Period gang drama Peaky Blinders drew to a grisly conclusion
a couple of weeks back but the look Cillian Murphy's Thomas Shelby wore is far
from finished. The directional haircut – a kind of undercut with bowlish
tendencies – worn with a rounded collar shirt, tweed jacket and waistcoat might
be just the thing in 1919 Birmingham but it's also doing the rounds in 2013
east London. Moving on from the 60s-tinged school of dressing, menswear now has
a new reference.
Five years ago, web developers in Shoreditch were wearing
Barbours and pretending to be farmers – something that Mumford & Sons took
to a spoof-worthy extreme. The focus has shifted. It's now about a look that
can broadly be dated to post-first-world-war. Its archetype isn't posh but it's
not hunky agricultural labourer either. Instead, think sensitive craftsman.
Other than Shelby and James Middleton – who sported a very
on-trend beard at the christening of his nephew last week – moodboard pics
might include the artistic alpha males that populate DH Lawrence novels, as
well other characters in TV shows Parade's End and the below-stairs chaps of
Downton before it went all 20s. Frock coats, smoking jackets and granddad
shirts have been part of collections from Margaret Howell and Dolce &
Gabbana to Alexander McQueen, where a cobbled catwalk and buckled shoes featured
Why is this look taking off nearly 100 years after it was
first worn? Fashion loves putting a spotlight on something obscure and, without
an obvious subculture (the 60s, say), this particular style hasn't been cool
before. It was a bit dowdy and make-do – but, in austerity Britain, that's
perfect. It works within a wider nostalgia for a hardy, heroic Britain in the
Keep Calm and Carry On poster on the kitchen walls of shared houses, the
patriotic domesticity of hit series The Great British Bake Off and war
re-enactment weekends for thirtysomethings. These clothes aren't about high
fashion – they're more the logical drip-down of this lifestyle trend.
Clothes that can be traced back to where they were made,
traditional cuts reworked and words such as "craftsmanship",
"workwear" and "artisan" are replacing references to Don
Draper's tux-and-blonde glamour as the boxes to tick. Asos says sales of workboots
have more than doubled since last year, and All Saints' Marshall-style boots –
almost soldier-worthy – are a bestseller. Topman, that litmus test of what most
men actually wear, has increased its Made In England suiting range, with
jackets and waistcoats selling well.
"There's a return to nostalgic items that emanate from
their surroundings," says design director Gordon Richardson. "This
collection is produced in an old factory in the north of England." It's
not a wholesale thing; that would be too costumey. Topman reports customers
wear the tweed jackets not with matching trousers but jeans, and Albarn
combines its version with that other big men's trend, the sweatshirt.
"We don't go out of our way to align ourselves with a
particular era but we're always touching on the past," says Ben Dutton,
Albarn's buyer, where the Artisan shirt is a bestseller. "It used to be
you would go down the pub and boast about the newest technical twist of your
Stone Island jacket. Now, if a jacket has a story to tell, it's more appealing."
Menswear trends always swing between the futurism of
sportswear and the authenticity of heritage. With a rose-tinted version of
Britain in vogue, it makes sense the latter is having a moment now. "This
is less New York, more the mountains around Catskills," says Jeremy
Langmead, editor-in-chief of Mr Porter, where they are pushing fisherman
jumpers, hiking boots and tweedy jackets. "It's about escapism from the
stresses and strains of modern metropolitan life."
Hostem takes this idea to an extreme. The boutique, on
Redchurch Street in east London, looks like a provisions store from the 20s –
with hessian walls, antique jars and shop assistants of a beard-plus-boot type.
Instead of stout and aspic, it sells very expensive, very limited runs of
menswear pieces that fetishise a pre-mass production model.
"Designers we work with are using knitting looms and
hand-making shoes. We celebrate that technique," says founder James Brown.
He points in particular to Geoffrey B Small. "It's just him and two other
people," says Brown. "They handfinish everything down to the
buttonholes. He'll use berries or bark to dye, old-world techniques." As
you might expect, items can take up to a year to produce, and are priced
accordingly – a suit is around £2,000.
Brown believes these prices are worth it because they're a
way to opt out of trend-based high fashion. "You can buy a Prada jacket
one season and it's worthless the next," he says. "This is about
investment pieces." But with the look encroaching on the high street, that
means early adopters will be on the look out for a new retro icon (20s baseball
player? Thirties accountant?). The Peaky Blinders look will definitely still be
around for most when the second series begins next year. What Thomas Shelby
will be up to, though, we're yet to discover.
Karl Lagerfeld is dead, and the fashion industry he presided
over from the house of Chanel rends its garments and calls itself heartbroken.
His muse, a white cat called Choupette, which exists largely on Twitter – a
metaphor for his misanthropy so pure I thank him – was photographed in a
mourning veil, thanking us for our words of condolence. That his best beloved
was literally inhuman, and very small, is no surprise. (It is rumoured that, if
she exists, she will inherit his fortune, though that is illegal in France.)
I do not think Lagerfeld really liked women. It is
impossible to watch his work and think he did. It is impossible to watch his
face – immobile, from surgery or not, I can’t say – and think he liked himself.
It is obvious, and often noted, that fashion doesn’t have to be misogynistic
and exclusionary; fashion is merely expression, and expression is morally
neutral. But it certainly became those things in the era when Lagerfeld was
dominant. In a world that is pure hierarchy, he had the power of a medieval
pope, and he could have used it to make fashion less exclusionary, and more
joyful. Consider the changes that Edward Enninful is making at British Vogue.
He employs Paris Lees, a trans woman, as a columnist, and his first cover
featured Adwoa Aboah, a mixed-race woman. Lagerfeld was rarely so benevolent or
brave: profit was his calling, and misogyny his method. At home, meanwhile, he
preferred to idolise a cat.
The couture shows in Paris, at which he excelled, power the
global fashion machine and send it to the duller parts of Earth. He decided
what was lovely and what was not, who should be noticed and who should be
ignored. None of this would matter if it didn’t have that power – fashion, when
cornered, cites its triviality as a defence – except it did. The machine sold
perfumes and handbags (almost no one can afford couture, and that kind of money
is a sickness in itself) by offering an ever-receding image of beauty that no
normal woman could ever attain, let alone hold. The girls who wore his clothes,
which were as insubstantial as a fleeting dream (he was an artist, and his
works expressed his philosophy perfectly), were very young and tiny. They
seemed, when you watched them, only just born, with no blemish on them,
existing only for the adornment of Lagerfeld’s feathers and bows.
There is nothing wrong with being young and lovely, but it
is a passing moment in a woman’s life, and he offered nothing for women who do
not look like that – ie, almost all women – but a remorseful look in the glass,
and exile. He employed older women at Chanel (he had to, for models and cats
cannot do everything), but they had to grasp backwards towards youth. Their faces
were over-smooth and indistinct at the edges, as if they lived under a curse: a
woman uneasy in her own face, a woman who cannot age. Young women – fresh clay
for his myth – were what he craved. He placed women everywhere in unhappy
competition with their childish selves, and I can think of nothing sadder or
more destructive of the very soul that fashion is supposed to liberate. I
imagine that had he seen a woman excrete, he would have vomited.
It is worth noting, again, that he didn’t make the clothes
himself; and the clothes themselves were almost incidental to his art. Rather,
he made powerful and spurious myths. The clothes were made by a group of
dedicated, vastly skilled women (and a few gifted men) in an eyrie at the top
of the house of Chanel. It is the same in almost every fashion house. You see
these artisans credited fully only when a designer – John Galliano, for
instance, or Lee Alexander McQueen – loses himself within the artifice he
builds. Then they are celebrated, a small truth offered as penance for
fashion’s crimes, and things return to the abnormal normal.
