Born: Southampton, England, 3 November 1965. Education: Studied at Southampton Art College, 1982-84; studied textile and fashion design at St. Martin's College of Art, London, 1984-88 (1st class honors). Career: Designer/director, Packham Anderson Ltd., from 1988. Exhibitions: London Designers Exhibition, 2001. Address: Zoomphase Ltd., The Imperial Works, 2nd Floor, Perren Street, London NW5 3ED England.
Hepple, Keith, "Jenny Packham," in DR (London), September 1991.
Yusuf, Nilgin, "Designer's Inspirations," in Joyce (Hong Kong), 1991 Holiday Issue.
Tait, James, "Don't Change a Thing, Carol," in the Sunday Mirror (London), 12 December 2000.
Dent, Grace, "Who the Nell Would Wear This?" in the Sunday Mirror (London), 8 July 2001.***
British designer Jenny Packham's early training as a textile designer became an important influence on her later eveningwear. Her first collection of 12 short evening gowns was created entirely in black and white silk, with a bold print of musical instruments. The short evening dress continued to be the principal style in her collections, although full-length dresses were introduced in 1992. She also began designing wedding gowns in the 1990s.
Although the shapes of Packham's dresses remain essentially simple, their construction is complex and owes much to Christian Dior's designs of the 1950s, featuring intricate seaming, linings, and boning. Dress panels were lined with stiff organdy to create fullness, bodices had boned seams for a corseted effect, and full skirts were created with layer upon layer of stiff netting. A typical example of Packham's short evening dresses was a fitted torso, full skirt, and fichu neckline or short sleeves. Her theory that women want to look glamorous by night, with emphasis placed on the bustline and waist, has been a recurring feature of Packham's designs. She also placed an emphasis on comfort, which she believes is vital for eveningwear.
Although the styling of Packham's designs evolves gradually from one season to the next, the colors and textiles change dramatically. The designer acknowledges that eveningwear by tradition is less susceptible to major changes in fashion and thus unusual colors and fabric combinations play a central role in her designs. Packham often draws upon the works of famous artists, including Gaudi, Miro, and van Gogh, as inspiration for her use of color. Bold prints decorate the full skirts of her gowns, with designs based on such themes as harlequin checks, playing cards, and giant florals. Packham's use of rich fabrics and colors has been likened to that of Christian Lacroix, and costly fabrics such as embroidered brocades, silk taffetas, satins, and silk gazars have featured heavily in her collections.
Traditional styling married to contemporary prints and color combinations is the essence of Packham's design formula, and this theme is continued through to the Jenny Packham Sequel collection of less expensive dresses, which echoed the shapes and colors of the main collection. Like the latter collection, Jenny Packham Sequel items are also produced in the United Kingdom by a small factory, supplemented by out-of-factory workers. The Sequel collection opened up a new market for her designs in the U.S., already one of her principal export markets, where her collection is sold through prestigious stores such as Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. Packham's designs are favored by stars such as Sharon Stone, Shirley Bassey, and Nell McAndrew, the six-foot Amazon model who was the original face of Tomb Raider 's Lara Croft. McAndrew showed up at the British premiere of Arnold Schwarzenegger's movie, The Sixth Day in a Packham creation.
Packham's success in the American market, where her collections are widely sold, proved her theory that there was a gap in the middle market for eveningwear which was sophisticated yet still youthful, and sexy in a humorous way. In the last six or so years, however, Packham has become best known for her wedding dress lines. Her Desire collection focuses on cut, shaping, attention to detail, and understated glamor. The white, shimmery dresses range from off-the-shoulder wrapped fronts to a meshed blouse look. Packham obviously designs these lovely dresses to make the bride feel special and comfortable, and they allow the bride to be enhanced rather than distracted while wearing her creations.
In October 2000, Packham was the guest designer for Evangeline Rose Exclusive Bridal Designs, and her creations have been carried by the best London couture houses (Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Debenhams), next to those of Mori Lee, Rena Koh, Katherine Jane, Sally Bee, and Lady Grace. She also created the Empire line of bridal dresses, including a stylish number called Kansas, a short-sleeved Empire-line dress with delicate beading around the neckline and a fine georgette overlay on the skirt. The Empire line also features organza and organza-and-rose skirts.
Highly active in England, France, Italy, and the U.S., Packham is represented by Flax PR, a public relations firm specializing in the design industry. Their client list includes not only Jenny Packham but also Agatha, Ballantyne, BHS, Fenn Wright Manson, Petit Bateau, Jane Packer, Katharine Hamnett, Land's End, Marilyn Moore, Toast, and Bridgewater.
updated by Daryl F. Mallett