Wendy Dagworthy

Michelle Labrague

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA050

Wendy Dagworthy has been an influential fixture in the British fashion world while working in numerous roles as a designer, educator, and consultant. The Telegraph has described her as the “high priestess of the fashion world.” She was the head of the School of Fashion and Textiles at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London from 2000 until retirement in 2014. She initially joined the RCA as a professor of fashion, moving from a long-held position as course director of Central Saint Martin’s School of Art and Design, where she is credited with positioning it as one of the top fashion design schools in the UK.

Dagworthy has also been a strong supporter of the British fashion industry. In 1972 she joined the prestigious London Designer Collections, a group of designers who support and promote the industry, becoming director from 1982 to 1990. She is also a founder of London Fashion Week.

Wendy Dagworthy was born in Gravesend, Kent in 1950. At age sixteen, she studied at Medway College of Art (1966–1968), and then went on to pursue fashion at Hornsey College of Art. Her graduation show received attention and she began to work as a designer for the wholesale firm Radley. One year later, in 1972, she started her own business, borrowing £800 from the bank and another £300 from her mother. She sold to London shops such as Countdown on King’s Road and designed for Brian Ferry of the band Roxy Music, whom she met through a friend.

Dagworthy designed and made her clothes in her apartment (as did her contemporary, Mary Quant), smuggling rolls of fabric in the elevator—since the building was “residential only.” She brought Betty Jackson on board as an assistant and the business grew. European markets, particularly Italy, also become lucrative outlets for her collections and Dagworthy showed in London, Paris, New York, and Milan. She designed for sixteen years, eventually closing in 1988. She continues to collaborate with and design for Betty Jackson as well as for Liberty London. She has also consulted on exhibitions, such as the Victoria and Albert Museum’s “Club to Catwalk.”

Dagworthy’s design style incorporated loose, easy-to-wear shapes in natural fibers such as mohair and wool, often using vibrant colors and exuberant prints. Signature garments included oversize wool coats, back-buttoned smocks, and circular and gathered skirts fixed at the waist with an oversize sash and paired with cropped jackets and loose-fitting trousers.

Wendy Dagworthy, Fall/Winter 1985 Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Craik Laura. ““The Royal Family”.” The Guardian , 9 June 2000. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2000/jun/09/fashion .

Profile: Wendy Dagworthy.” Fashion Model Directory, n.d. http://www.fashionmodeldirectory.com/designers/wendy-dagworthy/ (accessed 18 August 2013).

Find in Library Treneman Ann. ““Profile: Wendy Dagworthy—Mentor à la Mode”.” The Independent , 14 March 1998. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/profile-wendy-dagworthy---mentor-a-la-mode-1150219.html .

Find in Library Williamson Charlotte. ““From Club to Catwalk: Back to the Eighties”.” The Telegraph , 7 July 2013. http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/news-features/TMG10163866/From-Club-to-Catwalk-Back-to-the-Eighties.html .