For most of last summer, I had to be a fashion designer. This despite the fact that I drew fashion designs obsessively for a few years from the age of ten and proved beyond all reasonable doubt that I’m never, EVER going to be John Galliano.
However, you can’t write a book about a successful designer and not describe a few outfits. I did it tentatively, but as time went on my vision of my character’s party frocks for actresses and It-girls got stronger. A bit Christian Lacroix Does Mini, a bit Marchesa Does Ballet, a bit Matthew Williamson Does India, a bit Rodarte Does Couture Punk, and every now and again a bit Chanel Does Teen. But bolder, brighter, younger and, frankly, sexier.
Last week I went to the Central St Martins Fashion Degree Show. Some might argue that it would have been a good idea to go before writing about the school, the graduates, the atmosphere, the life, but I didn’t know when it was, I didn’t know you could just pitch up and look (you can) and I couldn’t say (as I did this time) ‘I’ve just written a book about fashion and please can I talk to you?’. Instead, I used my imagination and Google.
The show was great. Commercial ‘Please can I join Max Mara?’ alongside ‘I’m mad, me, look at these shoulder pads!’ The BA graduates had hung a selection of their outfits in the middle of the room, with their lookbooks, accessories and other interesting bits and pieces around the edge, and a video of their catwalk shows in the corner.
It took me about two minutes to home in on Tanielle Lobo. Strangely, if she hadn’t been there, I’d have gone away feeling that my imagination was totally out of touch with today’s CSM. But as it was, I just saw my ideas in silk, or in photographs, turned slightly sixties and A-line, with a Bombay background (totally appropriate for book 2). Tanielle does COLOUR. She does SHORT AND SEXY. She does gold silk ruffles, tweed and sequins. High wedge platforms with engraved heels. Sequin necklaces that are about a foot square. She does how every older teenage party girl should look in couture.
I asked a student who was hanging about if I there were any spare brochures of her work that I could take. Next thing I know, I’m chatting to Tanielle herself (this is starting to be a bit of a habit). Tanielle is beautiful, bubbly, Indian and totally dedicated to forging a fashion career in London. I explained that she had effectively just brought some of my imagined outfits to life. She told me how she’s waiting for her first big order, after just hearing about getting a First (yay!). I gave her Threads to read, with my heart in my mouth, because if anyone’s going to find fault with it, it’s someone who’s practically a character in the book herself.
She emailed me to tell me she loved it. Phew.
Now I’ll keep a lookout for those fun, sexy dresses, shoes and evening coats in the fashion forward stores, so hopefully one day I can say ‘Oh yes, Tanielle. I saw her Graduate Collection at St Martins’ and sound like someone from one of my books. As long as I remember to do it in my cool voice, and not my squeaky, excited, ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod voice. Which just isn’t fashion-y at all.