Jenny Packham has had it all week. When we log on, she’s on her way to the United States to celebrate the capsule collection she designed for the 60th anniversary of the James Bond franchise, consisting of six dramatic dresses inspired by a movie from each decade. Most notably, Packham set the internet on fire on Tuesday when his riff on The golden finger was worn by the Duchess of Cambridge at the London premiere of No time to die, here reinvented as a cape dress with a dazzling explosion of golden sequins, crystals and glittery tulle. When it comes to promoting a new collection, it doesn’t get better than that.
With her return to the glamor that hit the headlines, it looks like the Duchess is ready to put her dancing shoes back on – and thankfully, so is Packham. “Everyone I’m talking to right now is talking about dressing up and going out, and I think you’re really designing for people to escape all of the burdens of life right now,” she says. “After the year we’ve had, there are even more reasons to design in a much more free-spirited way. I can’t give more gravity, that’s just what we do. This is our job.
For Spring, that energy was channeled in a way that felt lighter in a literal and metaphorical sense. First of all, the color scheme. Packham moved away from the heavily glittery jewel tones of recent seasons and moved on to something fresh for the lips, from pastel blues and peach pinks to a delicate ombre tulle that went from pale yellow to a wispy white. Second, textiles. Lurex chiffon was draped in a loose-sleeved Greek dress that floated in the studio’s artificial breeze, while the crepe silks were lightly sprinkled with teardrop-shaped sequins that managed to feel ethereal rather than heavy.
For Packham, this feeling of lightness was not only embodied in the look and feel of the clothes; it was also the philosophical backbone of the collection. In a more cerebral reference than her usual odes to Old Hollywood or classic English glamor, her starting point came after she re-read Milan Kundera’s novel. The eternal lightness of being– one of his favorites since his days at Central Saint Martins – and began to think about how Kundera’s characters negotiate double pleasure and instant gratification with the responsibilities of adulthood.
“I think as a designer, especially right now, people want more depth,” Packham explains. “In the book, Milan Kundera explains how you have a choice in life: you can either subscribe to that burden of commitment that gives you long-term and stable contentment, or you can go for this lighter, more free and without responsibility. and the ups and downs that come with it. For such a light collection, that sounds like heady stuff – not that it matters much to her loyal clientele, for whom these delightfully playful dresses will still be catnip. Yet with her astute ability to balance whimsy with commercial flair, which side of the Packham fence is she sitting on? Always a diplomat, she adds, smiling: “For me, it’s a combination of the two.