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The doyenne of British fashion talks Ascot style

GOD knows how I’ll manage to be in heels for Ascot,” says Amanda Wakeley, OBE for services to British fashion, savvy businesswoman and recent recipient of knee surgery following daredevil skiing.

Something tells me that she’ll rock flats just fine. After all, her clothing line – which she learned to design the old fashioned way beginning by playing with needles and thread as a child – was cherished by Princess Diana and is championed by the likes of Dame Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Demi Moore, Charlize Theron and Helen Hunt. It’s a collection of voluptuous, silky robes that evoke powerful, contemporary goddesses. She has also created a great collection for business women.

Wakeley is one of the London fashion world’s most luminous stars, with a high-born drawl – she is the daughter of the second Baronet of Liss, after all. And so it’s perfectly fitting that she’s one of the designers being featured at Ascot this year, in the race meet’s surprisingly excellent fashion show, which also features Vivienne Westwood and milliner Stephen Jones. We caught up with her this week.

WHY ASCOT?
“Ascot is the event of the British summer social season, so it’s great for fashion. For me, the show is a nice way of showing alternatives to what I would call the predictable Ascot suit. The Amanda Wakeley collection is perceived to be red carpet and occasion dressing but it’s an enormous amount more. I do a lot of daywear and dress a lot of City women for work. What doesn’t get publicised is that fantastic suit or capsule wardrobe that will take a working woman through a five day travelling work week.”

ASCOT HAS CHANGED SINCE THE DAYS OF ELIZA DOLITTLE IN “MY FAIR LADY”, HASN’T IT?
“It has become a bit of a cocktail party which I don’t think is necessarily a good thing – the fake tans and the strapless dresses. But you know what, the thing I love about Ascot is everyone makes a huge effort and people have fun with it. Fashion is about having fun.”

ANY TIPS ON HOW TO GET YOUR LOOK AT ASCOT RIGHT?
“Getting the combo of dress or suit and hat right is the real skill. It’s not just a case of plonking a fascinator on. It’s about getting the whole package together. A good milliner should advise on the whole look. I love trouser suits at Ascot – they can be incredibly chic. If you are wearing one, don’t throw on a big floral wide brimmed number. Think about a more masculine look – a take on a trilby, for example. I love getting the whole look together.”

WHAT’S THE KEY TO LOOKING FABULOUS?
“Fit is paramount. And comfort. If a garment is cut well it should enhance your body. It should sit on you correctly – you shouldn’t be fiddling with it, pulling your trousers down or up. Clothes should be effortless; you’ve got to concentrate on work, not adjusting clothes! Fabric is really important too. You’ve to feel gorgeous – which is why we line everything in silk. It doesn’t impact how the jacket looks from outside but it’s a real treat to wear. Clothes are all about giving the wearer confidence.”

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE LOOKS FOR THE SUMMER SOCIAL SEASON?
“Wimbledon is about chic city daywear – not party frocks. At Henley people seem to feel that they have to be in something long and floaty and floral. A summer maxi can look gorgeous – but perhaps hold back on the hat with it, and make sure the shoes are right. With weddings, a black suit or dress is amazingly chic. Black’s not for funerals; get over it! I’ve never been big on rules.” The Royal Ascot Fashion Show returns to the Bessborough Restaurant for the five days of Royal Ascot, 15-19 June. www.ascot.co.uk, tel: 0870 727 4321 (Hospitality Team).