Feb 25, 2015 5:12PM

The Glorious, Dreadful Inspiration Behind Kate Sylvester's Latest Range

Join the club.

Reading The Secret History for the first time is like being inducted into a private club. Suddenly, you begin to catch references to it everywhere. You think about the characters as if they were your real life friends. You might even find yourself obsessively Googling Donna Tartt's style.

That's how it was for me, anyway. And that's how it was for Kate Sylvester, whose latest range — succinctly titled Tartt — draws its inspiration from the work and style of the cult writer. "I've been a fan since The Secret History, her first book, came out [in 1992]," Kate explains. "Donna Tartt has such great aesthetics and her descriptions of clothes are so evocative."

The Secret History is set in a small, elite college in Vermont, and follows the story of "beautiful, dissolute college kids doing glorious and dreadful things," in Kate's words. The designer has created a collection to match: neat tennis jumpers and monogrammed shirts, silky dressing gowns and opulent overcoats.

You can trace the lines directly from Tartt's text to this collection. Kate nominates Francis as the character that left the biggest impression, citing his "starchy French cuffed shirts, silk neckties and overcoat billowing behind him" as inspiration. The book's dark overtones manifest in the collection as a muted colour palette, while its rich, evocative language is translated into sumptous fabrics — washed silk, leather, nubby tweeds and delicate lace.

And while you don't need to be a fan of Donna Tartt to appreciate the collection, there's an extra thrill of recognition — of being part of the private club — if you do.  

Photography: Karen Inderbitzen-Waller

Nadia Bailey