Monthly Archives: April 2016
Geopolitics is really starting to mess with my autumn/winter wardrobe. While the UN conveniently sits in silence, government officials around the world can’t seem to shut up about what women should or shouldn’t wear.
India’s tourism minister, for example, has just advised that foreign women shouldn’t wear skirts “for their own safety”. Meanwhile a number of French mayors are nobly continuing to ban the burkini even after France’s highest administrative court ruled the ban illegal. These mayors care about women’s right to bare arms and are willing to break the law for it. Ladies, you should be grateful.
And I certainly don’t want to sound ungrateful. I think it’s great that politicians understand that women’s rights are often simply a matter of the right sort of clothing. It’s laudable that so many men are encouraging us to exercise sartorial safety. But here’s the thing: if you’re going to become the fashion police you need to take your policing a little more seriously. All of this advice is very confusing, occasionally conflicting and doesn’t seem terribly well thought out. Is a skort as dangerous as a skirt, for example? Is a sarong just as wrong? And can we have an official verdict on the burkini already before burkini season is over?
I’m sure a lot of women are as concerned about inadvertently dressing inappropriately as I am. So while we wait for the UN to get their act together and sort out some sort of official female dress code we can all abide by, I’ve put together some pointers on dressing while female. Please note, of course, that these are only guidelines and you should always double-check your outfit with a man.
Bikinis in Israel
While the French are saying non to burkinis, their sluttier sister, the bikini, appears equally out of fashion in Israel. A performance by singer Hanna Goor at a government-organized event was recently cut short because, apparently, her shorts were too short and she was wearing a bikini top. The culture ministry, shocked and saddened by what the public had endured, noted that they would work to ensure correct dress at future events.
As an editorial in Haaretz noted: “The modesty regime that the culture ministry is trying to enforce on events meant for the general public is the mirror image of France’s unconstitutional burkini law.”
Started from the burkini bottoms now we here, eh?
Bikinis in any country whatsoever if you’re not beach body ready
It’s irresponsible to wear a bikini unless you’ve got a six pack and a thigh gap. This may not be official legislation in most countries – but the media and advertising industry helpfully ensure that women are cognizant of these rules all around the world.
High heels in a professional environment
In May, a London receptionist was sent home from her first day at corporate accountancy firm PwC after refusing to wear heels. Around the same time a waitress at a Canadian restaurant was told she couldn’t change out of her heels even though her feet were bleeding. I have very little sympathy for these women. Yes, heels can be incredibly painful and result in debilitating foot deformities – but have you seen Jurassic World? If Bryce Dallas Howard can dodge dinosaurs and sprint through a muddy jungle while wearing 3.5-inch pumps, you should probably just get a decent podiatrist and suck it up!
My first fashion show ran on Mars bars and sleep deprivation. Ten years ago, I was selected last minute to take part in Fashion East which meant I had four weeks to create a collection from nothing: I had no fabric, no team, no idea of what I wanted to do. I never imagined I’d be creating my first show under those constraints, but of course I couldn’t say no. In the end it was an amazing experience, making it through the chaos and producing something I could be proud of.
At the time, my studio was a disused gym in a squat in Peckham, part of the!WOWOW! collective. It was a huge building incorporating an old tile warehouse, a nightclub, a theatre, an evangelical baptist church and my studio in the gym, which I’ve been told used to belong to Wolf from Gladiators. The only place warm enough to sleep was the sunbed. The whole enterprise was scrappy and optimistic; feral and lawless. I still work with people I met in those early days, such as Matthew Stone, who does my music, and Katie Shillingford, who styles my shows. They are people I can be open and honest with, without fear of judgment. We know each other too well to have to be polite.
I’ve shown in Paris since September 2008, but I always felt like a tourist. Getting there was a mission – bundling all our boxes and bags into an Addison Lee to get the Eurostar, then fighting for luggage space. Stressful doesn’t cover it. Then in Paris, you’re dropped at a prep space and start to work. You don’t see daylight for three days and have no clear idea of where you are or where to go if you run out of thread. It can be quite fraught. The Häagen-Dazs stall at Gare du Nord became laden with meaning – going there meant we were on our way home! Ice-cream has never tasted so sweet.
Last season we showed in New York, which was different again. I had been offered an opportunity to do whatever I wanted – which was incredible – but it still felt foreign. So this season I decided to bring the show home.
As ever, the day of the show was fun but hideous, in equal measure. We had an incredible location at the V&A, but there were drawbacks: it was a busy Saturday in half-term and there were stringent rules to adhere to. You can’t use hairspray in the building, for example, so models got ready in an education room a 10-minute walk away, which wasn’t clear of kids until three hours before the show. It was quite an ordeal – but the payoff was amazing.
I wanted to play with the idea of coming home to London in the show, so an obvious reference to Britannia made total sense. It was emblematic and tongue in cheek. We also used chants from my local team, Sunderland, on the soundtrack. I loved the idea of hearing football chants in such a majestic venue, and at a fashion show. It felt quite confrontational; a call to arms. It also felt appropriate as my graduate show at Central Saint Martins was about Sunderland, and my dad and brother – both staunch supporters – were there, the first time they’d both been to one of my shows in years. There was an idea of tribes, and not forgetting where you came from; of being realistic and working with what you have. I was thinking about the blind faith that football supporters have, that what you are doing is vital and worthwhile.
I have been accused, in the past, of making uncommercial clothes. That has changed, thanks to a lot of support from Michele Lamy, Rick Owens’ wife and business partner, who has helped out with the commercial side of things since 2006. It’s been a steep learning curve.
We have very different backgrounds – I think we both find each other foreign and amusing. I remember telling Michele and Rick what being “on the dole” meant, for example, which they found fascinating. She has a reputation as a tricky character – she certainly doesn’t suffer fools gladly and has a highly tuned bullshit detector. She will tell you if she hates something, but also has a childlike sense of excitement when she likes something and it’s always reassuring to get that reaction. She’s a good divining rod – she can predict success at a wider level – whereas I am a designer, not a businessman, and the idea of simply selling things isn’t what gets me up in the morning.
Studying in London is so much more expensive now than it was when I did it – and even in 2003 I couldn’t afford to do the Central Saint Martins MA course. Still, I met Louise Wilson, who gave me such great advice: that the most important thing to do as a student is fuck up and discover who you are. There’s such pressure to be a fully-formed person once you graduate. I hope young designers still have the scope to experiment creatively the way I did. Naivety is a fragile resource. It gives you the ability to do things you’d never do otherwise. To do things just because they feel right.