Shop like a fashion editor ‘nerd’
Of all the fashion editors whose paths have crossed mine, Jayne Pickering is the one whose wardrobe I most consistently long to steal. Which is odd because she’s an inveterate wearer of black, and I’m not. She has a mop of dark wavy hair, which means she can wear a white shroud and it’s already accessorised. I have to do a bit more when I wear something that plain, otherwise it looks unfinished… and we have very different body shapes. But I always admired how comfortable and elegant she looks and how everything is just so – the definition of modern classicism.
That’s not just any white shirt she’s wearing, but one she’s deliberated over (she hates it when they button so high they look prissy, or too low so that you see a glimpse of bra). She doesn’t dress to impress or to pull or to please anyone other than herself.
I always thought she should do a clothing line. And finally, she has, sort of. At least, after years of styling for Brora, she’s collaborated with Victoria Stapleton, Brora’s indefatigable founder, on a capsule collection of Jayne-esque cashmere Brora staples, to celebrate their 25th anniversary. There are eight colours, including burgundy, navy, a baby blue you’d want to wear, camel (she agonised over the right one), cream, black and chocolate. Alongside an androgynous super soft corduroy (the ultimate Jayneite luxury-meets-function fabric) trouser suit, there are gorgeous cable-knit sweaters in the perfect, tobacco-y camel, a nicely proportioned boyfriend cardigan, some cobwebby knits, the ultimate navy turtleneck and a covetable poncho all in Brora’s finest cashmere (cue a “blissful” wintry visit to Brora’s cashmere factory in Howick) – all of it modelled here by Laura Bailey, “whose unfailing ability to mix so many different aesthetics” Pickering admires, not least because Bailey’s free-range eclecticism is so different from her own more tightly corralled view.
There’s no doubt Pickering has “the eye”. She can zoom in on the one black or navy jumper (sometimes camel) out of 50 black jumpers that’s truly perfect. It will have a neckline that hits the back at just the point to make a neck look its longest and most elegant, or the perfect sleeves for pushing back up your arms (and staying there). And let me tell you about her white shirts, which are always impeccable and demonstrate that not all white shirts are remotely equal.
If it sounds boring, believe me, it’s not. It is intensely nerdy, but why not? If you care about clothes, then nerdy is where you need to aim. This is the antithesis of the flash, bang, wallop approach, which does well on Instagram and is all about surface appeal. It may go over the heads of the street-style photographers, but that’s the way this camera-phobe likes it.
When details are this finely wrought, a pair of black jeans and cashmere jumper look fresh all over again. But she can also throw a curveball. Every so often she’ll break rank with her own rules and wear a bit of colour, “in those slightly off colours that old Celine was so good at, that went with everything”. Sometimes she’ll even wear a patterned dress. “But only at night. And it has to be the right dress.” She has also splurged on Duro Olowu one-offs. “I don’t have many dresses, so I like them to be versatile and timeless.”
Unusually for a minimalist, she wears lots of jewellery, particularly by Pippa Small and Marie-hélène de Taillac – 10 rings, all of them delicate and fine, six bangles and two thin, long gold chains with charms and a diamond-studded outline of a cloud. If these were an absent-minded accretion of random bits and bobs it would look cluttered, but every single item has been carefully considered. So now I want the jewellery, too.
Her career got off to a gratifyingly Cinderella-like start. “I was the donkey delivering the clothes to the magazines to shoot. I’d turn up at Vogue House in my beaten-up Renault and haul the clothes up to the fifth floor and eventually Lucinda Chambers hired me as her assistant.”
Now fashion director of Marie Claire, she has a knack of making highfalutin fashion relatable to a general reader. That’s a corollary of the way she dresses – tossing on a Saint Laurent flak jacket and making it look like a much-loved everyday staple, which it is. “What I loved about this jacket,” she says, justifying its scary price tag, “is that it’s the nicest shade of khaki, with just a bit of blue but also some warmth in it. Also it’s light and roomy enough to layer up underneath. That makes it work pretty much year round”. She’s had it for two years and will wear it until she drops. The definition of a good buy.
“Even as a child, I knew exactly what I wanted to wear,” she says. “I remember the Biba catalogue arriving and not being able to believe all that beauty.” Not that she had an obnoxiously generous clothing allowance as a teenager. Biba was way out of her price range, but ‘twas ever thus. If she loves something and it meets her exacting criteria, she has to have it – her shopping habits were legendary on Vogue.
“I buy much less now though,” she claims. This is partly financial wisdom kicking in belatedly – she has three children, aged 18-23 – partly because she is tuned in to the Marie Claire reader, whose attitude to fashion is more realistic than the average Vogue reader, and partly because those years of investing in the best have paid off.
“I like my clothes, and they’re not going to date,” she says, but she concedes that to reach the elevated pared-back plateau takes a lot of thought. “When I was younger I’d go to the fashion shows and throw everything into a suitcase assuming it would all turn out all right on the night. Now I meticulously plan my outfits ahead to make sure I’ve packed all the necessary elements and always take a hand steamer.”
It sounds laborious, but as with everything, once you’ve laid the groundwork, the harvest is a breeze. Ultimately, fussiness means you buy less and are more contented with the items you have. “I’m a really cautious shopper these days. Too much of anything feels very old-fashioned.”
‘Even as a child, I knew exactly what I wanted to wear. I recall the Biba catalogue and not being able to believe all that beauty’
Cream of cashmere: above, Jayne Pickering, fashion director of Marie-claire, wears items from the Brora capsule collection that she co-designed. Above left, Jayne with Victoria Stapleton, Brora’s founder, and Laura Bailey. Left and below, Laura Bailey wearing Brora