Lagerfeld’s art had a wider impact even than inciting
self-hatred in women for ordinary profit, and enchanting intelligent women to
collude in it, which was always the most extraordinary montage that fashion
offered. The world grew more unequal when Lagerfeld ruled fashion. That beauty
– the very apex and definition of beauty – belonged only to the almost
unimaginably rich added power to the gospel of prosperity theology that ruled
the age, and which has brought us to such anger and terror. To the rich, everything,
for they are fairies or gods; and to the rest, the crumbs. He was, at his
heart, a handmaiden to the unequal world we have made, and although you can
argue for its transient loveliness, it was always uglier, and more important,
• Tanya Gold is a journalist
Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld was right about fashion and wrong
Karl Lagerfeld, one the 20th century’s greatest fashion
designers, died Tuesday in Paris. Credited with saving Chanel when he became
its creative director, Lagerfeld was known, not only for his stylistic
brilliance, but also his outspoken and controversial comments.
His perspective on fashion was invaluable, but his critiques
of women represent the darker side of the industry.
The haute couture king told the New York Times that fashion
designers are artisans, not artists. As catwalk looks have become increasingly
unattainable, with models debuting styles you wouldn’t see anywhere but the
runway, Lagerfeld emphasized fashion’s utility.
Designers “take themselves very seriously because they want
to be taken as artists,” he said. “I think we are artisans. It’s an applied
art. There’s nothing bad about that. If you want to do art, then show it in a
Despite his lifetime contracts with high-fashion labels
Chanel and Fendi, Lagerfeld embodied a down-to-earth perspective on clothes.
“People buy dresses to be happy,” he said.
But the designer’s legacy is tainted by the way he conformed
to industry stereotypes. Fashion may have been more than a piece of art to him,
but women were not.
Lagerfeld had a habit of complaining about women’s bodies,
whether he was saying they looked ugly or need to lose weight. He called Adele
“a little too fat,” as an aside while discussing her lovely voice, and later
insulted plus-sized women again: “No one wants to see curvy women on the
He also grumbled about other people's faces. In 2012, he
insulted Pippa Middleton saying the Duchess of Cambridge is beautiful, but “her
sister struggles. I don’t like the sister’s face. She should only show her
Worst of all, Lagerfeld dismissed objections to sexual
harassment in the industry. He told Numero magazine last spring that he was
"fed up" with the #MeToo movement. "If you don’t want your pants
pulled about," he said, "don’t become a model! Join a nunnery,
there’ll always be a place for you in the convent."
Lillian Fallon, a New York City-based fashion writer, said
Lagerfeld’s conflicting legacy represents a broader trend. “His comments on
plus-size women and models in general kind of summarize the elitist attitude of
the fashion industry and the treatment of women as objects meant for
consumption,” Fallon said. “He seemed to embody a lot of the negative
stereotypes of the fashion industry.”
Lagerfeld “really was not on board with the push to have a
more accurate representation of women and wasn’t really interested in diverse
While obituaries focus on his more humorous quotes —
Lagerfeld once said that “sweatpants are a sign of defeat” — we should remember
that he was only halfway revolutionary. The designer’s legacy was one of
breaking fashion trends but conforming to its old tropes.
Karl Lagerfeld in 2011. He evolved into a commentary on the
fashion business: personally stylised into his own logo (glasses, gloves and
the defensive composure for the camera).
The designer Karl Lagerfeld, who has died aged 85, explored
and exploited couture, ready-to-wear and even mass-market fashion for more than
60 years. He had a genius for visual quotation and allusion, impersonation and
pastiche, especially at Chanel, the fashion house he headed for more than three
decades, and it made him the first postmodern fashionmeister.
Nobody else stayed on top of so many labels for so long:
besides Chanel, Lagerfeld headed Fendi, and intermittently had his own-name
brand. And he evolved into a commentary on the whole business: personally
stylised into his own logo (glasses, gloves, the defensive composure for the
camera); encyclopedic about the history of design, yet devoid of sentimental
nostalgia. Edna E Mode, the opinionated couturier in the Pixar cartoon The
Incredibles, says: “I never look back, darling, it distracts from the now.”
Lagerfeld’s first imaginative creation had been himself. His
version set his birth at variable dates on a country estate in
Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, his papa Otto possessed of a fortune from
condensed milk, and mama Elisabeth (nee Bahlmann) a woman of culture.
He told of his strict upbringing, governess, and the
family’s oil painting of the court of Frederick the Great. However, German
records set the date earlier at 1933, downgrade his father to a successful
businessman, his mother to a lingerie saleswoman and the schloss to a manse in
the leafy suburban Baurs Park district of Hamburg, from which the family was
evicted by British occupation forces. He later dropped the final letter of
Lagerfeldt to arrive at a more marketable name.
Witnesses remembered a longhaired outsider determined to be
far from the hungry postwar countryside or grim Hamburg. In both versions, he
was an autodidact who made bold connections between visual aspects of the
That was his genuine gift: he combined a historian’s
knowledge of the past with a diarist’s curiosity about the present, and
subjected them to the ruthlessness that ruled his life. Anything and anybody
was abandoned as soon as he considered the present should turn to past. He
called it “vampirising”.
After private school and a spell, at his request, at the
Lycée Montaigne in Paris, Lagerfeld won in the coat category of the 1954
International Wool Secretariat competition, and was invited as apprentice to
Pierre Balmain’s couture house. After that he joined Jean Patou, where he
designed under the name Roland Karl; there was enough family money to pay for a
Mercedes and a social life.
He left in 1962 to work as a designer for upmarket
ready-to-wear firms that had begun to serve customers for whom couture was too
expensive and dressmakers too dowdy. Lagerfeld collected books, a copy to
shelve plus another to gut for images, while observing the current mood on the
streets. His designs were commercial, and his workrate exceptional – ideas in,
sketches out, all of it thrown away immediately on completion, for Krizia,
Ballantyne, Isetan, Charles Jourdan, Tiziani of Rome and many other quality
In 1967 he took over furs for the Italian firm Fendi, and
did things with pelts none had dared before. For the dreamy frock company
Chloé, which had recruited him in 1963, he used his understanding of old
dressmaking details. Flea market vintage, bought decades before retro was chic,
and his collector’s familiarity with art deco, set the house style; his 1972
deco ready-to-wear collection attracted more attention than most couture shows,
although Lagerfeld’s relationship with Chloé and the other employers remained
discreet. He didn’t take bows.
The fees they paid, plus the extra Lagerfeld accumulated
through using his antennae to deal in antiques and art, funded his high
visibility: attention was paid to his appearance, possessions and the premises
he stashed them in. Andy Warhol borrowed a Lagerfeld apartment as the venue for
a movie, L’Amour (1973), and Lagerfeld adopted Warhol’s creed of
superficiality, although behind that facade lay a wide and deep consumption of
art and literature. Lagerfeld and the Puerto Rican fashion illustrator Antonio
Lopez had a Parisian salon, in the arts not fashion sense, early in the70s.
Along with Warhol, Lopez introduced Lagerfeld to American
pop culture and its idea of fashion based on attitude more than actual
garments. Lopez and Lagerfeld drew competitively. They snapped Instamatics.
They assembled collages, prototypes of the mood boards that began to dominate
collections as fashion expanded its markets in the 1970s.
