A Treasure Trove of Vintage Vogues | At Home with Penny Calder
24.04.20

Back in February, we were lucky enough to be treated to a private viewing of Penny Calder's spectacular vintage magazine collection.

Penny, as some may know on instagram as @pjcalder, owns, among other titles, a copy of every single British Vogue ever published since 1950 and has been kindly sharing excerpts from her archive on her page for a number of years.  It's how we met originally, after following her for a while - so it was such a pleasant surprise when we realised she was Auckland-based, like us.

When we visited Penny, we were prepping for a profile on her as part of our ongoing 'Friends of L&O' series, but in the wake of recent world developments had to sadly put a shoot on hold.

The shoot will be rescheduled as soon as we are able to but in the meantime, while we're all in the mood for extra inspiration, we just couldn't resist sharing a little vintage Vogue love with you now.

Read on to learn about how Penny got into collecting, her thoughts on the most standout jewellery campaigns over the years, the modern magazine industry at large, her favourite cover of all time, and more.

Thanks so much Penny for sharing your incredible archive with us x

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The first thing we noticed about your expansive collection is that it largely consists of British Vogue editions - what captivates you the most about UK version of Vogue, in particular?

 

Just a tiny section of Penny's enormous British Vogue collection.

The archive consists 
of every issue of British Vogue from 1950 onwards (and a few pre 1950), plus the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties issues of Harpers & Queen and Tatler magazine.

Why British Vogue? The name says it all really. I’ve been a committed Anglophile since childhood, in love with British history, the British countryside British style!  
My mother and grandmother here in New Zealand were both passionate about fashion and jewellery so I got those bugs pretty early too!  My mother always had magazines around the house, so when I was about 12 or 13 I started buying BritisVogue - and the rest is history.  

It was about 8 yea
rs ago that I started actually building the archive seriously and it was completed in November last year, with the final issue - May 1966.




A baby-faced Christy Turlington graces the October 1986 cover of British Vogue. Get her look with our vintage Balenciaga Earrings here, or for a statement drop-style like the in-mag editorial to the right, try these stunners, by 1980s Christian Lacroix. Both sourced from Paris.  Pictured to the far right, a full Chanel look.

Taking a look through the archive, which editorials had the best eye candy in the jewellery department? 

The first of my choices is not an editorial feature but the cover of British Vogue November 1965 – which features my favourite model of the Sixties Jean Shrimpton and my favourite jewellery designer Andrew Grima - one of a handful of British designers who revolutionised jewellery in the 1960’s. He didn’t learn his trade at art school and didn’t work at the bench, he considered that being pure designer was an advantage as his ideas were never confined by technical ability, only by imagination. 

She’s wearing a mink coat which at the time of course was the epitome of luxury and a huge aquamarine ring set in diamonds and gold.

Having always admired Grima jewellery in the issues in the archive, I posted images on Instagram and soon made friends with Francesca Grima, Andrew’s daughter - she is a jewellery designer herself and creates bespoke designs and a small collection each year


A favourite cover of Penny's, featuring a young Jean Shrimpton donning a cocktail ring to end all cocktail rings, by Andrew Grima 

On my most recent visit to London in November 2019, I visited Francesca and her mother Jojo and was lucky enough to see the Grima collections  pieces that literally took my breath away, that I was able to try on, that I recognised from the pages of Vogue...it was such a privilege and an afternoon I will never forget. 

My second choice is an ad that appeared in British Vogue September 1st 1974 (shown below).  Andrew Grima created a collection of pearl jewellery that year aimed to take pearls out of the Twinset category - and this baroque Tahitian pearl, diamond and platinum necklace certainly does that!


Th
necklace was shot by Willie Christie, a leading fashion photographeron Cromer Sands in Norfolwhich was the location that stood in for beaches all over the world! (More about WIllie later!) 

Following that, Chanel 1986 -1987 Autumn Winter and Chanel  1991 - 1992  Autumn Winter campaigns are standouts.


A stunning vintage Chanel campaign we uncovered whilst perusing Penny's collection

Both of these campaigns featured pearls – the earlier one just three years into Lagerfeld’s reign at the house, when the clothes still honoured the traditions of Coco herself and the parade and the advertising campaign featured Ines de la Fressange. The gold jewellery was beginning to be bold and oversized and was mixed with pearls in the manner of Mademoiselle Chanel herself.

Finally, the 1991 – 1992 campaign was pure Karl - HUGE pearlsCHANEL spelled out in pearls on black cashmere, back-to-front quilted base ball caps and all starring the newly platinum blonde Linda Evangelista, the Ultimate Supermodel.


Which issue in the collection is the most precious to you?



