Born: Gravesend, Kent, England, 4 March 1950. Education: Northfleet Secondary School; studied at Medway College of Design, 1966-68, and at Hornsey College of Art (now Middlesex University), London, 1968-71; first-class honours. Family: Married Jonathan Prew in August 1973. Career: Designer, Radley, 1971-72; founder, designer, Wendy Dagworthy Ltd, 1972-88; joined London Designer Collections, 1975, director, 1982-90; lecturer in fashion from 1972, including Royal College of Art, London; course director on Fashion BA course at Central St Martin's College of Art and Design, London, 1989; freelance designer and consultant, Laura Ashley, 1992; exhibitor at Victoria and Albert Museum, London; member of British Fashion Council management committee; speaker at the Fashion Conference, Lagos, Nigeria, 1992; design consultant for Betty Jackson, Liberty Retail Ltd., and Liberty International, 1996-present; Professor of Fashion, the Royal College of Art, London, 1998-present; speaker at many industry functions. Awards: Fil D'Or International Linen award, Monte Carlo, 1985. Address: 18 Melrose Terrace, London W6, England.
Polan, Brenda, "The Discreet Charms of a Dagworthy," in The Guardian (London), 12 November 1981.
"Influences: Wendy Dagworthy," in Women's Journal (London), April 1984.
Polan, Brenda, "British Open," in The Guardian (London), 21 March 1985.
——, "Natural Leaders," in The Guardian (London), 25 April 1986.
"Face to Face," in Creative Review (London), June 1986.
"Dagworthy Goes Under," in Fashion Weekly (London), 24 November 1988.
"The Learning Curve," in Drapers Record, 29 May 1993.
Duffy, Martha, "On the Cutting Edge," in Time, 11 November 1996.
Roux, Caroline, "How a Small London Art School Quietly Colonized the World," in Metropolis (London), October 1999.***
For nearly 20 years Wendy Dagworthy produced bright, easy, wearable separates and established herself as one of the most successful British designers in the wacky world of 1980s fashion. Her style was always distinctive and colourful, incorporating cheerful mixtures of fabrics, patterns, textures and an attention to fine detail; "You wear them, they don't wear you," was Dagworthy's fashion philosophy.
She formed her company in 1972 after one year as a designer for the wholesale firm Radley and a year after graduating from the Hornsey College of Art fashion course, with a first-class honours degree. There was an immediate consumer demand for Dagworthy's designs, and prestigious international stores soon placed orders. Italy, in particular, proved a lucrative outlet for her very English look and during the early 1980s she was exporting nearly half of her total output to that country.
Dagworthy loved to use vibrant colours and prints, embroidered Caribbean style batiks, mixed with stripes or swirling floral designs in fuchsia, scarlet, and orange. Favourite fabrics were mohairs, strongly textured woven wools, and wool baratheas. Her most popular, signature garments were oversize wool coats, back buttoning smocks, circular skirts, and gathered skirts with boldly tied waists, teamed with easy cardigans or wide-cropped jackets. The menswear collections, introduced in the early 1980s adhered to the same lively, colourful themes and quickly emulated the success of the womenswear, being comfortable and easy to wear.
Dagworthy was always been a strong supporter of British fashion design. In 1975 she joined the London Designer Collections, a prestigious collaboration of British designers, supporting and promoting their industry, and became a director in 1982. She was active in British fashion education, both as a lecturer and assessor, participating in design competitions like the Royal Society of Arts awards and the British Fashion awards. She also appeared regularly as fashion consultant to television shows like The Clothes Show, Frocks on the Box, and Good Morning America.
Wendy Dagworthy Ltd. exhibited their seasonal collections at trade shows in London, Milan, New York, and Paris. Her international reputation strengthened each season and her work was recognized with several awards including the Fil d'Or International Linen award in 1985. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London even displays a Wendy Dagworthy outfit in their permanent costume collection.
Dagworthy closed her business in 1988 and in the following year became the course director for the BA fashion program at London's Central St. Martin's College of Art and Design, where she remained until 1998. During her tenure, she was instrumental in solidifying the reputation of one of the best-known and most brash fashion schools in the world. In 1998 she became the head professor of fashion at the Royal College of Art, the world's sole postgraduate-only university of art and design, where she has remained. Her impact on the fashion program was evident immediately; critics at the RCA's well-received fashion show in 1999 noted her influence.
updated by KarenRaugust