In our October/November issue, we visit the home of Stephanie Wolhuter Inggs. As a renowned fashion editor, stylist and marketing manager at the clothing division of a major retail chain, she has seen her share of trends all over the world. From interviewing Grace Coddington to shooting in Isabella Blow’s house, we take a peek into her life. 

My personal fashion aesthetic defaults to tailored and cool rather than warm and fuzzy. Years of packing a suitcase has led to a seminal understanding of less is more than enough. Three colours – black, white and grey with maybe a bit of navy, khaki and dark chocolate. The best shoes I can afford (usually flat) and Prada nylon bags. I don’t like leather bags. My day-to-day working wardrobe begins and ends with a tailored black jacket. White cotton shirts and black pants – I never feel uncomfortable in this ultimate uniform suggested to me by Grace Coddington when I interviewed her at the Mount Nelson in the 90s. When I have lost my sartorial way I like to ask myself, ‘Would Patti Smith wear this?’ The answer usually gives me a very clear direction.

I have been hugely influenced and inspired my whole adult life by Robert Pollexfen. He was Head of Fashion at the Durban Tech when I arrived off the train from Cape Town. Robert and the other lecturers opened my mind to fashion in all its forms and set a standard of teaching that I have yet to see repeated in South Africa.

Later inspiration came from Mary Randolph Carter, Head of Marketing for Ralph Lauren in New York – her books on collecting junk made perfect sense to me. As someone who could have bought almost anything out there, she remained true to her love of junk and the peculiar, the homely and the homemade.

The professional embracing and honing of creative talent by the best American designers, retailers and magazines have always been an inspiration to me. I tend to dislike all that is creative with a capital C. The puritan work ethic and ruthless editing are the drivers of my approach to fashion and style.

The offbeat eccentricities and the craftsmanship of the British are totally, disarmingly wonderful. Sue Skeen is a British stylist whose work I find beyond inspirational. I was once incredibly lucky to do a photographic shoot at style icon and journalist Isabella Blow’s country home, Hilles House, in the Gloucestershire countryside. The small Fairlady fashion team zoomed in to find ourselves in another world. The stately old stone mansion was filled with ancient tapestries, ancestral portraits, stone carvings and outside the mist rose over a winter garden of bare trees, fallen apples and frost-bitten herbaceous borders falling away to pastures and farms. That evening, Isabella’s husband, Detmar, and others living in the house (one guest had come for a party and never left) invited us to supper on condition we went to the nearest village and bought enough steak for everyone. Surrounded by priceless treasures, they had no money for dinner. Somehow I have always found that strangely comforting… and inspiring.

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Phoebe Philo at Céline, Consuelo Castiglioni at Marni, Christopher Bailey at Burberry and Hedi Slimane, whatever he is doing.

I always knew I wanted to be a fashion designer, and that’s what I trained to be. But the world of design opens a door to so much more – it encompasses history, craftsmanship, interiors, architecture, art, photography… I was then, and still am, totally fascinated by all aspects of design and the impact and influence of good design on business and industry.

I believe that good design can change the world.

My career started in a factory in Hope Street in Cape Town, where I worked as an assistant designer and continued as a designer in clothing manufacturing factories, until I changed roles to become fashion editor at Fairlady. I then changed again to become a retail buyer and then marketing manager at Pick n Pay Clothing. Along the way I travelled a lot. I learnt that there is nothing like travel to sharpen your eye and open your mind. And to be paid to see and hear and taste and smell everything I could in the fashion cities of the world, absorbing what they had to offer, was a bonus that was as unexpected as it was life-changing.

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