Gloves can be more than just woolly items to keep your hands warm, as Charlotte Pearson discovers.
It is not every day that a cow shed in Sussex is linked to the hands of the rich and famous.
But behind the doors of an unassuming building in Ripe, near Lewes, is company Cornelia James – glovemaker to the Queen.
Cornelia arrived in England as a refugee in 1939 having studied art and design in Vienna, and in November 1947 she provided the gloves for the then Princess Elizabeth’s going away outfit after her wedding to Lt Philip Mountbatten.
This association with the Queen is one that still holds true today and as Cornelia’s daughter Genevieve explains the Royal warrant is still very important to her.
“You have to renew it every five years and show you have provided items to the Queen,” she says. “A Royal warrant belongs to a person so this one belongs to me, it isn’t something that can be bought, you have to earn it with what you do.
“We don’t make her gloves every week but I think over the years we have probably made about 200 pairs.”
Along with her Launer handbag on her arm it is hard to imagine the Queen without her iconic gloves, and even after all these years the feeling Genevieve gets when she sees her wearing them has remained the same.
“When I see her in her black car and that white hand waving it still gives me a buzz and a thrill and I just think wow,” enthuses Genevieve.
It isn’t just her royal highness that is a fan of the family run business, pop princesses are too – including Rihanna, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga.
“The stylists are key,” she reveals. “They will get in touch and say ‘Rihanna is going to the Met Ball and needs gloves’, we make them but obviously we can never guarantee they will wear them, but it is great when they do.
“But personally for me the Queen is above them all, she is just an amazing lady.”
One that Genevieve is thrilled to say she has met.
“A Christmas fair was held where warrant holders could sell to Buckingham Palace staff,” she recalls. “I had set up the stall which looked like a pop-up as I added bags and belts.
“We were told she might visit, then later the doors opened and she was there in a stunning emerald green suit.
“Before I knew it she was in front of my stall, I just bowed and said ‘I make your gloves’ and she replied ‘I know exactly who you are’.
“It was amazing, she is quite small but what she lacks in stature she makes up for in presence.
“She knows exactly what is going on around her, and when my mother was ill in a hospice the palace called to see how she was.”
With a number of fans you would think that there was a whole host of people busy working away, however, this is not the case.
“I am the creative director, my husband Andrew handles the business side, then we have three machinists, a marketing person and someone in packing – we are a very small team,” she says.
The way in which the gloves are made have not changed much over the years, with each hand finished.
“You can’t make a beautiful pair of gloves without the right quality of fabric,” explains Genevieve. “We use the best merino wool and look to European manufacturers so that they don’t just fall apart, and only use Swarovski.”
So with so many beautiful pairs which are the most popular?
“The Imogen made from merino wool, mainly because when the Duchess of Cambridge wore them, it crashed the website,” she says. “Also the
pure silk glove.
“Opera length has a button opening at the wrist so you can take the glove off the hand without taking it off the arm. Gloves are great for many things but eating is not one of them.”
And for Genevieve she feels there is no better way to finish an outfit than with a pair of gloves.
“A pair can turn a WAG into a lady,” she explains. “It can transform any outfit, if you are at the races and have a cocktail dress with gloves it can look classy and elegant.
“If you are wearing a hat you may as well wear a pair of gloves.”
Well if it is good enough for the Queen and pop royalty…
As seen on…
– Rihanna performing Diamonds at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show
– Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge and Australia
– Taylor Swift Blank Space video
– Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) and the Dowager Countess of Grantham (Dame Maggie Smith) in Downton Abbey
– Madonna Living for Love video
– Cruella De Vil (Glenn Close) in Disney’s 101 Dalmatians
– Musicals – Wicked, Mary Poppins and Mamma Mia!
December 1, 2015 Fashion and Beauty