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Style icons - Tina Chow

I thought I'd start an occasional series about my personal style icons, so let's start, for no particular reason, with Tina Chow

blog imageTina Chow died a premature death but her personal fashion sense remains an image

Chow was a jewellery designer, model and wife of the restaurateur Michael Chow. She also collected vintage couture. Her collection contained both contemporary items by designers such as Azzedine Alaia and Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, and early couture pieces by the likes of Alix, Vionnet and Fortuny. In particular, her collection of Fortuny gowns and coats was unparalleled outside a museum, including both Delphos pleated dresses and fabulous printed velvet mantles.

Chow was born Bettina Louise Lutz in Cleveland in 1950. Although assumed by many to be Chinese, she was actually of German and Japanese descent. She became a model as a teenager and during her sporadic career her luminous beauty was photographed by the leading photographers of her day, including Helmut Newton and Stephen Meisel, as well as captured in paint by Andy Warhol. She married Chow, 12 years her senior, in 1972 and the couple became leading members of the contemporary glitterati and art scene.

Chow owned some of the world's most beautiful clothing and was photographed wearing it for the Rizzoli book 'Flair', which is one of the gems of my fashion collection. But despite her couture wardrobe, the image of her that is the most enduring is her great simplicity. Chow sported a daily uniform of close-cropped black hair, almost no makeup, a white vest or t-shirt and black pants. To top it all, she would usually wear jewellery of her own design - big bangles in rock crystal, or woven bamboo. Her elegant simplicity is still a great act for women to follow, whatever your age or size, and can be achieved on any budget. In my 20s I dressed like this in white vests and black jeans - in my 40s I'd add longer sleeves and some neck interest, but you can create a look that is basically the same, from chain store to high street to Bond Street. Acrylic bangles are a good substitute for those of us who can't afford rock crystal.

Chow died in 1992 at the age of 41 from AIDS. Nursed by her daughter China, she is said to have passed away peacefully wearing her favourite Fortuny Delphos gown.


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