Lopez and his circle were bankrolled by Lagerfeld, who paid
for clothes and presents – Lagerfeld gave, without stint, personally chosen
gifts to favourites and as business offerings. A Chloé perfume in 1975
increased his income and his flamboyance flared, but his famous fan, tied-back
hair and wild garments never impeded the flow of reliably saleable designs for
clients. Lagerfeld was the German industrial miracle.
His longterm bet that ready-to-wear would prevail
surprisingly brought him in 1982 to the couture house of Gabrielle “Coco”
Chanel, who had died in 1971. The first show, in 1983, was not a critical
success, although his pastiches of Coco’s classics were passable and his
learning about his predecessor unsurpassed: “I’m like a computer who’s plugged
into the Chanel mode,” he said.
By the second collection he had deconstructed her lifework
into a mood board – tweeds, braids, quilted bags, costume jewellery and the
double C logo – and played outrageous games with them. To those who hated his
mockery of Chanel’s practical clothes, he replied the house had been “a
sleeping beauty who snored”.
He was even more radical in understanding the globalisation
of luxury in the 80s. Others had preceded him in staging shows as rock gigs and
recouping the money on perfumes and licensing deals; but Lagerfeld envisaged
Chanel as an intercontinental superbrand, big beyond even the perspicacity of
its then owner Alain Wertheimer, who paid up when Lagerfeld demanded $1m per
Other houses hired their own necromancers – as the writer
and former editor of French Vogue Joan Juliet Buck wrote, Lagerfeld “started
the Lazarus movement”. He did it best, and his ideas channelled through Chanel
influenced everybody, especially his 90s tweeds simulated in extra-light
fabrics, and unravelled seams and hems.
As soon as he was lord of Chanel, Lagerfeld abandoned Chloé
(he was enticed to return in the 90s) and was backed by the American Bidermann
Industries to produce ready-to-wear under his own name: this line lingered
until bankruptcy in 1997. He bought back his name for a franc, relaunched and,
in 2004, sold his trademarks to Tommy Hilfiger, hiring himself out to design
for them. He used his other talents, as a photographer (for Chanel campaigns,
magazines, galleries), and as publisher of the imprint Edition 7L, which
brought out books that had caught his attention.
Edition 7L’s bestseller was The Karl Lagerfeld Diet (2002),
triggered by his 40kg weight loss: he had denied himself Coca-Cola, cheese and
chocolate cake to emerge from the black tent garb of his more corpulent era and
wear the slimmest Dior. He dropped the fan, although the dark glasses remained,
as did the fingerless gloves to hide the mechanic’s hands of which he was
ashamed, because his mother had loathed them.
This changed appearance became his logo: when in 2004 he
took the logical step of designing a collection for the high-street chain
H&M, billboards of his slender persona sold the goods. He was suddenly a
celebrity, and the Brazilian government had to warn him it could not afford to
provide security for a visit. That his marionette self (there were Steiff bears
in his image, and a toy mouse) now signified more than all the effort of his
lifetime invention seems to have been his choice.
There was nowhere to go but back to work in the present, as
he had always feared not being part of the moment as a death in itself. So he
was soon into social media as each novelty arrived: his Birman cat, Choupette,
had her own Twitter and Instagram accounts, professionally updated.
Yet, with Chanel company money, he secured the future of six
ancient Parisian craft workshops and designed extra, beautiful, collections to
show off their slow handiwork. The newest, global nouveaux riches – “rich as
air” he said, not kindly – failed to impress him, even if his couture shows
expanded into spectacles more operatic than his 1980 designs for Berlioz’s Les
Troyens at La Scala, Milan. Last December the backdrop was an Egyptian temple
in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, but he did not appear at the
January show in Paris.
Lagerfeld owned a sequence of Parisian apartments, including
a large chunk of an 18th-century mansion in Saint-Germain, plus residences in
Monte Carlo, Biarritz and Manhattan, not always resided in. He bought and sold
the Château de Penhoët in Brittany, and a mansion near his childhood home (also
sold, the landscape not being as he imagined it).
Much of his antique collection was auctioned for more room
and fewer memories, then he began to acquire again. Among the celebrated
collaborators he repudiated were Lopez, his muses Anna Piaggi and Paloma
Picasso, Inès de La Fressange (for posing as official model for the French
symbol Marianne while under contract to Chanel), and the later house deity
Claudia Schiffer. “The curtain falls,” he said of his curtailment of
friendships. “An iron curtain.” He could be publicly dismissive of strangers,
too, especially the looks and figures of non-ethereal women.
Lagerfeld had adored Jacques de Bascher, a provincial
fantasist who projected himself as an elegant aristo, and subsidised De Bascher
to do the risky living for him, the drugs and sex Lagerfeld held back from. As
Buck said: “He could look at Jacques’ excesses from above, in a princely
fashion; he himself was too grand.” After De Bascher’s death from Aids in 1989,
Lagerfeld mourned him publicly but decreed the official line should be that he
had never fallen in love: “I am just in love with my job.”
A court dismissed Lagerfeld’s suit for invasion of privacy
against Alicia Drake, after the most telling chapter of her fashion memoir, The
Beautiful Fall (2006), described the suicide near Penhoët of a member of
Lagerfeld’s entourage, which barely paused the posing and sketching at the
“I’m floating. Nobody can catch me, mmm?” was a Lagerfeld
remark. So was, “I don’t know what normal means.”
• Karl Otto Lagerfeld, fashion designer, born 10 September
1933; died 19 February 2019
Sarah Fewell, who runs a business selling secondhand and
vintage clothes on the website Depop that now has 10 million users.
Lauren Cowdery is flicking through the rails of the Cancer
Research charity shop in Goole, east Yorkshire. “Too bobbly!” she tuts at a
ribbed top. “This skirt is big but it would be easy to take in … ” Cowdery
appears to be shopping, but she is merely browsing. She is on a mission not to
buy any new clothes, even ones that have recently belonged to someone else. “I
think you have to pull back and ask: ‘Do I need this?’” she says.
Cowdery is one of a growing number of people who love
clothes but try their hardest to resist buying them for reasons of
sustainability. According to the charity Wrap, which promotes sustainable waste
management, the average lifetime for a garment in the UK is just 2.2 years. An
estimated £30bn of unused clothing hangs in UK wardrobes, and yet still we shop
for more. “Each week we buy 38m items and 11m items go to landfill,” says Maria
Chenoweth, chief executive of Traid, a charity working to stop clothes being
thrown away. “We don’t have enough resources to keep feeding this monster.”
Chenoweth believes that consumers are switching to
secondhand shopping, or adding a pre-owned element into their purchasing
habits. She points to a 30% rise in turnover at Traid shops in 2018 compared
with 2017. When she was a teenager in the 80s, her father banned her from
jumble sales in case people thought the family was poor. She disobeyed him, and
dragged her sacks of clothes through her bedroom window. Now, Chenoweth
considers it “a huge gesture of activism to buy secondhand”, a necessary choice
for those who “do not believe in damaging the environment and perpetuating this
consumption and waste”.
So how hard is it to make the transition to a more
sustainable way of shopping? In the UK, clothing has the fourth largest
environmental impact after housing, transport and food. More than half of
fast-fashion items are thrown away in less than a year, according to McKinsey’s
State of Fashion report last year. But is buying secondhand really an antidote
to fast fashion?
In Goole, where Cowdery works as a marketing officer for the
Junction Theatre, there are ample local distractions for a lunch break: Dorothy
Perkins, New Look, Peacocks. Cowdery used to buy things “because they were
there”. In the evenings, she went on Asos. “I’d think: ‘Oh brilliant, a
discount code! Free shipping! I’ll order stuff! Hmm … It doesn’t fit very well,
but I can’t be bothered to send it back … I’ll keep it.’”
Each month, Cowdery bought two or three things. “At £20 a
time, that starts to build up. There’s a wardrobe of stuff. Things with the
tags still on … I took a look at myself and thought: ‘What are you doing?’”
‘It changed how I thought
about clothes’: Lauren Cowdery of the Leeds Community Clothes Exchange:
Curious about a post she saw on Facebook, one weekend
Cowdery dropped into the Leeds Community Clothes Exchange, a local swap shop.
Four years on, she is one of its three directors, helping to oversee the 2,000
items – “designer stuff, vintage stuff, handmade things, wedding dresses” –
that pass through the doors of the Woodhouse community centre each month.
Cowdery and I meet in one of those lunch hours that used to
be spent shopping. Her skirt, top and cardigan are all from the Clothes
Exchange; her boots are from the Autism Plus shop in Goole. “At the exchange,
it’s one for one on everything,” she explains. There are no value judgments. A
garment is saleable if all its buttons are present and there are no stains.
Some prom dresses return again and again. “People take them, wear them, bring
them back.” Regulars set aside pieces for each other. The fitting room is a
place of encouragement.
As her involvement in the clothes exchange grew, Cowdery’s
visits to Peacocks dwindled. Now, its shop floor struck her as “an explosion in
a jumble sale”. She began to delete unopened emails from Asos and Topshop. She
swore off buying new clothes for a year. “I thought I’d reach the end and
think: ‘I’ve done that. I’ll move on,’” she says. Instead, “It changed how I
thought about clothes.”
Cowdery still loves clothes – especially anything velvet –
but she has found a safe way to consume them. The clothes exchange enables her
to refresh her wardrobe without adding to it. She can be acquisitive, as long
as she relinquishes in equal measure. Where she once bought three pieces a
month, she now swaps 10 to 15 – mostly things she picked up at the previous
Clothes come and go at the Basingstoke home of Sarah Fewell,
too. In fact, so many parcels come and go that she knows her postman by his
first name (Jay). Fewell has always loved cutting up old clothes, sticking on
studs, even at 14 when most of her friends were into Hollister. But now she has
turned her passion for preloved clothes into a sustainable version of fast
Fewell runs a shop called Identity Party on the website
Depop, which since being established in 2011 has offered its 10 million users a
blend of eBay-style trading with Instagram-style posting. Her brand is “a lot
of 80s, 90s, quite bohemian, grungy”. She especially loves “selling things with
animals on, a good old ugly jumper and anything by St Michael.”
Two years ago, in the second year of a politics degree at
Goldsmiths, University of London, Fewell was browsing the charity shops when
she saw “a really nice dress that wasn’t for me”. She already had a Depop
profile, having sold some unwanted clothes, so she bought the dress, listed it
as “‘very Phoebe from Friends” and it promptly sold.
She bought and sold relentlessly during her third year.
“When I left university, I thought, I don’t want a real job.”
Now with Identity Party, Fewell has professionalised her
love of vintage.
She doesn’t totally eschew new clothes for her own wardobe;
they make up about 10%. She buys gymwear new, for instance (“It would be a bit
gross to wear secondhand gym clothes”). She even bought some on Black Friday:
“That’s maybe contradictory of me to engage in Black Friday, but I just wanted
People used to watch
hauls on YouTube and be like: ‘Yeah, great.’ Now they are a lot more aware
We are sitting in a cafe in a shopping mall in Basingstoke.
Fewell, who is wearing an Identity Party top and jeans and an eBay jacket, runs
through her working week: Monday, she posts; Tuesday, she photographs;
Wednesday she uploads. A fourth day is spent scouring the charity shops of
Basingstoke, Newberry and Reading. A fifth and a sixth on further photography
Fewell’s days are long. But all the hours spent cutting out
shoulder pads and removing used handkerchiefs from pockets have made her one of
Depop’s top sellers. Since that first dress, she has sold more than 3,000
items, and her customer base includes her own friends, who no longer find
secondhand shopping “a bit niche”.
“A lot of people are getting really sick of fast fashion,”
Fewell says. “People used to watch hauls [mass trying-on sessions of newly
purchased clothing] on YouTube and be like: ‘Yeah, great.’ Now if you click on
a haul and read the comments, everyone’s like: ‘Oh, there’s so much stuff, it looks
really bad quality.’ People are a lot more aware.”
In 2017, when she posted that first dress, Fewell “wasn’t
very conscious” of the sustainability benefits of secondhand clothing. “I
wasn’t really thinking: ‘I could push this message.’” After a couple of months,
“it got added in there”. Now she trades her “handpicked vintage gems” as
sustainable fashion. Facts about clothing waste are printed on the reverse of
her business cards. When a piece of clothing doesn’t suit a customer, she urges
them to sell it on, to close the loop.
But does Fewell ever look at the floor of her parents’ spare
room – now her stock room – at the sea of pink plastic packages waiting to be
driven to the post office, and think that buying and selling secondhand
clothing may not be the height of sustainability? In some ways, Depop mirrors
fast fashion: consumers buy cheaply and often. Fewell points out that the bags
are made of recycled plastic; she would like to afford biodegradable ones. “The
downside, environmentally, is postage and packing,” she admits. “But people are
always going to want to buy clothes. Buying secondhand is probably the best way
they can do it.”
The key, says Stephanie Campbell from Wrap’s Love Your
Clothes campaign, is “to keep clothing out of landfill”. Each year 430,000
tonnes of clothing are disposed of and not recycled in the UK. Meanwhile, the
number of new clothes sold is rising: 1.13m tonnes in 2016, an increase of
200,000 tonnes on 2012.
Zoe Edwards, who 11
years ago pledged never to buy new clothes.
“It’s a slow, gradual mindset change,” says Zoe Edwards, a
sewing teacher and blogger who 11 years ago pledged never to buy new clothes.
“It’s not like a switch goes on and all of a sudden, it’s: ‘Right, this is how
I shop now.’”
Edwards was working for “a very fast-fashion, low-end
clothing supplier” in London. Her job was to order the trims: labels, hanging
loops, buttons, zips. The quantity of delivered fabric always varied, so she
had to order a surfeit of trims, a routine waste that made her uncomfortable.
She had always loved sewing, selling her handmade clothes on market stalls and
Etsy. Now, her two ways of living jarred.
“I didn’t want to be part of fast fashion any more,” she
says. She quit her job, sewed clothes, sold the clothes, taught sewing and
blogged about it. In the past 11 years, Edwards has bought only “one or two
things”. Her bras are new, and she thinks she may have purchased a top from
Zara in about 2010. Even her knickers are what she calls “me-made”.
So how difficult is it to stop buying clothes? Tania
Arrayales, a self-described “fashion disruptor”, has founded an organisation in
New York called Fashion of Tomorrow to advocate a more sustainable approach to
the clothing industry. Arrayales was a founding member of Style Lend, a
peer-to-peer clothing rental site, and swore off all clothing purchases for a
year, inspired by the documentary True Cost. But weren’t there times when she
was desperate to break her self-imposed rule?
“The challenge was feeling a little bit … I wasn’t as trendy
as I used to be. I couldn’t make an impact when I went to an event,” she says.
“I didn’t have anything new and shiny. But I wanted to restructure the way my
brain saw shopping.”
