North east fashion legend Bill Gibb to be celebrated in online event

The legacy of Aberdeenshire-born and internationally-acclaimed fashion designer Bill Gibb will be celebrated in an online event later this month, with a very special contribution by the designer’s sisters, Patsy Davidson, Janet Arnott and Marlyn Hope. 

Presented by Aberdeen Art Gallery and Gray’s School of Art, the symposium will be co-chaired by Josie Steed, Course Leader for BA (Hons) Fashion & Textile Design, and Hilary Nicoll, Lecturer in Creative Futures and Co-Director of Look Again, who commissioned the exhibition ‘The Bill Gibb Line’ by writer and performer Shane Strachan, which was presented at Aberdeen Art Gallery in 2019/20. 

The symposium had been due to take place during the exhibition but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The unmissable line up of curators, fashion writers, and academics includes a keynote address by Christine Rew, Art Gallery & Museums Manager, who has curated several contemporary craft, jewellery and fashion exhibitions at Aberdeen Art Gallery including ‘Bill Gibb’ in 1990 and ‘Bill Gibb – the Golden Boy of British Fashion’ in 2003, the year that would have marked the designer’s 60th birthday.

Aberdeen Art Gallery holds and unparalleled Bill Gibb archive of drawings, patterns and garments, thanks to the support of the Gibb family and the Friends of Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums.  

A specially recorded conversation with Gibb’s sisters, Patsy, Janet and Marlyn, promises to be one of the many highlights of the event. During the conversation, the sisters share their memories of their designer brother, whose was talent spotted while he was a pupil at Fraserburgh Academy.

Encouraged by his art teacher, Bob Duthie, Gibb went on to study at St Martin’s School of Art, and at the Royal College of Art where fellow students included Ozzie Clark and Zandra Rhodes. The sisters reflect how they would send him care packages of butteries and oatmeal, to help manage his homesickness for the colours and textures of the north-east of Scotland. 

As Patsy reflects: “If you went out for a walk with Billy at Fraserburgh beach he’d see the colours and the patterns, we never noticed the things that Billy did. His designs were innovative and refreshingly different, with an exquisite attention to detail, which stunned the fashion world. Billy was always a romantic – every woman who ever worn a Bill Gibb outfit would feel a million bucks.” 

Gibb would use his sisters as models for his early designs, draping them in bedspreads and curtains to achieve what would become his signature flowing, feminine look. During the symposium the sisters will share their memories of having bespoke wedding gowns created for them by their brother, who was crowned Designer of the Year by Vogue in 1970. 

Councillor Marie Boulton, Aberdeen City Council’s culture spokesperson said: “Whilst it was disappointing that the symposium had to be cancelled last year, in many ways we should celebrate the fact that, now that it’s taking place online we have the opportunity to attract audiences from far and wide to share with them the incredible legacy of Bill Gibb, and his unique connection to the north-east of Scotland.

“We are incredibly grateful to Bill Gibb’s sisters for participating in the symposium, and for their support in acquiring the superb Bill Gibb archive for Aberdeen Archives, Gallery & Museums.” 

Fashion, Fantasy, Collaboration: The Legacy of Bill Gibb Online symposium Saturday 20 March 2021 10.30am-2.30pm £10 For full programme details and to book tickets go to: https://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/AAGM/whats-aberdeen-art-galleries-and-museums/fashion-fantasy-and-collaboration-legacy-bill-gibb

Photograph shows: Patricia Davidson’s wedding (1969) with Marlyn Hope on the left, Janet Arnott on the right and two flower girls in Bill Gibb designed wedding dresses.