European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal Designers

Flowing London: Gina Fratini

1970sBohemian StyleEnglish fashion

A master of romantic 1970s style

Gina Fratini was a British fashion designer whose naively elegant style was very popular during the sixties and seventies in London. Born Georgina Caroline Somerset Butler in Japan, she was raised between the Middle East and India, but chose England as her basis, and soon became on of the ‘hot names of the British fashion scene’. Her interest in design took her to study at the prestigious Royal College of Arts, then she travelled with Katherine Dunham’s dance as costume designer, she came back to London and set up her eponymous fashion house.

Gina Fratini made of flowing, multi-layered, soft dresses with delicate prints her signature. All her inspiration came from the material she had in her hands, as she could nearly feel the potential of that fabric and enhance it with apparently simple dresses cut to enhance the intrinsic characteristics of the material she was dealing with. She had been capable of seizing the zeitgeist of her time, feeling the shift of taste from the close fitting, short designs of the 1960s to a more relaxed and retro look, which will become the image of 1970s ‘Britishness’, epitomised by iconic ‘hippy’ designers as Zandra Rhodes and Barbara Hulaniki. “I think I was the first to believe that amusing fabric is more important than close fit. I like soft fabric, but only natural ones like pure silk or pure cotton. I cut everything in bias and just let it fall into the person. I like movement. There’s nothing more fascinating than a woman flowing instead of walking.”

Fit was the issue of an argument with one of her famous clients, Princess Margaret. ‘She insists on a fitted bodice. That really goes against my grain, so we compromise on the issue.’ The list of personalities who dressed in Fratini’s creations is long and filled with ranting names, such as Princess Anne, Ursula Andress, Raquel Welch, for whom Fratini not only provided everyday clothes, but was also requested by the actress herself as her personal costume designer for the movie ‘Bedazzled’.
Princess Diana continued to be faithful to Fratini’s designs even after the shut down of her fashion house in the 80s; and even Elizabeth Taylor, known for her preference for flowing, flouncy gowns and caftans, chose Gina Fratini to design the dress in which she married Richard Burton for the second time.

‘I believe Elegantes want to dress up even if they are headed for the kitchen. A firm fashion attitude makes living palatable.’ Gina Fratini firmly believed elegance had to be a way of life: an attitude coming out naturally every moment of every day, and not a superficial apposition to put on and off when the occasion requested.