“I started seeing
pieces in a new light’: Tania Arrayales, a founding member of the clothing
rental site Style Lend.
In her second year, she allowed herself to buy vintage
clothes. The year after that, she bought the odd piece of new clothing from
sustainable brands. Any time she felt her style “lack a little”, she rented
what she needed from Style Lend (there are lending sites in the UK, too, but
this is not yet a flourishing market). “I started seeing pieces in a new light.
I discovered styling,” Arrayales says.
Cowdery has noticed a similar sense of exploration and play
at the Clothes Exchange. “I’ve been more experimental, more free, with clothes.
I don’t keep things for best. I wear them. And I don’t worry about the size on
the label,” she says.
The fluidity around sizing is one of the pleasures of
secondhand shopping. Depop sellers such as Fewell list clothes as fitting size
eight to 14. Shoppers are encouraged to view their size as variable. “That’s
the great thing about swapping,” Cowdery says. No one gets depressed because
something their size won’t zip up. “You just look by eye, and ask yourself:
‘Will that fit?’”
Edwards has faced a similar confrontation with her personal
taste. Sewing requires a lot of decision-making: the colour and weight of
fabric, length of dress, shape of sleeves. She buys vintage fabric and
refashions charity shop finds, but even so, she doesn’t think “sewing is
necessarily the most sustainable way to dress yourself”. There is still the
acquisition of fabric and materials. And a tendency to prize the making over
the wearing, so that a lot of making goes on that never gets worn. “There is a big
slow fashion movement within the sewing community,” Edwards says. “People are
using their stash rather than buying new stuff.”
The volume of clothing of all kinds – new, secondhand and
handmade – is challenging. And selling on secondhand clothes has its limits. To
avoid swamping the secondhand market, or passing the problem on to others,
including developing countries where many used clothes are sold in bulk, other
technologies, such as fibre-to-fibre recycling, need to be encouraged.
“Clothing is a way to show who I am, what I feel, what I
believe,” Edwards says. “It’s a way to communicate with the world. It’s got
real social value, but it has got to be done mindfully.”
So what can a person who loves new clothes but wants to live
more sustainably do? As Edwards says, if you are spending time on fashion
sites, it doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination or will to switch your
browser to eBay, Depop, thredUP, Hardly Ever Worn It or any of the raft of
“resale disruptors”. Chenoweth says that “not keeping stuff in your wardrobe is
important if you’re not wearing it”. Donating clothes puts them back into
As Cowdery says: “Clothes have a story. If you wear
something once then throw it in the bin, it hasn’t had a story. You want to
know there’s life in these things.”
ROYAL FEUD: Why are Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
'SEPARATING' from Kate and William?
MEGHAN Markle and Prince Harry’s relationship with Kate
Middleton and Prince William will become even more distant in the future
according to a shock claim. Why are the Sussexes separating from the
By AMALIE HENDEN
PUBLISHED: 08:55, Sat, Feb 16, 2019 | UPDATED: 11:24, Sat,
Feb 16, 2019
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will soon leave their London
home at Kensington Palace and move 20 miles away to Frogmore Cottage, a home on
the grounds of Frogmore House in Windsor. And while the Duke and Duchess of
Sussex are focusing on the arrival of their first baby, Kate and Prince
William’s focal point will be on their regal duties as the future King and
Queen of England. Why are the royal power couples separating?
According to E! News chief correspondent Melanie Bromley the
further separation between the Sussexes and the Cambridges are due to Kate and
Prince William’s coming to terms with their future roles within the Royal
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Ms Bromley claimed: "It’s
two women who are both going through changes that have actually to do with the
"William is facing the reality of his future role right
now – it’s heartbreaking to say but the Queen is 92 and that means there are
going to be big changes in the monarchy in the next ten, maybe 15 years.
"That’s a reality everyone is preparing for."
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are already busy raising
their three children - Prince George, Princess Charlotte and young Prince Louis
- and will also have their hands full with this over the next years.
Prince William, who is the second in line of succession to
the British throne, is receiving more and more responsibility as his
grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, is getting older.
And while the Duke of Cambridge prepares for his future
duties, Ms Bromley added Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are focusing on
becoming parents for the first time.
Ms Bromley added: "William and Kate have a different
purpose than Harry and Meghan and that is definitely going to impact the future
of the house of Cambridge and the house of Sussex.
"There are differences in general between these two
families, new families with children coming into the picture and lots of
“This fact is being portrayed as Meghan versus Kate.
"The idea that Kate somehow hasn’t been welcoming to
Meghan is completely unbelievable because if anyone understands what Meghan is
going through is Kate.
"That Meghan has come in and she thinks she knows how
to do things better is also unbelievable."
This comes amid rumours of tension between the two Royal
A royal source told Vanity Fair Meghan and Kate are doing
what they can to get along, despite being “very different people” and tension
is said to be between brothers Prince William and Prince Harry.
The source said: “Kate and Meghan are very different people
and they don’t have a lot in common but they have made an effort to get along.
“Any issues are between the brothers.”
The reason for the tension between the royal brothers is
rumoured to be because Prince Harry does not think Prince William has done
enough to welcome Meghan into the family.
The source claimed: “Harry felt William wasn’t rolling out
the red carpet for Meghan and told him so.
“They had a bit of a fall out which was only resolved when
Charles stepped in and asked William to make an effort.
“That’s when the Cambridges invited the Sussexes to spend
Christmas with them.”
Tormenting Meghan Markle has become a national sport that
Once, she was a breath of fresh air. Now media critics and
‘experts’ are having a field day
‘Not the new Princess Diana’ – but arguably having worse
treatment in the press. Meghan and Prince Harry at the Endeavour Fund awards on
7 February 2019. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/PA
In the period when the acquisition of the former Meghan
Markle was depicted as little short of a national triumph, much was written in
the British press about her various accomplishments. These are, after all,
roughly as common in royal spouses as successful independent careers. Meghan,
the actress and blogger and charity worker, is also, it emerged, a skilled
“I’ve always had a propensity for getting the cursive down
pretty well,” she once told an Esquire journalist, who’d described her writing
as “incredible”. “What it evolved into was my pseudo-waitressing job when I was
Duchess of Sussex has become a national sport, limited only by the supply of
Now that tormenting the Duchess of Sussex has become a
national sport, limited only by the supply of new material, this same
incredible handwriting is proving a treasure trove for character assassins.
Last week, after her father released sections of a private letter she had
written, alleged handwriting experts confirmed what the Meghan pursuit is
making increasingly clear: harassment by the press is not over in the post-Leveson
era, just different, and not merely because the results are disseminated
instantly, with added conspiracy, on social media.
More vigilance over physical privacy still leaves room for
intrusive, but undisprovable, speculation; greater avoidance of libels does not
restrict dehumanising commentary, volunteered, of course, from a perspective of
strictly caring emotional literacy. Body language experts will claim, for
instance, to gauge her mental state from Meghan’s deployment of her bump. Since
the Ipso code of conduct proscribing harassment doesn’t cover any distress
caused by amateur analysis, maybe former phone hackers and laid-off bin
rummagers could yet find employment as hired gaslighters of one sort or
For the Daily Mirror, Ruth Myers, a handwriting expert,
found, in a protractedly unflattering analysis, that the letter exposed Meghan
as “emotionally insecure and self-pitying”. Also “easily provoked to anger”. It
was further possible for this scholar to deduce, from handwriting alone, “an
inability to forgive”, something arguably contradicted by the letter’s
In the same document, Emma Bache, another expert, discovered
evidence of a “showman and a narcissist”. Tracey Trussell detected
vulnerability: “It’s impossible for her to forget people who have meant so much
to her in her life.”
If, having got beyond her conscious, professional
calligraphy, these experts could not agree on which facets, out of so many, of
the duchess’s character are most concerning, well, perhaps that only confirms,
to the trolls congregating on Twitter, that fellow Meghanphobe Piers Morgan is
correct to feel (following his defriending by her) generally “suspicious and
cynical about Ms Markle”.
Morgan is sympathetic, instead, to the emotionally abusive
man who, with the unstinting support of the British press, has committed to
destroying Meghan’s pleasure in her wedding, her pregnancy and, by the sound of
it, her forthcoming motherhood – “her poor father”. If superficially unalike,
the two older men appear to share an incredulous resentment that a young woman
might, out of self-preservation, disregard them, no matter many times they
misrepresent or admonish her.
The latest example of Morgan’s retribution was among several
press retorts prompted by an intervention by George Clooney, who warned: “She
is being pursued and hunted in the same way that Diana was and it’s history
By way of correcting him, a number of royalty authorities
seized this opportunity to attack Meghan, for the completely new personality
defect of being implicitly compared with Diana, by someone who is probably not
– her critics say – a proper friend anyway. Arthur Edwards, who photographed the
teenage Diana in a transparent skirt (“the sun came out and revealed those
beautiful legs”), told Meghan to “lighten up. You’re not the new Princess
Diana.” In the Times, Clooney’s comment was dismissed as “utter fantasy”.
If not exactly fantasy, Clooney’s version of Diana’s
persecution does, admittedly, leave lots out. Glossed over is the late
princess’s well-documented habit, with the collusion of chosen journalists, of
invading her own privacy; her later refusal to use royal protection officers.
When secrecy mattered to her, Diana did take holidays or have long
relationships, undocumented in the press. Moreover, prior to her first
(initially denied) experiment in shared psychodrama, authored with Andrew
Morton, in which she detailed Prince Charles’s infidelity with Camilla
Parker-Bowles, the young Diana remained, to her husband’s annoyance, a
cherished national pet.
Would any of this, it
is increasingly asked, have happened if Meghan were not (to use her term)
So if anything, Clooney surely does not go far enough.
Within months of her marriage, with zero contribution from their victim,
sections of the UK press had identified Meghan as someone of whom virtually
anything malicious might be said, regardless of accuracy, public interest and
its potential impact on her health. Neither her advancing pregnancy nor one
attempted correction has brought any respite.
Whatever privacy concessions Meghan Markle was willing
(however inexplicably) to make in exchange for royal privileges, she could not,
reasonably, have anticipated these sustained personal attacks, for which the
sole justification is – ludicrously – that they originate in a man who should
ideally be rewarded with a restraining order. Would any of this, it is
increasingly asked, given the indulgence extended to most royal hangers-on,
have happened if Meghan were not, to use her term, biracial?
Plainly, this affluent couple have choices and an exit from
royal life could liberate them, at once, from vindictive relations and their
press facilitators, to say nothing of their current destiny as lifetime
specimens for bodily and other analysis. Plus we’d finally find out if anything
would make the Markles happy.
That outcome might be less promising, however, for the
reputations of the very news groups that, seconds after identifying Meghan as
breath of fresh air, decided she was also a hardened manipulatrix, cruel to her
poor stalker of a daddy, with a way of being pregnant that really pisses off
newsroom executives. And leave aside plunging trust levels, and journalism’s
deepening funding crisis, will no one think of the graphologists?
One morning last August, Anna Wintour was playing tennis
with her coach in the 40-acre grounds of her Long Island summerhouse. She
noticed he seemed a little distracted: “But his wife was about to have a baby,
so I thought he was nervous about that.” Then it struck her that they had
attracted an unusual number of spectators. The house was brimful with family,
but it was earlier than most people get up on a weekend. (“I’m a morning
person,” says Wintour, for whom anything later than 5am constitutes a lie-in.)
As she prepared to serve, she heard a car pull up. “I am pretty OCD about
guests and where they are sleeping. I thought, I’m not expecting anyone else, I
don’t have any more rooms. Who is this? And then I thought – that looks like
Roger [Federer, with whom Wintour is good friends]. And that looks like [his
wife] Mirka. And that looks like their twins.” Wintour’s daughter Bee Shaffer,
it transpired, had arranged for a Federer-Wintour family tennis tournament,
“which was the best gift a daughter could give a tennis-mad mother. I got to
play doubles with Roger for the first time in our very long friendship, against
my two nephews.” Twenty-five floors above Manhattan, behind the ebonised
mahogany Alan Buchsbaum desk from which she has ruled the fashion world for
three decades, she leans back in her chair and smiles at the memory. “We won,
Of course. Anna Wintour plays to win in everything she does.
She is editor-in-chief of American Vogue and artistic director of parent
company Condé Nast, but her job titles do not come close to describing her
iconic status. Vogue has been a launchpad from which she has powered herself to
become a player in culture and politics. She is a fashion industry kingmaker, a
Washington insider (Barack Obama’s fourth-biggest fundraiser in the 2012
campaign), an art world luminary (the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan
Museum was renamed in her honour in 2014) and a Dame of the British Empire. And
her haircut alone – as preternaturally unruffled and impenetrable up close as
it looks in photographs – is recognisable from space.
The Anna Wintour mythology is as much about power as it is
about fashion. It owes a great deal to the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada in
which Meryl Streep’s ice-queen editor, assumed to be a cartoonised Wintour,
created a character that popular culture has thrilled to ever since. Such is
her fame that a mere rumour of her departure is enough to send shockwaves
through the fashion and media worlds. (Last summer, these rose to such a
clamour that Condé Nast issued a statement confirming Wintour would remain at
Her office has an air of ambassadorial gentility. No
industrial styling, no modish succulents. Definitely no treadmill desk. The
south wall is glass, diffusing the room with silver light bouncing off the
towers of the financial district. Framed photos of her son Charles and Bee, as
children and as the thirtysomethings they are now, are prominently displayed on
her desk, on the window ledge and between a pair of topiaried miniature trees
standing sentry on the limewashed sideboard. A cornflower-blue ceramic vase is
filled with fresh ranunculus in Titian reds and coppers; a glass pot holds
sharpened HB pencils. Only the lipstick mark on the grande Starbucks coffee cup
and the Chanel sunglasses in the in-tray give the Vogue game away.
I am summoned to this inner sanctum 10 minutes before our
scheduled 9am interview time. Wintour is wearing a calf-length Erdem dress in
dark silk with a bright floral print, collared with two sparkling necklaces. A
blush pink coat and a jade green scarf are thrown over a corner chair next to a
small Victoria Beckham black leather tote. With characteristic briskness, she
has already wrapped her portrait shoot with Tyler Mitchell, who last year
became the first black person to shoot a Vogue cover when he photographed
Beyoncé for Wintour’s September issue. “He’s charming, he’s intelligent – I’ve
been impressed by what he’s said yes to, and what he’s said no to,” she says of
Mitchell. “Also, he’s quick.”
Before the shoot, she was watching Andy Murray’s match at
the Australian Open on television – his first after announcing his retirement.
