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Iconic British fashion designer Bruce Oldfield (b. 1950) was in children’s homes and foster care throughout his childhood.

Bruce Oldfield was born in London as an ‘illegitimate’ son to a young, married Irish woman and a Jamaican boxer. He was taken in by Barnardo’s at birth and never met his parents. 

Oldfield spent the first eleven years of his life in a foster home in County Durham. His foster mother, Violet Masters, was a single, white seamstress. She looked after five mixed-race foster children, including Oldfield’s older brother. Oldfield describes his foster home as a happy one. He was well-loved and did not experience racism within the community.  

As the family did not have much money, he describes it as “a bit like ‘Angela’s Ashes’ except ten years on in County Durham” (Hello! Magazine).

Oldfield developed a passion for fashion design after Violet taught him how to sew at a young age. He began making clothes for his foster sister at age eight. The placement broke down when Oldfield was a teenager. 

I stayed until I was 13, then went into a Barnardo’s home… I was just generally unruly and quite big for my age and she was quite elderly at that point. She found a boisterous boy of that age hard to deal with.  

It was very challenging to go from a council house to a children’s home. The benefit was I got to go to a much better school. It was awful to be moved from my family but in hindsight it was a positive thing in some respects as I had access to a better education. It made me adaptable (Williams). 

Oldfield completed his high school education at Ripon Grammar School. He then moved to London and graduated from St Martins College of Art. After graduation, Oldfield was invited to design for the Henri Bendel store in New York. 

Oldfield began his own label in 1975 and he became famous for designing Princess Diana’s clothes during the 1980s. Over his long career, he has designed clothes for many famous and celebrated personalities, including Kim Kardashian and Catherine Zeta-Jones.  

Oldfield was awarded an Order of the British Empire in the 1990s for his services to the British fashion industry. In 1998, he became the vice-president of Barnardo’s UK.  As a dedicated supporter of the charity which supported him as a child, Oldfield has used his public platform to fundraise for Barnardo’s throughout his fashion career. Oldfield’s biography, Rootless, was published in 2004.  


“Bruce Oldfield – Biography.” Hello! Magazine. 

Haywood, Jo. “Fashion designer Bruce Oldfield on growing up in Yorkshire.” Great British Life, 12 Jan 2010. 

Lobad, Noor. “Bruce Oldfield: Princess Diana’s Favorite Designer.” Lofficiel USA, 14 July 2022. 

Williams, Andrew. “Bruce Oldfield: My happy and creative childhood with foster family.” Metro News, 22 Oct 2013. 

Image available here.