The British Vogue Peace and Reconciliation 
Issue, October 1945 (pictured above).

It is said that VJ Day marking the end of the Second World War in August 1945 took Vogue by surprise, and there was no time to commission a special celebratory cover for the first issue of peacetime. 

The art director James de Holden-Stone came up with this moving image of a blue sky, clear of the military aircraft that symbolised war.  

I have a number of wartime issues of the magazine in the archive and they do have a magic all of their own. Reading through them now 70 years later we can see that fashion, style and beauty were so important to women during those dark days. 


And if you had to pick a favourite cover, which one would that be?


This is of course “ The Green Jelly Cover “ February 
1977 (pictured above).

"British Vogue’s art director Terry Jones loved to subvert. Here he breaks every rule for a fashion glossy: don't show food (and certainly never show anyone eating it): don’t use green (because it doesn’t sell): and always have eye contact”. Uncovered by Ian Birch. 

The shot started life as a beauty shot done for a colour promotion with green being the colour of the time. Fashion Editor Grace Coddington, working alongside photographer (and her then husbandWillie Christie announced “we are going to have her eating green jelly."  The resulting close up became the best selling cover of the year despite battles with Head Office who tried to pull it literally off the press 

The issue was always in my favourites pile and I posted it on Instagram for the first time in 2014.  The response was amazing, from people who remembered when it was first published to people who were seeing it for the first time. As always, I credited the creative team and Willie got in touch, thanking me for bringing the image back into the public eye.

We struck up an Insta friendship and met for the first time in London in early 2015. Since then we’ve become very real friends and our catch ups at Maison Assouline in Piccadilly are an absolute highlight of every trip to London. I can even boast of having my photo taken by a Vogue photographer now!  

 
The infamous November 1988 American Vogue issue, Anna Wintour's debut cover - at the time it caused quite the scandal for being so 'casual', with Israeli model Michaela Bercu wearing denim jeans and a cropoed, embellished jacket by Christian Lacroix.  Inside featured an editorial on the inimitable couture designer, one of our favourites from the 80s. Click to shop our Romeo earrings by Lacroix, here.

What a fabulous story!  How special that you have been able to connect with the world's top creatives in print, through the eyes of Instagram.

With such a rich archive at your fingertips, you must have accumulated a wealth of knowledge about the world of fashion media over the years.  In your opinion, what has been the biggest change to the industry since the early days?

I don’t want to be negative here but for me the “golden age” of magazines is over.   
The obsession with celebrities, the power of the big brands to influence the content of the editorial pages, the literally endless pages of advertisements – all the same in every edition of every magazine, puff PR pieces instead of great journalism…. I could go on ,but probably shouldn’t, so maybe this is enough!

I see the future in the smaller independent magazines - such as Encens - more concerned with art, history and design than of trends and fashion, and published only twice per year, which now seems the right approach.


Encens,  Penny's favourite magazine of the modern era. 

Ok, our last question for now, Penny, until we get to pick up the conversation again when we are finally able to complete our upcoming shoot!

Seeing themes in design develop throughout the issues over the years, if you had to pick your three favourite couture designers - those who you feel have truly held their own as time has passed - who would you pick and why?

Gianfranco Ferre
At Dior and his own label - Gianfranco epitomises couture for me. Elegant, structured, fabulous materials and an unerring sense of real style not fantasy.
His white shirts are the pinnacle of his “architectural” sense of style.

Jean Muir
“Less is More”  “Less is Muir”  -  Minimalist, refined, understated, she called herself a dressmaker not a designer, and considered that fashion was not art but industry and, as such, haan important contribution to make to the country.

The Row
My go to label since they were established in 2006  timeless designs, exceptional fabrics, monochrome themes.  I am genuinely able to wear a ten year old piece with one from this season, the quality will still be there in the older piece. Visiting the store in London is like going into my wardrobe only, but 1000 times bigger, of course.

No
thing surprises me there (which for me is good) – the pieces reflect just what I’m looking for -  a black cashmere jumper or a white shirt that others will say lookjust like the other 20 of each I have, except of course I know it doesn’t!



LR: A statement white shirt by Gianfranco Ferre; The Row on the runway, Spring 2020; a 1980s portrait of Jean Muir and model.
 
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We hope you enjoyed this treat from Penny - be sure to follow her over on Instagram for your daily dose of fashion history, at @pjcalder.

And, for those who are as fiendish as us when it comes to vintage jewels (and we assume you might be, if you are reading this), Penny has just started a secondary instagram page, @manchettechic, which is completely dedicated to vintage cuff bracelets - Could you get any more niche? We think not! And for that, we thank you, Penny!

Xx

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