Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A Cuppa with Colin McDowell (kind of)

If anything is going to get me back to blogging, it’s a conversation with Colin McDowell; renowned fashion critic, Senior Fellow of the Royal College of Arts and founder of the Fashion Fringe.

Okay, so it wasn’t exactly a friendly catch-up over a cuppa (he’s clearly an Earl-Grey-straight-from-the-teapot kind of man anyway) but, as a prospective student to the London College of Fashion, I was invited to watch the interviewer finally turn interviewee and the man did not disappoint!

It’s easy to think McDowell could have forgotten how to answer questions after a career quizzing countless fashion heavyweights-Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Marc Jacobs and Miuccia Prada to name but a few. Yet, he truly is as entertaining as he is insightful. His regular anecdotal gems, such as meeting Balenciaga, “the most terrifying man” and words of wisdom, without the patronising tone, have convinced me to add him to the list of people I wish to adopt.

The man has friends
I haven’t had respect like this for someone since the Classics teacher at Sixth Form who embraced his eccentric nature with tweed suits. McDowell claimed he doesn’t understand the youth of today but, like Mr. Craig, he is witty and willing to be outspoken enough that we still admire him.

Despite being a fashion critic, he admitted “we sit in judgement far too much” and loves those who don’t fit in. I was particularly relieved to hear him encourage shorter skirts and not even in a Benny Hill/ dirty old man kind of way. It was more that he admired our confidence to try such looks, in the same way as ‘saggers’ continue to defy gravity and wear their low-slung jeans perilously close to the edge. As a girl who still cannot give up her petite section skirts (probably unsuitable for a height of 5’10) to work the current midi-maxi trend, it was great that McDowell approved the mini as a staple item of youth fashion!

For all his success and experience in the fashion industry, there was no pretentiousness; no particular room temperature expectations or additional cushion requirements. Far from being a diva or a male Miranda Priestly, McDowell was willing to laugh at himself; “not only am I the oldest but I am now the fattest man in Fashion”.

Okay, I could go on all day about Colin (six paragraphs in and we’re on first-name terms). As for his successes, you can find these on Wikipedia but what grabbed me most was that he hadn’t known immediately what he wanted to do in life either and tried a few options before Fashion finally found him. After reading English at Durham, he joined the army before drifting about in Rome for a few months. Whilst teaching English out there, he became an assistant to couturier, Pino Lancetti and the fashion bug finally caught up with him.
Just to confirm I didn't dream the whole experience. That would have been embarrassing but not unlike me (sorry for the shoddy iphone quality by the way).
My biggest worry about applying to LCF was that the admissions staff would take one look at my track record for flitting between different subjects and doubt my commitment. Like McDowell, I simply came out of school not knowing what I truly wanted to do, until now.

The man spoke to me without us even meeting though, which was good enough. I’ve always loved fashion but it doesn’t make me any less of an applicant if it has taken me longer to realise that it can also be my career. I just hope the College admissions panel can see that. After all, as Colin said, 
“it takes a long time to know who you are”.

He also said, “fashion is the lingua franca of the world; a cultural force here to stay whether it gets better or worse”.  Well I know for sure now; I’ve found my place in the fashion whirlwind and it's possibly the only other language I'll ever understand.

Silver Linings is back my lovelys.


  1. Hey Fi! Girl, I wrote this long comment and this new thing must've erased it! HAHAHA I read this post when you first published it. Girl, welcome back and I love the design except it deleted my post. Of course it will keep this one because I'm bitchin LOL I think this is wonderful. He's a remarkable man with so many experiences to share. I love when someone speaks and can touch you with their words. Great and Wonderful inspiration! You sound great! I've truly missed you. I know your life is really busy but continue to pop in and let us know what is going on with you. ((HUG))

  2. Thank-you lovely, I shall do; things are busy but just means I shall have more experiences to talk about :) Thanks for the support!

    Fi xx