I’ve had a love/hate relationship with fashion since the age of five. It was the era of the Beatles, pop art and psychedelia, so I sewed black and white stripes on my Brownie beret and chose the paisley needle cord on Bonds, which my mum made a mini. I stole my mom’s knitting patterns with Twiggy on the cover and taped them to the wall. I believed that wearing nice clothes would make people like me and, later, love me.
How wrong I would be! Taking care of every issue Vogue since 1977, I landed a job at a fashion magazine in 1980, just in time to become obsessed with Diana’s wardrobe. Since I was low, I only asked for one ticket to one show: Mulberry at the Hard Rock Cafe. He turned my head. I bought a gray silk blouse from the shop behind Oxford Street.
I passed on The Sunday Times in the late 80s to work on the lonely page of the ‘woman’ we were deemed worthy of having. I idolized fashion editors: Meriel McCooey in Chanel, Caroline Baker in buffalo gala. We once had the brilliant idea of photographing the supermodels of the day – Naomi Campbell et al – by printing them on a photocopier.
Despite getting into trouble for pissing off Ossie Clark and booting STYLE, I became the editor of a glossy in the late 90s. It’s the pale moon of my face, front row at Alexander McQueen’s ‘Voss’ show. McQueen was diverse before the word was fashionable: he put double amputee Aimee Mullins on the catwalk, elegant on carved wooden legs. There I am again at Hussein Chalayan’s fall 2000 collection, when the model was placed on a coffee table, transforming it into a skirt. I craned my neck to watch the fireworks on the lawns of Versailles after John Galliano’s 60th anniversary show for Dior in 2007, when Gisele Bündchen walked out in a barrette suit, and I had to pinch myself that a girl from Essex was even allowed inside . I was amused by the world’s largest paella being stirred on the terrace, even though the attendees were the least likely people in the plan to eat it.
However, the fashion biased my judgement, leading me to believe that £350 for a Gucci shirt was reasonable. There were also humiliating moments. Being told by a fellow fashion editor that I couldn’t share her town car in central Paris: “But I’m in Louboutins!” Instructed by a PR to ‘stand by a wall’ at Donna Karan.
Getting kicked out of Christopher Kane and Tom Ford shows for daring to dissent. Some triumphs. In Milan, I interviewed young Peta protesters who had been dragged by their hair down the Burberry catwalk. I convinced Roberto Cavalli, whose catwalk was also attacked, to admit it was ‘the worst moment of my life’. I made Philip Green so mad, he called me to ask me to return his Topshop Unique coat.
My husband later called me and my fashion world ’empty’, despite the fact that I exposed child labor in garment factories in Dhaka and banned corpses from my pages.
Aside from armor, fashion for me is an escape. Immersed in that world, engrossed in free stuff, I do the following: visit a dress online, choose my size, put it in my virtual basket and let it sit there, imagining how much my life would transform if I my lord I did this for months in a £375 pair of Maharishi Snopants. I bought the same pair at Liberty when I became editor, wore them on my honeymoon. Unlike me, they were so pleased that the fabric fell apart, revealing my Hanro heels. I joked that if I owned them again, I might return to the cool crowd that migrated from Lake Como and dinner with Donatella before tea with Sadie Frost at the Hotel Costes in Paris. I insisted on staying at Costes for the fashion shows, a place so dark that I walked into the lobby one morning like Stevie Wonder, mistakenly touching Victoria Beckham, stiff with indignant shock at the wait.
I own Snopants again. I bought a pair on sale, as the PR, when I asked to borrow a pair for a shoot, jokingly said, ‘Can you tell me the narrative of the piece?’ Needless to say, I remain unloved.
What Liz hates this week
- At M&S Harrogate, next to a section titled Mum, ‘Why add gloves, epaulettes, floral lining and a faux fur collar to a ruffled coat?’ I cry. “You can always take the collar off,” says an 80-year-old woman with misplaced loyalty.
- The man at Dolce trying to sell me a pair of pants embroidered with cherubs and roses says, “The fact that they’re cropped stops them from being too classic.”
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