My Life In Fashion: Tabitha Simmons

My Life In Fashion: Tabitha Simmons

After a brief stint as a model, Tabitha Simmons soon went on to establish herself as one of the most recognisable names in fashion. As a stylist, she’s worked with brands like Alexander McQueen, Dolce & Gabbana and Calvin Klein – to name a few – and is also a contributing editor for Vogue. In 2009, she set up her eponymous shoe brand, with her designs regularly spotted on A-list fans like Margot Robbie, Miranda Kerr and Jennifer Aniston. From what it’s like working with industry greats to her favourite pair of shoes, here are her fashion highlights…

My personal style is best described as eclectic. It goes all over the place, really – in the winter it tends to be very minimal and classic, then in the summer I gravitate towards floaty, floral dresses that are a lot more feminine and colourful. I also love anything with a heritage feel – I’m fortunate enough to own some Chanel jackets, but I’ll still wear them with a pair of Zara jeans. It’s important not to stick to one thing: mixing and matching is what keeps things interesting. 

My earliest fashion memory was in a shoe shop at the age of four. I threw a tantrum because I wanted some white kitten heels for school, but my mum made me get a pair of brown lace ups instead. That was the moment I discovered my love of shoes – my first job was also in a shoe shop in Cambridgeshire when I was 14. Exactly what it is about footwear I’m drawn to so much is a bit of a mystery, but I see it in my daughter too, so I suppose it’s in the genes. She’s already started raiding my wardrobe…

I don’t have one fashion or style icon. There are so many women whose style I admire, but the closest thing to an ‘icon’ or role model would probably be Elizabeth Taylor. Her style has really stood the test of time. If you look back at photos of her, she proves you can have fun with fashion – a principle I really believe in. 

When it comes to shoes, I’m a bit of a hoarder – I probably own over 1,000 pairs, which means I have to store them all over the house to ensure there’s enough room for them. I’d like to say I’m saving them for my daughter to wear, but she probably won’t want to when the time comes… The first designer pair of shoes I ever bought was a pair of black patent Manolo Blahnik stilettos, which I saved up for months to buy when I was 20. I still have them to this day; I could never part with them. 

I used to be a big vintage shopper. But it ended up getting quite out of hand… I have to hold back a bit these days, but I love shopping for dresses from the 1920s and for Victorian jackets. I’ve picked up pieces from all over the world, but Portobello Market is one of my favourites when I’m in London. Regardless, anywhere in the world I always make a point to check out the local vintage stores and usually end up finding something I love. You have to go in with a bit of time to browse – in my experience, that’s when you can find the real gems.

I wear a lot of my own designs. The most-worn style is probably a velvet, high-heeled Mary Jane, as it goes with everything and is really comfortable – it’s just a really useful shoe. The Hermione flats work for every occasion, day or night and the Bailey is my favourite sandal – it’s from my second collection and strikes the perfect balance between chic and comfortable, despite the heel height. I wore the Alhambra on my wedding day, as it had an ankle strap, which made it great for dancing. I feel most sentimental about the Karen from my first collection, too, as it was named after one of my best friends.

I’m a bit of a shoe hoarder. I probably own more than 1,000 pairs.

One of the best projects I’ve worked on is my collaboration with Brock. I’ve always loved their aesthetic and both of our brands are quite feminine with an English sensibility, so it made sense to work together. There were a lot of feathers, bows and girly details – plus, some incredible fabrics. They’re not necessarily pieces you’d wear every day, but it was really fun to escape into a bit of a fantasy world for that project. 

One of my favourite fashion designers is Azzedine Alaia – his shoes always had the most extraordinary details, and were both timeless and yet distinctive, all at once. You always know when it’s an Alaia shoe, so I really admire and look up to his work. Whether it’s something minimal from The Row or something statement from Dolce & Gabbana, I can appreciate a good shoe from any brand, even if it doesn’t serve a practical purpose. I sometimes look at them as pieces of art, as opposed to something to be worn day-to-day.

The piece in my wardrobe I cherish the most is a dress Stefano Gabbana (of Dolce & Gabbana) gave me from the brand’s Alta Moda collection – it’s very tight and off-the-shoulder, with pink sequins and bright yellow flowers. I couldn’t quite believe he gave it to me and I’ll always treasure it – sentimentality is very important to me when it comes to clothes, plus, because I worked with D&G for such a long time, the piece means even more to me.

The most-worn pieces in my wardrobe are jeans. Instead of wearing loungewear throughout lockdown, I lived in jeans. J Brand is my go-to and I wear them out. I also love Khaite’s high-waisted jeans for something a little dressier. 

It’s hard to choose just one career highlight as there have been so many. I love seeing women I admire wearing my shoes, but I also get such a high from walking down a street in New York and crossing paths with someone wearing them, too. Margot Robbie has been particularly supportive – she often wears Tabitha Simmons shoes to red carpet events. Back in 2011, I also won the Emerging Talent Prize at the British Fashion Awards, and then a CFDA award for Accessories Designer of the Year – both of those were pretty special moments. It means so much to be supported by your peers, especially in the fashion world, where your contemporaries often prove to be the toughest audience.

If I could swap wardrobes with anyone it would be Kate Moss. She has the most incredible collection of vintage clothes and such an illustrious career, I’m sure you’d find some amazing pieces in there. 

The best piece of fashion advice I’ve ever received is be yourself. Something I’ve learned is to really follow your instinct and go with your gut – especially when it comes to designing. If you start trying to adapt something that doesn’t end up feeling like you any more, it usually ends up being a bit of a disaster. 


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