As you may or may not be already aware, we’ve been doing this glovemaking thing for quite some time now. In fact, when the Earth’s crust was cooling, we were far too busy to notice. How did we manage that? Well, dear reader, we were locked away in the atelier, finishing the final seams of our prototype opera glove. Fine – shameless exaggerations aside, we really have been honing our craft for many decades. Since 1946, to be exact, when Cornelia James founded her eponymous label. But more on that later. Today, we’re proud to say that our business is looked after by Cornelia’s family. And we must be doing something right, as we’ve held a Royal Appointment since 1978. So, what has happened throughout the last (almost) 80 years? Well, a lot. In fact, we’ve been handed a lifetime of opportunities – chances that we’ve grabbed with both (glove-clad) hands. Because what’s a life lived from within the comfort zone? Throughout the journey, the work of our East Sussex artisan team has managed to catch the eye of many an A-lister, with a dazzling selection of names such as Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Zoe Kravitz, Ariana Grande and Joan Collins all appearing in CJ styles. We’ve also been an intrinsic part of some prestigious high fashion editorials across the globe, from the many territories of Vogue (rather fabulously including one September cover), and titles like W, Love, ELLE and i-D magazine. Of course royalty have also had their hand in our finery, with both the Duchess of Cambridge and HRH The Queen appearing in pieces from our collection. At this point, if you’re the proud owner of a Cornelia James design, then it would be the understatement of the century to say that you’re in good company. So, in celebration of our dearly begloved, we’d love it if you would join the CJ family in reminiscing about our very favourite pinch-us moments throughout the years.
A brief (but very important) background on Cornelia James
So, what can we tell you about the wonderful woman that went by the name of Cornelia James? Besides being a bona fide aficionado in the art of glovemaking, her story is one that makes us very proud of our label’s roots. Having studied art and design in Vienna, Cornelia fled war-torn Austria and arrived in England as a refugee in 1939. In the grey landscape of a rationed, post-war Britain, Cornelia found an opportunity to create some joy with her first collection of colourful leather gloves, circa 1946. It was just the tonic to a drab economy that was in dire need of some cheer, with Vogue soon profiling her as ‘the colour Queen of England.’ After that, it wasn’t long before the actual Queen of England would notice Cornelia’s gleeful gloves. It was when Norman Hartnell curated the then-Princess’ wedding gown and ‘going-away’ outfit that he turned to Cornelia James to provide the gloves. Fast forward to ‘79 and, after more appearances in our designs, Cornelia finally received an official Royal Warrant – a title that is now proudly held by Genevieve James, Cornelia’s daughter. To this day, the royal family are frequent wearers of CJ – in addition to HM the Queen's patronage, The Duchess of Cambridge often wears our styles (most recently wearing a pair during Prince Philip's memorial service at Westminster Abbey) along with HRH Princess Anne, who also chose a pair of Cornelia James for the service.
Throughout the years, the ever-evolving nature of the accessory landscape has kept us on our toes (for the academics amongst us, there’s more on that history over here), but we’ve managed to roll with the sartorial punches – something that we’re very proud of. Actually, we like to think of our business as a quirkily British success story. So, why don’t we bring out the family photo album (or rather, ‘family press clippings’) and share a few highlights?
Famous fans of CJ
From Los Angeles to London, we’ve enjoyed sartorial brushes with the very pillars of the A-list world. And whilst we can’t name them all (shameless, aren’t we?), we’re allowed to have favourites. So, dear reader, behold some of our most treasured recent moments…
As the age-old adage goes: if Rihanna is wearing it, one should run and stock up immediately. A true tastemaker, RiRi has been a long-term Cornelia James customer, having appeared in several of our styles over the years. Most recently in 2022, the Fenty Beauty mogul appeared in the 30th issue of Dazed wearing the black iteration of our Venetia glove, styled with stacked brass cuffs and the now-notorious galea headdress. Alongside the September 2018 cover of British Vogue (wearing the Virginia black lace gloves, as styled by Edward Enninful OBE himself), Rihanna also appeared in our Hermione satin evening glove for a Fenty Beauty shoot the same year. Back in 2012, she also performed Diamonds at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show wearing our Anastacia lace glove.
