Rankin photographs 40 women in one dress

The dress has already been yanked on and off more often than a photographer's lens cap, but Rankin has two more subjects he'd like to capture in its slightly worn beige folds: Germaine Greer, and himself.

The dress has already been yanked on and off more often than a photographer's lens cap, but Rankin has two more subjects he'd like to capture in its slightly worn beige folds: Germaine Greer, and himself.

Most men could expect a dusty answer if they invited a woman to come round to their place and prance about in a frock worn by dozens before them.

Rankin has had a few shocked rejections - "you've got to go through loads of agents, there's no way out of that, and some of them just don't get it" - but has so far persuaded 40 women, including models Claudia Schiffer, Jodie Kidd and Jerry Hall, singers such as the Appleton sisters and Marianne Faithfull, and actors including Lucy Liu and Julie Strain, all to pose for him in the same Gucci dress.

He picked out the dress three years ago with a stylist, as one that could be worn by many different sizes and shapes. "I can't remember whether I got it free - I don't think I had to pay for it," he said.

Each woman chose how she wore it: Lucy Liu draped it over her head, Lisa Winkler tried a bit of kick boxing, Julie Strain caught it so fiercely in her teeth it's a tribute to the manufacturer that it survived.

Most, including the magnificent Daphne Selfe, had worked with him before. Her career began more than half a century ago when she was spotted behind the counter in John Lewis, and she is now more in demand than ever as a model. She described the session as "such a good laugh", despite Rankin's shock when he discovered her real age, 73.

Rankin (real name John Rankin Waddell, but better not to risk it) was born in 1966, and rapidly established a reputation for an original and distinctive style in advertising and fashion photography, often working in black and white. The man who has described himself as "a short fat white boy" assured his status as Mr Cool Camera in 1991, when he founded the style magazine Dazed and Confused with his friend Jefferson Hack.

His work is in many major collections, including the National Portrait Gallery, which bought his jubilee photograph of the Queen.

Recent work includes the "real women" photographs for a Dove cosmetics campaign, featuring women of a far wider range of ages and shapes than normally appear in advertising.

The women in the beige frock are positively over-dressed compared with the subjects of his collaboration two years ago with David Bailey, on a book and exhibition called Down Below.

But One Dress is his pet project. "It's just a very simple, one-shot idea. There's no client, there's no sponsor, there's no big set, it doesn't need crowds of assistants and stylists," he said.

"I like the idea of going on and on until the dress gets more and more dilapidated and finally falls to bits completely." He added anxiously: "It can be a bit tricky if it's been out in rain or in the sea or that, but we do clean it every time. I think I'll get a little bit more wear out of it yet."

He has 40 women in the bag, and wants to go on until he has at least 100. Top of his wish list is the beautiful and ferocious Germaine Greer.

"I haven't asked her yet, but she's amazing, I'd love to get her, I think she'd be absolutely fantastic. And I think I'll have to do it myself - but I'm going to have to lose a bit of weight first."

Many of the One Dress images will be on Rankin's new website, which goes live today at www.rankin.co.uk.


Maev Kennedy

The GuardianTramp

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