Port Eliot: fashion’s favourite festival

Designer dolls, photo shoots and bespoke floral headdresses—find out how some of London Fashion Week’s most exciting names are making Port Eliot ‘the only festival on the fashion calendar’...

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Fans of literature, art, music, food—and fashion, of course—will flock to Cornwall for the Port Eliot Festival this weekend. At last summer’s event, Louise Gray painted fluoro polka-dots on children’s faces, Meadham Kirchhoff created fanciful floral headdresses and Central Saint Martins professor Louise Wilson shared her top 10 fashion books.

For the festival’s tenth instalment, organisers have assembled what may be an even more impressive roster of delights and diversions.

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‘The festival has always been about creativity and we like to give our artists the chance to do something they cannot usually do,’ festival founder Catherine St Germans told us. ‘Where else can you have a couture hat or wig made by Stephen Jones or Piers Atkinson? Or David Sims photograph you as you come out of the Biba or Rubbish tent in a bespoke outfit?... Port Eliot is the only festival on the fashion calendar.’

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The focus of the fashion action is The Wardrobe Department, a walled garden overtaken by Sarah Mower, the British Fashion Council's ambassador for emerging talent, and her stylish friends.

That’s where you’ll find Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki fashioning ensembles out of unlikely materials, Erickson Beamon founder Vicki Sarge-Beamon reviving smashed trinkets at her Broken Jewels Masterclass and David Sims scouting could-be models from his pop-up portrait studio.

The Wardrobe Department is also the temporary headquarters for milliners Atkinson and Fred Butler. They’ll concoct one-off hats and headpieces for the festival’s younger attendees—floral headdresses for the girls (and insistent editors); Robin Hood-style hats with pheasant feathers for the boys (and tomboys).

‘It’s more about dressing up and “fun” than what we all think of as “fashion”,’ Atkinson told us. ‘This is where the front-row aesthetic is turned down and everyone lets their hair down a little.... This is where festival-goers can meet and work with designers, art directors and fashion writers and see a little of the inside story.’

Gray, who says she adores ‘showing the crowds how to achieve fun fashion fixes—like a new make-up look, or a floral hat,’ is back too, running face- and body-painting sessions with Topshop makeup. Pioneering colourist and Bleach London founder Alex Brownsell will join her, hair stencils in tow.

Elsewhere, festival regular Luella Bartley will tell a story through illustration with artist Delisia Howard. Mary Katrantzou, who delved into the stately home’s nooks and crannies to draw inspiration for a triptych of dresses for the 2011 festival, will bring her designs back to their point of origin and give a talk about her creative process.

Should the festival start to feel like it’s just too much, have a cup of tea—or pop into the main house for a visit to the Fashion Dolls’ Teaparty. Well-dressed dolls from Donatella Versace, Christopher Kane, Sarah Burton, Giles Deacon, Roksanda Ilincic and many more top designers are expected to attend.

With Port Eliot taking a sabbatical next year, ‘we are doubly determined to go out with the greatest festival we’ve ever staged,’ St Germans says.

Fashion collaborators? Madcap makeup? Hair how-to sessions? There’s no way we’d miss out...

Learn more about the 2012 Port Eliot Festival here. Want to attend? Enter to win tickets and luxury Yurtel accommodation here by Tuesday afternoon for a chance to join in the fun.

Can’t make it? Check the site all weekend for street style photos and instant updates from the Port Eliot Festival.

Fill your summer diary with our 2012 Summer Festival Guide

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