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The Wardrobe with Jo Ratcliffe


“The short jacket and the high-waisted trouser create a great silhouette, and it’s practical.” Black cotton-and-wool-mix blazer and trousers by CHLOÉ; white sheer spot top by NINA RICCI; black belt by DRIES VAN NOTEN and silver ring throughout by HERMÈS.


“Stripes feature significantly in my work and my wardrobe,” says Jo, calling to mind her hallucinogenic 40-second “Kenzonique” animation for Humberto Leon and Carol Lim’s relaunch of the upbeat Parisian house of Kenzo in 2011. Black-and-white-striped satin cvoat by MARC JACOBS; black-and-white-pleated silk dress by KENZO.


Black double-breasted tuxedo jacket with built-in waistcoat, black tuxedo trousers with cream zigzag stripe and black-and-white zigzag stripe top all by NEIL BARRETT. Black fabric-and-metal necklace by LIGIA DIAS.


“I love leather when it’s plain and simple, not in a bondage look,” says Jo. “And shirts and blouses are best buttoned at the neck. There’s something about not showing flesh – it’s more fascinating. I’m a huge fan of Charlotte Rampling, and she’s usually covered up.” Black-and-white-checked short-sleeved shirt by DRIES VAN NOTEN; black leather-and-silk dress by TRUSSARDI.


“I spend all day sitting at a desk in my studio in east London, drawing with my left hand and doing screen work with the right,” says Jo, “so it’s important to wear something functional.” Though jewellery is a luxury she enjoys, Jo tends to lose it: “My life is full of single earrings.” Patchwork denim top with collar by 3.1 PHILLIP LIM; fabric-and-metal bracelet by LIGIA DIAS.


You’ll never find Jo with a naked nail. And when it comes to mascara, it’s strictly upper lashes – never lower. “I’ve used Maybelline Great Lash Mascara since it first arrived on the shelves,” says Jo. “It’s not too heavy, and it’s cheap.” For something stronger, she opts for MAC’s Zoom Lash, “mostly because its tagline promises ‘major drama’.” Navy technical-silk tuxedo coat with black satin collar by CÉLINE and black leather-and-silk dress by TRUSSARDI.


Black linen shirt by Y-3, black-and-white-speckled trousers by DIANE VON FURSTENBERG and dark Havana Skate sunglasses by CÉLINE.

The portfolio of super-successful fashion illustrator Jo Ratcliffe is an exuberant affair. Her work for magazines including V Magazine and Vogue Nippon and fashion houses like Kenzo and Jimmy Choo can combine exquisitely hand-drawn explosions of ’60s-style flowers in jewel colours with luscious candy-striped backgrounds. The extenuated line-drawn women in her animations stride past fantasy cityscapes and flashes of neon. Her wardrobe, though, is a slightly quieter affair.

In Jo’s east London flat, neatly arranged in a compact cupboard are carefully selected pieces from the last few seasons and some vintage hangers-on from the past. “My style is quite tomboy,” she says, picking out a sheer black Margiela all-in-one she wore last New Year’s Eve (with footless tights and a camisole beneath). “Suits, trousers, oversized coats – it all sounds a bit Céline, doesn’t it?” The boots she’s wearing are chunky-heeled, but she says she’d usually choose something daintier. “I’ve just bought these tapestry shoes by Carven, for example, which have good toe cleavage, though these are the best.” She pulls off her boots and slips on some old navy heels from Scorah Pattullo scooped so low they only just cover her toenails. “That’s toe cleavage!”

“When I started at Central Saint Martins in 1996, my clothing was driven by music,” she says. “The Pixies, the Breeders, the Violent Femmes – it was skaterish, I suppose. I was studying fine art, but my ultimate goal was to have one of my designs on a Hysteric Glamour T-shirt – do you remember that Japanese streetwear label?” Though they never called, last year Jo designed textiles for Nina
Ricci and created animations for Louis Vuitton. “These days I covet the look of the librarian,” she says, “something a bit geeky. I just bought these Miu Miu sunglasses.” She pops on a pair of frames that blend the cat’s eye and the archivist look. “They’re delicate and maybe a little cinematic. Felliniesque.”

Jo’s earliest fashion memory is “a grey smock with an invisible stripe in a soft shirt material. I must have been about 9. My mother had to prise it off me every few weeks for a wash. She’s a shopping addict, so I guess I have her to blame for my love of clothes. I remember getting that smock and a pair of black-and-beige-striped trousers and feeling that excitement you get with a new purchase. I was hooked from then on.”

Her school uniform was bottle green. “That colour appears a lot in my wardrobe. I’ve just bought a Chalayan coat” – the style with the oversized patch pockets – “and I got a baggy blue suit last summer, too, by Isabel Marant, to wear to all those fashion meetings. The French laughed at me the first time I wore it. They said the British are always looking for a uniform.”

Jo’s naturally perfect face hardly cries out for make-up, but she says she loves the routine of applying it. “I wear a lot of Nars. François Nars and I used to share an agent, actually. I have every single red lipstick they make. But I only do eyes or lips, never both. It’s the same with clothes; if I wear a skin-tight dress it has to be with flat shoes. And I always wear nail varnish – grey, Rouge Noir, navy.” Is she a regular in the nail salon? “Absolutely not! I’m an illustrator. I can do a perfect nail.”

Hair: Neil Moodie at D+V Management. Make-up: Hiromi Ueda at Julian Watson Agency using Chanel S/S 2013 including Les Beiges. Manicure: Trish Lomax at Premier Hair and Make-up. Prop styling: Poppy Bartlett, Gabriela Moussaieff at the Magnet Agency. Photographic assistance: Chris Miller, Victoria Zschommler. Styling assistance: Christina Holmes. Digital operation: James Naylor. Production: Lucie Newbegin at M.A.P.

This profile was originally published in The Gentlewoman n° 7, Spring & Summer 2013.