Ghost London

Morna Laing

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA035

Ghost is a British fashion brand founded in 1984 by Tanya Sarne (b. 1949). Although untrained as a fashion designer, Sarne identified an unfilled niche in the market—existing between high street and designer clothing—which inspired her to establish Ghost, a brand offering contemporary, affordable luxury for women.

The Ghost silhouette is simple, flowing, and unstructured, with garments having a vintage, relatively classic feel—although slight variations are offered each season. The brand is perhaps best known for its innovative use of cellulose-derived viscose. Sarne discovered that a certain type of viscose, when shrunk, dyed, and shrunk once more, mimicked the appearance and texture of vintage crepe. Pattern pieces had to be cut far bigger to allow for shrinkage in the production process. The resultant fabric was one that breathed and was highly versatile: it could be manufactured to different weights, as well as being dye-absorbent, allowing for a rich palette of jewel-like colors. Practicality was also key: Ghost clothing can be machine-washed, does not require ironing, and can withstand being crumpled.

The most iconic of Sarne’s designs is arguably the Ghost bias-cut dress, described in a Design Museum publication as instigating a “quiet revolution.” Not only did the Ghost dress offer comfort and practicality, but it was also flatteringly elegant. This was in large part due to the quality of Sarne’s innovative viscose crepe, as well as the practice of cutting fabric on the bias. Central to Sarne’s original philosophy, then, was that Ghost clothing should be comfortable as well as complementing and flattering a range of female body types: from boyish to curvy, old to young.

The company has received great recognition for its designs, and won the British Apparel Export Award in 1992. Ghost has also designed capsule collections for British fashion retail chain Marks and Spencer. A significant moment for Ghost came in 2005, when a controlling interest in the company was sold to retail entrepreneur Kevin Stanford and the Icelandic investment group Arev. Sarne left the house in 2006. In 2009, designers Abdul Koroma and Andrew Jones, of the Modernist label, collaborated with Ghost to produce a thirty-piece “trans-seasonal” collection. Other recent innovations have included a dye-to-order service, available online, where dresses can be dyed to a unique shade using the “shrinkage garment dyeing process.”

Ghost London, Spring/Summer 1997 Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Design Museum. Fifty Dresses That Changed the World . London : Conran Octopus, 2009.

Find in Library Jones T., and A. Mair. Fashion Now . Cologne : Taschen, 2005.

Find in Library Kirby T. ““Fashion Queen Defrocked: Ghost Story”.” The Independent , 25 May 2006. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/fashion-queen-defrocked-ghost-story-479632.html (accessed 18 April 2013).

Find in Library Tucker A. The London Fashion Book . London : Thames and Hudson, 1998.

Find in Library Watson L. Vogue: Twentieth Century Fashion . London : Carlton, 1999.