There was much anticipation in the room for the Alexandra Shulman interview with Tom at the ToMax talks: a room of 500 young women (and a few mums) eagerly awaiting to hear about the inspiring career of the British Vogue Editor of the last 20 years.
Firstly though, we were introduced to Jas MB, a luxury handbag designer who told us his life story which started off in quite an unglamorous way; selling bags on the streets of India. Out of sheer determination, love for handbag design and an eye for a niche gap in the market, Jas MB propelled himself into the heart of Paris Fashion week. Jas MB is not inspiring for his fashion sense, but for his savviness. In 1993, Jas established himself as a pioneering accessories designer, creating the first DJ bag. They are now sold at Liberty in London.
Then Alexandra came up on stage. A woman of glamour and grace, Alexandra knows how to hold a crowd's attention. This is less for her fashion sense and more for her natural journalistic ease and approach to answering sometimes tricky questions from the crowd. One of these came from an older member of the crowd who asked Alexandra why the young generation of today do not have the same individualism and extroversion when it comes to fashion and style. This question, in a crowd of mainly 20-something very fashion-conscious women, could be tricky to answer, but Alexandra dealt with it in a very mature way. She reminded the woman that whilst it is perhaps true that fashion in the 70s might have been more daring, it is also important to remember that her memory of this period could also be somewhat skewed. Indeed what she thought was a London full of eccentric and creative fashion savvy kids, could also have seemed to the older generation like a room full of clones in flares. Alexandra also pointed out that by not being of the younger generation, they both would not necessarily be aware of what defined individualism.
On this note, I took a moment to look around the room. Yes, it seemed there was some truth in this statement. I could point out a lot of hair tied up in high buns, with died tips, skull earrings and black lace, black fur, black leather, black everything. However, the intricacies in how these were worn, the accessories these were paired with and a certain je ne sais quoi was still there. Recently, someone close to me pointed out that I am very quick to judge an outfit by whether it is vintage or high-street and that I don't even noticing I am doing it. I think this is the most important statement of all, rather than care what is in and what is not, what is outrageous and what is boring, what is Middleton and what is Moss, we should think what looks and feels good, what makes people happy and what works.
Alexandra continued by embracing the individualism of today which is coming out through new mediums, from fashion blogs to street style photography and the rise of the high-street trends. We are no longer in a high-end fashion world only open to very few. This can be transferred to her point on what sells. With the end of the supermodel era in the late 90s, magazines reverted to using Celebrities on their front covers. However, even this is proving to be increasingly difficult, with higher demand for money and more restrictions on who to use and how. This does not always transpire in the same way when it is used in a fashion context. A famous popstar, such as Adele, who may be the best selling artist of the last few years, does not necessarily sell Vogue copies (turns out these were the worst ever selling Vogue Magazine). Is this surprising? No, Vogue remains a fashion magazine selling fashion, not faces, and Adele remains a voice.
Interestingly, the Daily Mail were quick to pick on Alexandra's statement, and dramatize this in a Daily-mail esque way. Sadly, Alexandra was not trying to cause controversy, but only pointing out that Fashion is a business, and the reason she is so successful is because she treats it as one. Still, we can be 99 percent sure that she is probably receiving hate mail from Adele's fans out there right now. Oh dear.
From the woman herself: "Fashion should not be elitist in any way, and every one should be part of it. Ultimately the fashion industry sells FANTASY, which remains an important motivator to move out of your comfort zone. DREAMS are more important, FANTASY is a niche, most fashion is about a version of yourself you wish to project". Alexandre is revolutionizing in her attitude and determined to change the industry for the better. Under her influence, Vogue has started a Health Initiative. This includes never using models under the age of 16 (thankfully), and trying as best they can to make sure all models are healthy and happy. As they only have their eyes as proof of this, it remains a hard task to achieve and a wider change in society would be needed to get it actually kicking off in any impact-full way. Vogue are however proud to announce that they have never published diet tips, or talked about being "too fat", and thus it is actually up to the press to change their ways.
And a final question from the audience; "Do you see Brands from Asia becoming more renowned in the future?" Alexandra responds saying "Asia has become the biggest consumer of designer clothes. There are already many high-end Asian designers out there, who are yet to get the same attention as their European counterparts. These things take time, years even, to develop trust on design and quality with consumers". One thing not mentioned at the talk is the rise of many young Asian designers such as Grace Raiment as mentioned in my post below, who are really making an impact and creating beautiful capsule collections with class and a certain edge that give their collections a real awe inspiring appeal. Grace raiment's clothes can be bought online at British online store Wandering Minds, which specializes in getting these young International designers noticed.
|Alexandra Shulman and Max|
|View of Room in Battersea|
|Roxane Haydon (me!), Harriet Kay and Olivia Floyer at ToMax Talks|
Finally, we were treated to a very interesting video by Artist Tessa Edwards, covering the topics of fashion an fantasy. She also sells beautiful jewelry which you can buy on here website.
TeToMax Film by Tessa Edwards
Here is a video of the whole event: