PARIS — Jane Pendry may be a newly minted dress designer, but that’s only her latest life in fashion.

In fact, her first job was in WWD’s Paris bureau, “back when we filed copy on a Telex that looked like a church organ,” she laughed. “I was in charge of running film out to the airport to put it on the next Concorde back to New York.”

These days, she’s anxiously awaiting delivery of hammered satin silk so she can run up samples for her label, Dovima Paris. The name comes from Richard Avedon’s famous photograph of a model with elephants. “I came across that photo one weekend and leapt to the computer,” she recalls. “The name was free, and that was it.”

Inspiration for the clothes — a capsule collection of nine shirtdresses, in a choice of two fabrics — materialized in her closet. “I have always hunted them down, and I never really understood why a good shirtdress was so hard to find,” she said. Favorites include Norma Kamali numbers that she remembers from an early stint at British Vogue, her safari jacket by Yves Saint Laurent — and four from Kookaï that are a decade old. “I still wear them, even though they are starting to look a little tragic,” she admitted.

Dovima’s debut collection, which Pendry showed in her living room last October, struck a chord. Of the nine styles, she qualifies four as bestsellers: the Sofia (aka “the instant Jessica Rabbit dress”) in microfiber; the Jackie shirt-waister (“almost a coatdress”) in wool crepe, and two tunics, the Cate, in silk satin and viscose, and the Elsa, a V-neck in double-faced wool crepe. The average retail price is 550 euros, or $695 at current exchange, and she offers a demi-mesure service. Delivery takes six to eight weeks.

But if Pendry never banked on becoming a designer, Dovima Paris is a natural culmination of her years in fashion: From her first big job at Laura Ashley, where she ran the home and mother-and-child businesses as the company went from private to public ownership, she went on to direct accessories divisions at Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy and Ralph Lauren.

“I’ve been lucky enough to work with such spectacular brands and people — Mr. Saint Laurent, Lee McQueen, Ralph Lauren,” she said. “But there came a time when [I had to] start thinking differently.”
The late Loulou de la Falaise had coached her on suppliers and offered insight. “She was so funny and easy and uncomplicated and generous,” Pendry recalled. “I think she was speaking from experience when she advised me to focus on just one thing.”

This spring’s fabrics include stretch wool, cotton gabardine, a light wool-silk brocade, cotton poplin, microfiber, as well as that hammered silk satin. Colors include deep blue, cherry red, dove gray and jewel brights for machine-washable silk crepe and silk satin.

For distribution Pendry kept things personal, relying on social networking in the truest sense of the term: word of mouth and private invitations. Come September, Dovima will pop up in the Maria Luisa corner at Printemps department store. And Pendry is talking with selected specialty stores, which see in her dresses an ideal canvas for custom accessorizing.

Meanwhile, Pendry is just sticking to dresses. “Belts would be a natural marriage,” she noted, but Dovima would stop there. “Dovima is about having something to wear with all the fabulous stuff I’ve accumulated over the years!”

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