Bring on the
Q. What do you get if you cross a 1920s pair of spats, with an innovative 21st century designer? A. The seductive splendour that is: Strumpets.
his was my first encounter with Strumpets: A striking hand-made leather amalgamation of legwarmers and footless boots. And I have to admit I was very excited. The brains behind Strumpets, is British Designer Elizabeth Melinek. I had arranged to meet her at London Fashion Weekend, which annually transforms the Natural History Museum into a fashionista’s paradise. Hundreds of beautiful young creatures, armed with their plastic are hungry to find a designer bargain. Watching this army of women shop, you could be forgiven for thinking the economists were very wrong and credit crunch was actually a type of breakfast cereal! My instructions were to phone on arrival and Melinek would come and meet me at the entrance: “I’ll be carrying a baby, in a space invaders jump suit,” she advises. Which I must note, was one cool outfit. Melinek immediately strikes you as a woman that knows what she wants, petite, but forceful. She is the only person to have been brave enough to bring her beautiful baby son with her,
although admittedly with a babysitter. She later asks the latter to take him to Harrods to look at the toys adding to me, quite unsettled: “I’ve never left him with anyone else, I feel terrible – he just wants his mum right now.” But his mum is in high demand. Juggling the joys of motherhood with an incredibly successful business must be tough, but Melinek looks as though she is a woman who can juggle. Against the regular rails of clothing at London Fashion Weekend, her creations stood out as something new and seductively sexy. Worn over a variety of shoes, Strumpets can transform a look, but still fit neatly in your handbag. With pair upon pair lined up temptingly in a beautiful variety of colours and designs, they screamed to be touched. I watched as these little treasures cast a seductive spell over passers-by and realised not only were they a fantastic product, they were also a fantastic business idea. Melinek studied garment design at London College of fashion and noted she had always made her own clothes. The idea for Strumpets, she explains: “was a 3am moment, the night before a
The idea for Strumpets, “was a 3am moment...”
party. I was chopping up a pair of really boring boots, when I had the idea to customise them into Spats.” Being a fourth-generation tailor, her talent is obviously in her blood and it seems that Spats were too... Melinek discovered an extraordinary 1920s black and white photograph in an old box of family keepsakes in the attic of her turn of the century terrace home. It showed her great grandfather outside his tailor shop, wearing traditional spats. “He was a Polish immigrant, a leather craftsman, and I think he made spats,” she added. After moving to London in the early 1900s, he set up shop literally round the corner from Melinek’s Boutique in Brick Lane. “It’s quite bizarre really, I often imagine what he was like and who his customers would have been,” she says thoughtfully. “My mother was also a tailor, so I grew up surrounded by dressmaker’s dolls, sewing machines and amazing materials. It just seemed natural to me to be cutting and stitching.” This was all the inspiration Melinek needed and she set to work on a basic design. She experimented with different materials including printed leather, laser-cut suede, and Toscana sheepskin – zips, buckles and delicate corsetstyle lace. Her first showing at Premier Classe Fashion Fair in Paris, was a huge success, with Selfridges and Coco De Mer snapping up her collection. Strumpets are now supported in 16 countries and Gwen Stefani is also a big
fan, which is testament in itself. However Melinek’s crowning moment came when her designs captured the eye of fashion’s grand matriarch, Vivienne Westwood. “I knew I’d made it when I saw my Strumpets being marched down the catwalk – It was a defining moment in my career and I realised all the hard work had paid off.” According to the Oxford dictionary, a ‘strumpet’ is a ‘promiscuous woman’. The name is genius, encapsulating not only the product itself, but how the owner will feel once they laceup these empowering garments. When asked about how the name came about, Melinek confidently replies, “As I laced up my first pair, the name just came to me. I loved it and knew it worked perfectly!” Strumpets are designed for every woman and therefore come in three aptly named sizes; petite, athletic or voluptuous. “Everything about them is designed to make the owner feel confident and sexy,” advises Melinek. Men however, have not been forgotten... with the creation of ‘Stalkers’. Melinek adds: “These are Strumpets with a harder edge, a much more stylish option to bicycle clips.” When asked about her plans for the future, Melinek assures me that she currently has her work cut out meeting the high demand of orders she already has for Strumpets: “Being hand-made, a lot of time and energy goes into every pair.” Melinek also creates other lavish accessories too, including - jewellery, bags and vintage style waist clinchers. So is your inner strumpet enticed? If so, you can head down to the boutique in Shoreditch or if you really want to spoil yourself, contact Elizabeth Melinek direct, for a custom made pair. Prices start at £99 per pair.
The Strumpets Boutique is open on Brick Lane,
linek lizabeth Me
10am-6pm Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Visit www.strumpets.co.uk 11
NNOUVEAU Issue 5, January 2009
The Vintage Glamour Edition
Maya Hansen Elizabeth Melinek The Citizens Band