You wouldn’t know it to look at me but I used to study fashion. I KNOW, RIGHT? It was doomed from the start, seeing as how at the time my favourite clothes were my tight white lace Benetton top and a pair of high waisted navy trousers. If I flexed my muscles and chewed a pipe in the right light I looked like Popeye.
It was 1997 and everyone was wearing neon Manga T-Shirts and Buffalo stack heeled trainers, the ankle crippling clumping horror made fashionable by ‘Baby’ Spice. It was the year the Spice Girls played the Brit Awards and Geri wore that union jack dress. I met her afterward and told her how awesome I thought it was (pissed) and she gave me a big grin but her eyes were calculating and dead, like a shark.
Fashion is stupid. It knows it, but it doesn’t care. It’s also an elaborate in-joke, dressed as an art form. Clothes are a necessary commodity but Fashion is a void. Do these statements sound like contradictory nonsense? That’s it in a nutshell.
There are two things I learnt from my course at The London College of Fashion.
One is that the minute something becomes fashionable – the nano second it is glimpsed by the cold, stony face of Anna Wintour in the front row, it is no longer fashionable. And once it becomes a ‘trend’ it’s over, no matter how many edgy hipsters with undercuts you dress in it. (Talking of which, the undercut – as worn by Agyness Deyn, fine. Now worn by Kerry Katona? OVER. Over like the White Cliffs of Dover.)
Which brings me to the fact that once this trend trickles down from the catwalk to the high street – i.e once us luckless plebs can afford to buy it – then it is DONE.
Done like Your Mum.
Forget it. Still wearing collar tips and studded fucking lederhösen or whatever? Ugh. You disgust the fashion crowd. Vogue wipes its ass on you. You make Kate Moss spit bile. Once you know this however, you stop chasing your tail trying to slavishly keep up. You start cherry picking things, mixing up all the elements you like and rubbishing the rest. You’re an ADULT, right? These people are making big bucks off you and then LAUGHING AT YOU ABOUT IT. Stand up to these fuckers. Stop worrying about what you wear and start enjoying all the stuff you look rad in instead. That’s better. What a relief to no longer care.
The other thing I learned is that as a fashion journalist you have a voice which is the written equivalent of a bluebird’s fart. As a class we were asked to write an opinion piece about a designer as if it were for a glossy, high street magazine. I wrote an article on Vivienne Westwood. I SLATED her. I BLITZED her latest collection. I called Her and her ludicrous tartan bustles and ‘Queen Mum of Punk’ schtick ABSOLUTE BULLSHIT. (Look. I was wearing white lace tops and high waisted culottes. I looked a total dipstick day or night. What the hell did I know, right? I ‘get’ her now, so take that cat’s bum face off your…erm…face)
My lecturer called me into the office and said,
“This is crap, Daisy”
“A magazine would never print this in a million years.”
Alright, I thought, don’t overdo it mate.
“Do you know why?”
“Because when you talk about a designer like this they withdraw their advertising. Do you know how much someone as high profile as Vivienne Westwood pays to advertise? She would embargo using her pieces on fashion shoots, and she would blacken your name to her very influential friends.”
“You said write an opinion piece.”
“Obviously,” he’d said, leaning back in his chair, “I didn’t mean your opinion. Your opinion counts for nothing. If you’re ever told that what they mean is ‘Write a gushing, superlative piece on this designer. You Have No Voice.”
I admit I didn’t understand that then but I do now. Next time you’re reading a Sunday supplement or a ‘style’ magazine (Yes. I know I sound about ninety) have a look at the big adverts and then keep your eyes peeled for how many mentions they get in that issue, how many times their clothes are namechecked or their latest accessory line is given a PR injection.
There is a story –told to me by my lecturer – about a PR who behaved like a terse, rude, arrogant bitch to some poor fashion design student seeking out intern work experience with her client. He grew up to be über successful designer Alexander McQueen and he never forgot her rudeness and refused to deal with her client ever again.
The moral, the lecturer told us, was be nice to everyone, because you never know how influential or important someone may be to you in the future. Yup, that sounds like Fashion to me.
I made a decision then to be nice to everyone for the simple fact that I wasn’t a total knob. It’s a good rule to live by.