www.jeanmuir.info

Always referred to by her staff as Miss Muir, Jean Muir was not nearly as frightening as her demeanour led people to believe. She was actually nothing more alarming than a perfectionist and a stickler for detail - qualities that, even before her death in 1995, were being binned by the fashion world as far too boring and demanding to be taken seriously. Cutting corners is so much easier - and, after all, who'll notice, or care?

It is fair to say that Muir would loathe modern fashion. Its meretricious preoccupation with celebrity, its lack of ethical standards and taste, and its obsession with ugliness and vulgarity would make her raise her eyebrows quizzically. She would then laugh and get on with what really mattered to her, which was her own highly individualistic work.

What would most amaze her is the ease with which people can declare themselves designers today. For Muir, anyone who called themselves a designer had to learn the trade in the trade, rather than at art school, which she rightly viewed with a certain scepticism. Her own career started in the stock room at Liberty, the store where she claimed to have learnt the business from A to Z. She progressed to selling, had a stint at fashion drawing and started designing for her first label, Jane & Jane, in 1961. Her clothes, often in jersey or fine wool, were triumphs of minimalist style, bucking the seasonal fancies she found so irrelevant.

Muir's private customers included exemplars of understated taste such as Lauren Bacall and Charlotte Rampling. And there was hardly a fashion journalist in the 1980s and early 1990s who didn't have, as her most precious possession, a Muir design in her wardrobe.

Probably the most sophisticated designer ever to work in London, Muir - whose Jean Muir label celebrates its 40th birthday this year - was the antithesis of the hype that today's designers often appear to consider more important for furthering their careers than actually learning the ropes of their trade. Jean Muir was the consummate professional.