Thursday, 3 May 2007

The devil wears...converse...


Summer evenings, when the sun is at that point in the sky where it casts a wash of yellow over half of the landscape and long shadows over the rest are my favourite part of the year. Very specific, I know, but it is evenings like this evening, as the train speeds away from my university home of Oxford when I am most reflective. And for me, reflection breeds creativity. It’s May and the grass is long and it fills the Oxfordshire fields to bursting and I am, although excited, slightly annoyed that I have to spend this week amongst the concrete and exhaust fumes of London. I have just finished my semester and I’m ready to go camping!

            However, this week will be an interesting one, that is sure. For I am to work beneath the Features Editor and the Fashion Stylist at the Times Fashion Desk. Long grass and summer evenings will have to wait a week longer, as is evident from the sharp, urbanite cross section of my wardrobe which is currently crammed into my brand new wheelie case next to me. I like to frolic in fields with nothing but a guitar, but I can’t seem to go to any city, be it Oxford, London, Plymouth or Austin without half a department store weighing down my small frame on the platform. 

            Figuring out what to take was a challenge, but I had taken careful mental notes at my interview. Sat in the greenhouse of a reception at the Times Offices back in February, I had felt confident and perfectly turned out for a fashion magazine interview. My curly dark hair tied back under a woollen flat cap, the same cream as my park avenue style John Rocha jacket, and in my Mary Jane patent heels, I felt cute as a button. Cute was probably not the way go. When Nicola Copping, Features Editor took me up to the open office bustling with activity, I felt starkly overdressed, and just too darn ‘done’. I had forgotten that London is not New York and that here, less is more. Half American, my mix of influences could be a tremendous strength as an aspiring stylist/writer – if used properly. As I struggled to take off my new jacket with its unfamiliar buttons whilst trying at the same time to answer the questions Nicola and Eve, the stylist were asking me, I noticed that Nicola looked great, and fit in with the rest of the staff perfectly in a blue boho top, jeans and converse trainers. A far cry from my shiny black shoes and perfectly crisp white shirt. Lesson One learned. Less is more in London. I took off my jacket to reveal a printed jersey dress with said white shirt underneath, wishing that I had spent more time in London before my interview. 

          As it is, I hail from the Westcountry, specifically, from the rough naval city of Plymouth where very few have the time, funds or the inclination to make the effort with regards to fashion, and those that do only manage to get as far as failed footballers wife or ghetto fabulous street walker. Aside from a smidgen of hippy-chic inherited from my mother, my fashion sense was instilled in me by my heroine, my grandmother, of Austin, Texas. Queen of the Prada bag, and the only 82 year old who still looks great in Blahniks (low heels of course - she practically wrote the book as far as aging gracefully). The year preceding this slightly embarrassing interview at the Times saw me working and living in Austin on my gap year, living in pretty flip flops and loud prints, before moving to Oxford, more known for pashminas and flat boots. Very rarely do I spend time in London, unless at the airport. So while I like to think of myself as somewhat skilled in the ability to put together an outfit from my eclectic wardrobe, who can blame me if I overdressed for the London scene somewhat? Well, apparently, not Nicola and Eve, for they offered me a week’s work experience in May and the entire month of August with them. Unpaid, and living in London, I might actually starve, but I don’t care. This opportunity is too good to miss. And anyway, I’m pretty sure that people in the fashion industry don’t eat. Darling.