Stella Tennant & Amber Valleta by Irving Penn

Like many people one of my earliest fashion memories comes courtesy of Irving Penn. Back in the day when exquisite imported magazines were little more than a twinkle in my eye, I purchased an issue of Vogue for 25 cents at a local flea market. Granted, this was not my first issue of Vogue but it is the one I remember best of all thanks to Penn’s expressive black and white portraits of Shalom Harlow, Stella Tennant, Amber Valleta & Kirsty Hume.

Shalom Harlow by Irving Penn

Growing up I had always followed fashion to some extent but Penn’s pictures came to me during that crucial moment where a recreation becomes an obsession. The images themselves were simple but they made each girl look unearthly – taking them beyond beauty and into a realm of unmatched perfection. Shalom’s impenetrable elegance, Kirsty’s sweet sensuality, Stella’s aristocratic cool, Amber’s it factor – to my preteen mind this was the apex of all that was desirable, all that was visually compelling. The magazine itself is now long gone but I still have the individual pictures more than a decade later. They are wrinkled now and nowhere near perfect but they serve to remind me of exactly why I am passionate about fashion.


There will always be something that draws us towards what is beautiful and the work Irivng Penn created was singularly beautiful. Whether it was a picture of dried flowers framed in an art gallery or a few frayed pages saved from an old magazine, his work had an undeniable power to affect people. It is somewhat cliche to say that a picture can change your life but I wonder just how many people were introduced to fashion via Irving Penn’s six decades of stunning imagery. He will be missed.