For the launch of her makeup brand r.e.m. beauty, Ariana served up '60s-inspired retro-futurism in silver thigh-high boots and our Melissa velvet opera gloves. The result? A polished and contemporary version of Barberella sci-fi glamour. Simply out of this world.
Another seasoned CJ starlet, Lady Gaga has been spotted in many pairs throughout the years. Most recently, she performed the US National Anthem at the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States wearing haute Schiaparelli with our Elodie long leather gloves. For Gaga’s 2021 Las Vegas Residency, she took to the stage dripping in diamonds, feathers and velvet – by way of our Melissa elbow-length gloves. Other sartorial highlights include Gaga’s ‘60s inspired ensemble for a press appearance in 2018, complete with the tulle ballerina cuff of our Melissa design, and her New York performance at Gramercy Park Hotel – once again wearing her beloved Melissa gloves, this time with a scattering of diamonds over the top.
For US ELLE magazine, Patti Wilson styled Billie Eilish in our Anastacia long lace gloves and a chunky knitted Gucci sweater. The interview examined Billie’s relationship with body image alongside her experience with feminism and celebrity – a forward-thinking and important feature for us at Cornelia James.
A true testimony to the versatility of the evening glove, Dua Lipa’s shoot for 032c magazine encouraged our Sophie and Chloe lace styles to take a trip to the dark side. For this punk-inspired editorial, Dua appeared in laddered tights, a spiked mullet and lashings of eyeliner – a fresh and inspired adaptation of the typically formal glove.
Now viewed almost three billion times on YouTube, Taylor Swift chose our Zara lace mitten for her Blank Space music video in 2014. Appearing as part of her ‘wake up’ scene at the start of the video, Taylor accessorised the design with plenty of black feathers and lace, an eye mask, and one sleepy kitty – potentially the very best way to style Cornelia James.
For British Vogue in ‘19, Zoe Kravitz appeared in our Millie polka dot cotton gloves – styled with the oversized volume of a matching ruffled dress, and sharpened with a slick bob and net fascinator.
Appearing in 1883 magazine, actress Anya Taylor-Joy appeared in the sheer lengths of our Arabella glove – as styled by Michael Miller. As classic as an oil painting, the editorial saw Anna as the quintessential Hollywood starlet in an embellished evening gown and polished chignon.
Helena Bonham Carter
‘Who wants to be normal when you can be unique?,’ so said Helena Bonham Carter whilst appearing in our Arabella glove for Vanity Fair in 2011. Synonymous with her revered eclectic image, the editorial presented images of Helena in Regency-inspired finery – all whilst clutching a Diet Coke from behind lengths of wheat and cobwebs. Both interesting and on-brand for the Oscar-winning actress, it was a unique interpretation of the classic opera glove.
We officially made it to The First Monday in May, all via Benedict Cumberbatch. Attending the Met Institute Gala in 2019 for ‘Camp: Notes on Fashion,’ Benedict took a handy plus one (or two) along with him — a bespoke pair of Cornelia James gloves. Styled by Joe Woolfe, Benedict’s pristine all-white ensemble consisted of a three-piece tux with tails, a matching cravat and top hat, and one tasselled cane.
Styled in our Arabella and Hermione gloves, legendary Joan Collins appeared in W’s December 2018 edition to discuss ageing in Hollywood. Styled by Simon Robins, it was a poignant decision to select a timeless accessory such as the evening glove – for much like Joan, they never fall out of style.
For 2019 ELLE magazine, Chrissy Teigen appeared in Philomena, our opera glove with full-length bow detailing. Styled in a ribbed white vest with a (purposefully) messy top knot and lengths of tendrils framing her face, it was a perfectly undone revision of the opulent style.
The original Material Girl might be synonymous with those pink satin opera gloves (part of her infamous Marilyn Monroe-inspired ensemble), but we prefer some of her other glove moments. Namely, the ones that involve us. In 2017, Madonna took to the stage of the 4th Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Gala in Saint-Tropez wearing a pair of Cornelia James’ finest. She also appeared in W Magazine wearing our lace Ella gloves for a sultry, brooding editorial captured by Steven Klein.