I love fashion, I mean I really love it, I live and breathe it, but it’s been a difficult love at times. It has given both joy and pain.
I grew up watching fashion on TV, once a week we got treated to The Clothes Show, a fashion show on prime time TV, it seems unthinkable now doesn’t it?
It was a guilty pleasure though, starting in the era of the New Romantics, and working-class kids would never get near anything couture, it was a world we felt we’d never be allowed to enter.
But alongside that was the prejudice, to like fashion was to be odd, to be a girl, to be an outsider, so until my late teens it was a hidden passion, labels are terrifying, and especially to the young.
It was at University that I started to develop my love of clothes and styles, weekends were spent scouring the charity and second-hand shops, the odd tonic suit, the 30-year-old knitwear, and other finds that started to become part of the wardrobe that helped me find myself. I was at art school and finally expressing myself.
Then I dropped out aged 20 and the art school ethos went and wouldn’t be rekindled until my 31st birthday. I’d started to take more care in my clothes and then that fateful day I was having a cold drink in the hot August sunshine and happened to comment on a dress someone walking by was wearing, my friend looked at me and said . . .
“For fuck’s sake will you get a blog or something so I don’t have to listen to you anymore”?
And in that moment my fashion career was born and for years I’ve built that career. My first fashion week I had one invite, I’ll always have a deep-seated love for Arina Pritch for that (incidentally the 1st show after I started UnEstablishment I attended was hers, fate calls at the best moments and a second by the way it was bloody awesome).
The next season I had a couple of invites, people ask how I got to know so many PR’s, it’s because I had so much waiting around to do, I used to be first in line for the standing invites queue, and used to chat with them. In those early seasons, I’d quite often get sick from standing in rain, wind, cold and occasionally snow such was my desire to get even a distant look at the beauty on the runway. Fashion is still a ruthless class-based system.
I didn’t have much money so I’d quite often have a packed lunch and I’d walk everywhere as it was cheap and killed time between the smattering of shows I’d get invited to. Hat tip to Ali Lowe & Portia Shaw who with their agencies always sent me invites and used to be so warm and kind to me.
However, I often didn’t feel like I belonged, I was working as a labourer for my Dad, I felt like with my working-class accent and being older than nearly every other person in those standing queues I was never going to fit in. So often I didn’t look or sound like the idea in my head of what fashion people were.
In the crisis of confidence, I gradually worked my way through I realised that actually, that outsider nature, the fact I couldn’t dress like or be like them was good for me, I learned to stand tall, stand proud, I believed in myself eventually.
I think it’s why I’ve been free with my time for those who ask for advice, I remember with great detail how it felt to be in that queue, unsure if you’d get in, watching people waltzing by who would almost sneer at “the other queue”. It hurt, it hurt to be seen by some as unworthy, who were they to judge me?
Because of those memories, I carry something in my heart each season, there are so many people who would love to have the fashion week I do, have the issue of picking shows, to be so busy you barely have time to draw breath. I still remember the first time I was invited backstage to do an interview, I walked out of Freemasons Hall punching the air like I was in The Breakfast Club.
But I have learned, it’s still not only about ability, it’s also about contacts and on occasion, it’s also sadly about something distasteful on occasion as well, it’s about how much you’re prepared to subjugate yourself for some, those who wield power like feudal monarchs.
I choose to miss out rather than bow my head and that can be hard. to know there is a path you actively haven’t taken to get something you want, a moral compass is a difficult tool at times.
Thankfully those people are increasingly rare, the industry is getting better, more open, and no matter how much it still can make me angry, sad or despondent, I’ve seen so much positive change. So do what I did, chase your dreams, but chase them on your own terms, dreams do come true.
P.S. A huge truck-load of love to Lewis, John, Karen, Jonas, Kevin & Naomi who always treated me like an equal from day one, it meant a lot.