“So emotional,” she says, gravely. Is it true that she herself plays tennis
every day at 5am? “I don’t play tennis as much as I used to, but I get up every
day between 4am and 5am, and I work out every day.” (Her game is, she says,
“terrible! But I enjoy it.”) While we’re on the subject, this seems an
opportune moment to verify some of the other Anna Wintour myths. What about
spending only 20 minutes at parties? “Well, it depends on the party. If it is
fashion week, then most likely I will be in and out. But there have been many
times I have stayed a lot longer, believe me.” She is smiling, but her folded
arms semaphore impatience to change the subject. I am sorry to say that I
chicken out of asking her if it’s true about eating medium rare steak for lunch
Becoming a public figure in a way no other Vogue editor ever
has been “wasn’t a conscious path”, she insists. “I don’t work for Anna Wintour,
I work for Condé Nast. I don’t have any kind of social media accounts or look
for personal recognition.” But Wintour is instantly recognisable, thanks to a
style that has remained almost unchanged since the 80s. Her sleek bob teamed
with a sharp wit has often been a power combination, channelled by Uma Thurman
as Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction, by the diminutive Edna Mode in The Incredibles
and by Taylor Swift at her most sassy. But the style was “not a strategic
decision”, Wintour insists. “I feel comfortable with it, that’s all. I am a
creature of habit. Honestly, Jess, it’s not something I spend any time thinking
about at all. I come to the office and do my job.”
Wintour’s image of cool, impermeable authority has become a
blueprint for successful female leadership. I am sure I even caught something
of Wintour’s staccato delivery in the sardonic crispness of Emily Blunt’s Mary
Poppins. The notion raises a smile, but Wintour has a politician’s sleight of
hand when it comes to answering questions she doesn’t like, segueing to her
preferred talking points. She steers the conversation away from her own image
and on to how Vogue is championing women in political leadership. “I was very
encouraged by our midterm results on that front. I believe women are taking
control and standing up for what they believe in. We are in a moment of huge
change.” She reels off an impressive list of female politicians who have
appeared in the magazine recently, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy
Klobuchar, Lauren Underwood, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris.
For the best part of two decades, Wintour’s Vogue was closer
to the White House than Vogue had ever been. Hillary Clinton became the first
first lady to cover Vogue in 1998 – an honour not bestowed, even, on Jackie
Kennedy – and in 2016, Vogue endorsed her presidential candidacy, the first
time the magazine had ever been publicly partisan. But it is the mention of
Michelle Obama that sends Wintour into raptures. “What intrigued me and the
rest of the world about Mrs Obama from the beginning was her poise, her
intelligence, her grace, how articulate she was, and the sense that she gave of
being a true partner to her husband. She was remarkable in so many ways – and
still is, look at the incredible success of her book – and I was thrilled to
see how she embraced fashion in such a democratic way. She would wear leggings
one day, a designer gown the next, and look comfortable in both. She wasn’t
locked into one idea of how a first lady should dress. For Vogue, she was a
gift.” When the Met’s Costume Institute was renamed in recognition of Wintour’s
work as a fundraiser and cheerleader, Michelle Obama cut the ribbon, saying,
“I’m here because I have such respect and admiration for this woman, who I am
proud to call my friend.”
Since Trump’s election, Vogue has found itself in
opposition, a position it has embraced with unexpected relish. The September
issue included a profile on Stormy Daniels (the adult film star who had a hush
money deal with the president) which saw Daniels resplendent in evening gown
and Tiffany diamonds, photographed by Annie Leibovitz. “Today’s audience – not
just Vogue’s audience, every audience – wants journalism to take a stand,”
Wintour says. “People want to know what you believe in and what you stand for.
In this time of fake news, when there is so much disregard for truth and value
and for supporting those less fortunate than oneself, we have a moral
obligation to stand up for what’s right.”
While Michelle Obama starred on three Vogue covers as first
lady, Melania Trump is still waiting for Wintour to call. Will Melania be in
Vogue, I ask? “Melania has been on the cover of Vogue,” Wintour fires back
without missing a beat. Indeed she has, in her wedding dress, in 2005, but not
as first lady, representing the White House. “We do report on Melania
consistently, on vogue.com,” says Wintour. “Which is Vogue.” Her inflection
puts the emphasis firmly on the full stop.
She picks up her mobile phone. “I’m going to ask someone to
bring me another coffee. Would you like one?” I say no, and wait for her to
make her call, but after a few seconds she raises an amused eyebrow at me. “Go
ahead. I can type and think at the same time, you know.” She has texted the
coffee request, I realise. As perfect as Wintour’s manners are, I do not get
the impression it would be wise to put them to the test by boring her. I try
not to think about the scene in the 2009 Vogue documentary The September Issue
when Stefano Pilati, then designer of Yves Saint Laurent, withers under her
stony-faced appraisal of his latest collection.
Born in London in 1949 to a British father (Evening Standard
editor Charles Wintour) and an American mother, Wintour moved to New York in
her 20s. She returned to London in 1985 to edit British Vogue, but was back in
New York two years later. Her first issue as editor of American Vogue, in
November 1988, featured a model wearing jeans, which famously caused the
printers to call Vogue’s office to check they had the right picture. It was an
early signpost of the shift from fashion being “something that was directed at
a small group, to becoming something that speaks to everyone. That has been the
most extraordinary change that I have seen.” As fashion has swelled to a
powerful force in culture over the last three decades, Vogue has ridden the
crest of that wave. A Vogue cover has become an official stamp not just of
beauty, but of relevance. For Amal Clooney, Serena Williams and others, a Vogue
cover has signalled a change in gear from success in their field to general
superstardom. “Vogue stands for quality,” Wintour says. “To be recognised by
Vogue always has an impact.”
In 1998, Renée Zellweger became the first non-model to cover
an all-important September issue of Vogue (traditionally the biggest of the
year). As the era of the supermodel waned, Wintour coached and coaxed a new
generation of actresses to take their place. “The supermodels led us to
celebrity,” Wintour says. “The generation of models who came after the supers
just wanted to be models, and didn’t want that spotlight. Meanwhile,
celebrities were starting to engage with fashion, realising the power of
fashion to build their personality, to express who they were, on the red carpet
or the front row. So the supermodels ended up being replaced by celebrities.”
The alchemy that happens when fashion meets celebrity is at its most potent at
the Met Gala, over which Wintour (who has chaired the event since 1995) will
once again preside on the first Monday in May.
But today Wintour, who rarely gives interviews, seems less
interested in talking frocks than in establishing her place on the right side
of history. “I hope I have been able to use the platform of Vogue to do a
little bit of good in the world,” she says. She mentions the CFDA Fashion Fund,
launched in the aftermath of 9/11 to support young American designers. “It has
been wonderful to see Condé Nast and Vogue taking leadership in championing
diversity. As a company, we want to stand for positive change. I personally
take that very seriously, but it’s not just about me. Edward Enninful was such
an important appointment at British Vogue, and he is leading the way on
diversity.” I ask who her mentors and allies have been, and she namechecks Condé
Nast luminaries Si Newhouse and Alexander Liberman, and designers Karl
Lagerfeld, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, before landing on Kay Graham,
publisher of the Washington Post during the Watergate era. “She was a great
friend of my father’s and became a great friend of mine. I admired everything
she stood for, how she represented the progress of women, how she stood her
ground against the White House. She believed in her editors, she had wonderful
women friends and was a deeply good person and had a lot of fun. And [she] was
a great tennis player.”
