Saturday, 10 March 2012

A conversation with... Colin McDowell

In the quiet town of Huddersfield, we met a top fashion expert for an enthralling hour. He treated us to a q&a, insistent on being asked questions and not giving a lecture. We were treated to an hour of recollections from his fascinating life full of vivid memories. (You will notice how he may not answer some questions properly a true storyteller and journalist)
If you are not familiar with the incredible mind that is Colin McDowell; here is a refresher:  he founded the infamous Fashion Fringe, he is the senior fashion writer for The Sunday Times and fashion book writer just name to name a few...

Most awe inspiring catwalk show?
‘There are many different ways one can be awe struck big names that send down pure rubbish, when you have a big business behind you it is impossible to fail.
He admitted that he is proud to be Brit with the talent in the fashion shows.
English designers like the late Alexander McQueen, John Galliano (before the drama) they always had a strong personality, there has to be an element of madness in a designer. Sarah Burton is doing a fabulous job at McQueen.
‘American designers are vanilla, fashion has no memory its immature and silly and we forget who’s done what – Marc Jacobs last two shows, McQueen created a twisted carousel catwalk ten years ago and John Galliano used a train. Vivienne Westwood when she first started had fabulous shows. I consider her ‘The earth mother of British fashion.’’

Qualities necessary to make a fashion designer?
‘Mentoring is required with new fashion designers; help with money, dealing with banks, buying fabrics....
This was the reason for Fashion Fringe, one designer a year gains support.
However, geniuses like Vivienne Westwood did not go to Art College, like Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld.
‘Remember to trust yourself and believe in yourself; do not be too arrogant.’ When you see an old person walking across the street like me, help me. We have the power to help your career or not to.

What enticed you into fashion?
Money! When I went to university, no one talked about jobs after. I ended up in the army for seven years and loved it; I then moved to Italy, I always loved Italy. I used to act in budget films in Rome but somehow I was always had no money.
 I always wanted to paint but then realised I had NO talent at all!  Then I started working in fashion and never had a weekend free again. However, whatever you do it has to be in the heart and soul and so I came back to England and became a journalist.’

What material do you enjoy the most?
‘Silk it’s so fabulous! Or wool. When you get into journalism you get given clothes by designers, the fashion world is corrupt and with the ST Style cover comes great power. Now I am wearing, Ralph Lauren and Miuccia Prada.’

Any advice for graduates wanting to break into fashion in London?
‘This is a difficult question; London is the central of fashion. You will find that London journalists are snobby. I started at ST eighteen years ago. My advice is get work at any publications, have an angle, and start a portfolio.
Or fall in love with a boy whose sister works at a top newspaper and get them to give you an internship (or slave labour he says with a twinkle in his eye).’

What is fashion now?
‘Fashion is universal; I find it strange that people go to Tokyo, Shanghai, its everywhere now there is no excitement you can get everything down Kings Rd. I think fashion is dying and will be by the time you will be fifty.’
‘I am doubtful of social media, blogs are becoming boring as numbers are dwindling, and the imperative influence is time. My sign in my car says ‘Only Twits Tweet.’ Social media is instant it’s not edited or cut like a journalistic writing.’

Any thoughts on Lady Gaga?
‘Fabulous! I adore her! Nicola Formichetti does brilliant things with her. He has had his Lady Gaga moment; he has positioned himself in fashion. He is now concentrating on being serious in the industry.’

What do you think the future holds for John Galliano?
I taught him and wrote a book about him. We never knew it was a drink problem we all thought it was drugs. He was a lovely man, but what he did was unacceptable in civilised society. He is 51 and I wonder what label would have the courage to allow him to carry on designing.

Has tailoring become less of a trade?
Tailoring is the base of it all. I get the impression it doesn’t exist anymore in London fashion. Everyone just designs pretty little dresses. The greatest tailor was Alexander McQueen.

I don’t think too highly of London Fashion Week I just don’t think some of them are ready. As Shakespeare said ‘Ripeness is all’ I think you can’t push people too soon.

He gracefully dismisses claps and reaches for his Prada scarf and constantly ringing phone before he leaves to catch his train.  In the lasting words of Colin McDowell –‘If you don't believe in yourself you might as well walk away.’ I genuinely think he is the most honest, funny and interesting person ever...