You have probably never heard of Hannelore Smart. But when I tell you that she saw and bought into the original fabulousness of a “Pharrell” Vivienne Westwood hat, wore the same dress to meet the Queen as jump on a trampoline and managed to accumulate a joyfully eclectic and vast collection of fashion spanning across three decades then I’m sure you will be excited to hear that her enormous 1,500 piece wardrobe will be going on sale at Designer Jumble (at Westfield Stratford) from tomorrow.
“Her collection is like the most brilliant archive of 70s, 80s and 90s fashion. It spans from Krizia and Kenzo to Hussein Chalayan” enthused Abigail Chisman, owner of Designer Jumble (and another of the great women who took part in our WOW festival panel) as she delved into the rails and rails of dresses, coats, ball gowns, skirts, accessories and even onesises belonging to Hannelore when I visited her last week as she prepped for the big sale. It all kicks off tomorrow with a celebratory auction at which the star pieces will be sold. After that, Abi’s shop will be filled with Hannelore’s astounding collection for as long as it takes for each piece to find a loving new home.
If you ever see a fantastical catwalk look, love it but then wonder how on earth you would actually wear it then let Hannelore, the widow of circus impresario Billy Smart JR, be an inspiring example of how it’s done. She met Billy when she was working as a Pan-Am air hostess but soon fell into his life of circus and celebrity which of course makes it very appropriate that Abi has decided to call the auction “Fashion is A Circus” (a nice nod also to Suzy Menkes’ article last year!). Poring over the pictures of Hannelore having a ball in her favourite clothes flanked by perhaps Shirley Bassey or Jayne Mansfield, rather than fastidiously storing them away under dust covers in a warehouse, really makes you think that her living, breathing and having a great time attitude is exactly the way to show off the clothes to their very best advantage; I mean, how often do you hear of people climbing trees in an exquisitely constructed designer dress?
Hannelore’s family knew that she had a lot of clothes (!) but had perhaps never quite had the chance to appreciate the historical fashion relevance which so many of her pieces hold. Take an Issey Miyake corset, for example, which is one of the star attractions for tomorrow’s auction. “I came upon it purely by chance” Abi, who worked at Vogue until 2008, tells me, “I was visiting the house one day when we were talking about doing the sale and they offered to show me all her circus gear. I spotted this sculpted bodice and instantly knew it was much more than a show costume”. At first, Abi suspected her discovery might be by Thierry Mugler but a tweet later and one of her regular clients had identified it as an early 80s Issey Miyake design. It turns out that it is part of a very limited edition of 20 or so and formed part of the designer’s Body Works exhibition. It has now been authenticated by Miyake’s team. What’s more there is a great accompanying picture of Hannelore showing off her athletic figure in the artwork!
“I completely appreciated the value of the collection because it’s not just precious designer pieces but they have so much joy woven through them” explains Abi, pointing out just how rare it is to come across iconic designs which are as loaded with love and use as Hannelore’s. What’s more, it quickly becomes apparent as we rummage through the rails and boxes that Hannelore was no snob. If she loved it, she bought it. As evidenced by a few super kitsch, super fake Louis Vuitton suitcases. There’s no particular overwhelming dedication to one designer but a far-reaching seemingly accidental homage to the highlights of later 20th century fashion- a few early 90s nylon Prada dresses bear a striking resemblance to Miuccia Prada’s most recent MIu MIU collection . “When her family talk about Hannelore, they completely bring to life what an incredibly fun person she was. Always having a ball” observes Abi. And what a perfect legacy that everything will now get a fresh appreciation.
Bid on iconic pieces from Hannelore’s wardrobe here. From Friday, visit Designer Jumble at Westfield Stratford to pick up your own piece of Hannelore’s collection. All proceeds go to the Alzheimers Society
Scroll down to see a selection from Hannelore’s wardrobe…