It is a year since the New York Times published allegations
of sexual misconduct against Mario Testino and Bruce Weber, two star
photographers of Wintour’s Vogue. Wintour has faced criticism for having failed
to use her power to better protect the vulnerable in fashion. “We take very
seriously events that happen in the industry, whether in or out of our
control,” she says today, “and after so many unfortunate incidents came to
light, we took a strong stand.” Testino and Weber were banished from Vogue. A
new Condé Nast code of conduct forbids the hiring of models under 18, and
requires images involving nudity, swimwear, lingerie or suggestive poses to be
approved in advance by the subject.
How long Wintour will remain at Vogue is impossible to predict,
because Condé Nast is itself in turmoil. Having lost an estimated $250m over
the past two years, the company recently announced plans to merge US and
international operations, and is searching for a new CEO to replace the
departing Bob Sauerberg. Wintour enthuses about the digital age as “a golden
era for journalism, because we have the luxury of being able to talk to more
people than ever before”, but digital has undoubtedly eroded the might of
Vogue. The magazine’s Instagram account has 21.5 million followers but that
sounds less impressive when you note that three of the Kardashian family – Kim,
Kylie and Kendall – have more than 100 million followers each.
Wintour insists that she believes print magazines will be
around “for ever”. Really? “Yes, for ever. I really believe that. Print remains
the jewel in the crown.” Does she think of Vogue as a magazine, these days, or
is it now a brand? “I don’t care for the word brand, to be honest,” she says.
“It makes me feel like I’m in a supermarket. But I love Vogue – very deeply.”
She types a few words on her phone and the door opens to signal our time is up.
She walks me to her door, shakes my hand, bids me a warm goodbye and turns to
her assistant. “I asked for a coffee,” she says. There is no discernible hint
in her tone that this is a sackable offence. But then, Anna Wintour doesn’t
give much away.
Olivia Colman’s performance as the
unstable, self-pitying and hilariously bad-mannered Queen Anne won her Bafta
award success on Sunday evening – one of seven awards for the 18th-century
comedy The Favourite.
The film was easily the biggest
winner at the glitzy Royal Albert Hall ceremony, picking up prizes including
including best British film, best production design, best supporting actress,
best original screenplay and best costume design.
Colman followed up her success at
the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice awards by being named best actress – a
category pundits predicted would feature a close race between her and Glenn
Close, nominated for The Wife.
“We are having an amazing night aren’t we?”
said Colman in her speech, which met with a standing ovation. “We are going to
get so pissed later.”
It caps a stratospheric rise for
the actor who early in her career struggled for parts and was best known for
comedy, becoming a regular in Mitchell and Webb television and radio sketches
and Peep Show. Later came career-changing dramas such as Broadchurch and The
Night Manager – up next: the middle-aged Elizabeth in Netflix’s The Crown.
Playing a queen of England does
not guarantee Bafta success, but it unquestionably helps. Colman follows in the
footsteps of Katharine Hepburn (Eleanor of Aquitaine), Judi Dench (Elizabeth I
and Victoria), Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth I) and Helen Mirren (Elizabeth II) in
winning for a royal turn.
Both her co-stars, Emma Stone and
Rachel Weisz, were nominated for best supporting actress, with Weisz winning
out. Weisz paid tribute to her co-stars, saying: “I salute you! Didn’t we have
an extraordinary time. Hats off, ladies.”
It was a terrific night for The
Favourite but it lost out to the widely lauded tear-jerker Roma in the best
film category. Roma’s director Alfonso Cuarón was named best director, beating
Yorgos Lanthimos, Spike Lee, Bradley Cooper and Paweł Pawlikowski. It also won
best cinematography (by Cuarón himself) and best film not in the English
Cuarón thanked Netflix for having
the “faith and courage to get behind a black-and-white film about a domestic
worker, subtitled from Spanish, and bring it to audiences around the world.
“To see a film about an indigenous
domestic worker embraced this way in an age when fear and anger propose to
divide us means the world to me.
“Reverting back to a world of
separation and isolation is not a solution to anything. It is simply an excuse to
hide our fear within our basest instincts.”
If there was an underlying theme
of the evening – apart from the odd jibe about Brexit – then it was diversity
in the industry. Or the lack of such.
One of the biggest cheers went to
The Favourite’s production designers Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton when they
dedicated their win to “every woman and working mother who keeps it together
and makes it happen”. And screenwriter Deborah Davis said: “Thank you for
celebrating our female-dominated movie about women in power.”
The Favourite’s costume designer,
Sandy Powell, described it as a dream “to design for three powerful female
protagonists played by three powerful female actresses”.
Earlier in the evening, the
film-maker Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, accepting the best documentary award for
Free Solo, which follows rock climber Alex Honnold on a remarkable,
heart-stopping free solo climb, thanked National Geographic for “hiring women
and people of colour … because we do make the films better”.
Bohemian Rhapsody won two awards,
including best actor for Rami Malek’s remarkable portrayal of Freddie Mercury.
“This is totally extraordinary,” he said. “Thank you for this generous gift.”
The film’s success is striking on
several levels, considering some fans were unhappy at what they perceived as
liberties taken by the plot, as well as the mixed reception it got from
critics, and the unceremonious firing of director Bryan Singer before the film
was finished. Last week, Singer’s name was removed from the nominations list
because of sexual misconduct allegations against him. Malek did not mention
Singer in his speech.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? star
Richard E Grant continued to enjoy his award-season party, grinning constantly
and posing for photographs, but he failed to win best supporting actor, losing
to Mahershala Ali for Green Book.
It was a brilliant night for The
Favourite, but the Bafta record of nine awards – set in 1971 by Butch Cassidy
and the Sundance Kid – remains intact.
Other awards included best
original music for A Star Is Born, and outstanding British debut for the film-makers
This year’s awards were the first
to take place since Bafta introduced new rules to increase diversity in the
films it honours. But although change is happening, it is too slow for many
observers, who point to the all-male shortlist for the best director category.
The only woman to ever win is Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2009.
Bafta contends that the lack of
women director nominations is a reflection of wider problems in the industry.
On the red carpet, Dame Pippa Harris, Bafta’s chair, said only 10% of the films
entered this year were directed by women. “It needs to be 50%.” She
acknowledged there is “still much more to be done” and praised the “4%
challenge”, which encourages people in the film industry to commit to working with
a female director within the next 18 months. “It seems so low as a bar you
think, ‘Really? Is that all we are aiming for?’ But I think it’s great to have
something concrete that people can pledge to do.”
For the second year running,
Joanna Lumley presented the awards – probably down to her not being on Twitter,
she joked. In truth that was one of her better lines, as many of her scripted
gags were met with groans or, worse, polite chuckles.
The ceremony’s in memorium section
paid tribute to figures such as Albert Finney and Nicolas Roeg, accompanied by
the young saxophonist Jess Gillam playing the title track from Love Story.
The only award voted for by the
public, the rising star award, went to Letitia Wright, the Guyanese-born
British star of Black Panther, who revealed from the stage that she was deeply
depressed a few years ago and was considering giving up acting. Her faith in
God and Bafta got her back on track, she said.
The evening’s highest honour, the
Bafta fellowship, was given to film editor Thelma Schoonmaker, a three-time
Oscar winner and one of Martin Scorsese’s closest collaborators, who has worked
on 22 of his features.
Ahead of the award, Schoonmaker
revealed to the Observer her plans to publish the diaries of her late husband,
the director Michael Powell.
Another of Bafta’s special awards,
for outstanding British contribution to cinema, was presented by Bill Nighy to
husband-and-wife producers Stephen Woolley and Elizabeth Karlsen, whose films
over four decades, from The Crying Game to Carol, have been nominated for a
total of 52 Baftas.