States. So what’s the secret formula?
A ’present-day London’ style
Far from being a blend of ice-cool queenliness with Gallic sauce as the name implies – Frost French is quintessentially present-day London: you can detect in their collections a twang of Primrose Hill, with either a hint of saucy Soho or a twinge of raffish Hackney. These are clothes for well-bred London girls not afraid of getting into high jinks.
Such disparate influences could jar, but somehow Frost French works, because the two friends are able to tune into each other’s wavelengths despite polar tastes, like Yin and Yang. They have four children each, are the same age (37), and have been often remarked on as looking very similar. Frost is the harder-edged half, spawning mainly boys, with a preference for androgynous dressing and sharp lines; French is more benign, with mainly female offspring, and loves frills, sweetness and the colour pink.
Together they create an image of a woman empowered by her own renewed femininity post-motherhood – often with surprising results.
And the new collection embodies that image. Next spring promises ’grown-up clothes for grown-up women’, according to The Evening Standard’s Laura Craik. Airy chiffons, halterneck bikinis, lacy lingerie, tea dresses and pin-tucked pinafores come in a variety of muted biscuit tones, either plain or in gently-infused paisley prints, teamed with Forties-style wedges, with washed silk giving the odd romper-suit unexpected sophistication.
Brazen offerings on show
Not even these good girls can escape the lure of wicked whispers, however: the appearance of kinky Spandex cut-away swimsuits, fetishized black PVC inflatable arm-bands and rings, together with the pearlised pastel rubber raincoats that complemented some of the more demure creations, hint at clandestine going-ons too shocking for words.
Watching the show from your cocktail table in place of the customary cramped bench at the Royal Horticultural Hall in London SW1 last week, you could imagine the stunned murmurings evoked by such brazen offerings were we living in a bygone wartime era.
Although the presentation was relatively conservative, the tendency to subvert that even slightly was typical of Frost French. Indeed, they relish playing up the raunch factor whenever possible: they’ve named their Debenhams lingerie range Floozie, and in the last four seasons, instead of the traditional catwalk format they have choreographed a strip-tease play, a pole-dancing show and a filmed all-girl circus proclaiming ’the greatest show on earth.’
“Sadie likes to do more imaginative presentations than simply sending girls down the catwalk because Frost French clothes are for everyone,” a spokesperson for the label has said before. “It isn’t an elite, untouchable label like some that are presented in catwalk shows.”
What did I tell you? Just my kind of girl.
By Melissa Mostyn