This week, we interviewed former fashion editor and c0-founder of Wardrobe Icons Petronella Strofberg on all things fashion. Petro was born in South Africa and lives in north London with her husband and son, with one baby on the way.
Tell us a bit about Wardrobe Icons, what inspired you to start the business?
Laura and I worked together on a magazine called Happy, which sadly now no longer exists. I went on to work at Look, while Laura worked at Red. We stayed in touch and got married around same time and then went on to have children the same time too. We were on maternity leave together at her parents-in-law near Rome, in Sutri. Laura was chatting about the things she wanted to do, and one idea she wanted pursue was a website dedicated to essentials. I at first thought there must have been someone else already doing it, but after researching, I realised there wasn’t anything online. Lots of website touched on the idea, but not one was dedicated to the perfect white shirt, the perfect black trousers, as I think people think those things are boring, with no scope for repeat visits.
I could see how relevant it was especially for my generation. I think when you get to a certain point in your life, late twenties, early thirties, you get really sick of buying tat, recycling your wardrobe on a seasonal basis because you find that the things you’ve bought do not have longevity, are quite often rubbish quality and so on. I loved the idea of making my own wardrobe work better – to know what to invest it. So I could see the appeal and possible success. After that summer we started working on it slowly bit by bit until Wardrobe Icons was born a year later.
What’s your recommended go-to look for mums on the run?
Well, it’s obviously a bit of a cliche, but jeans are my staple. I also love a good casual shirt, I have an an Isabel Marant one that I always wear, coupled with some statement flats, and then maybe a quilted jacket in spring, or a good parka for winter.
What are the five staple icons every woman should have in the wardrobe – the forever-pieces, the ones that never go out of fashion?
I would say invest in a good silk shirt, perhaps a signature one from Equipment; a cross body bag – I’ve got a red Gucci Soho that I love, while Laura has a Chloe Drew that she wears all the time. A good quality pair of leather leggings – Joseph do the best ones. Statement flats work for all women, and lastly I’d say invest in a great go-to black cocktail dress to have in your wardrobe, one you can just pull out for any occasion. Dolce & Gabanna do some timeless lace ones.
Which item of clothing would you never wear, over anybody’s dead body?
This is relevant to me personally, as we do have a leather jacket section, but I can never see myself wearing one. Laura has one and she loves it, but a leather jacket is something I’d never wear. I’ve never been able to get past The Fonz and Greece, and the thought of wearing one just feels a bit kitsch, even though I’ve seen other people wearing one and loved it on them. However, never say never. I never thought I’d wear a denim jacket, but I bought one this summer and have lived in it, so you never know!
Off topic, talking food for a minute – what’s your favourite recipe?
Nigella does this amazing homemade chicken shawarma, taken from her Simply Nigella cookbook. It’s a super easy recipe, the only bit that takes time is the chicken marinade. We have this dish have once a week and it’s pretty healthy too.
Favourite high street shops?
Whistles, Topshop, And Other Stories, Cos, and I do love a good M&S basic, like a cashmere.
What are your three top tips for maternity dressing?
I would advise not fall into that classic trap and feel as though you should buy maternity specific items. It’s often the case that maternity clothes are not made with very nice material, and they don’t look that great on. Head to your favourite shops, the not too expensive ones, like your Cos etc – for good quality materials. I wouldn’t advise to splash out on Valentino for example, but instead, pick items that you would normally wear in good quality fabrics, and just buy in a bigger size. When you get into your third trimester you will need to find a way to emphasise the bit between your bust and your bump, to give you more definition. Belts are a bit of a godsend.
Guilty fashion secrets – you must have one, please divulge!
I used to wear a Burberry check maxi skirt with Acupuncture trainers at university, I thought I looked really cool, but with hindsight, probably not.
What are the fashion trends hitting the shops this autumn/winter?
This season sees a very eclectic mix, with designers going all-in, it feels like the more you pile on the better. So it may be tricky to find key classic looks. To combat this we do a trend report with a focus on timelessness and wearability this season’s is out now.
How would you sum yourself up in one sentence?
Bossy, confident, gregarious and sometimes a little dorky.