ONE OF THE BEST THINGS ABOUT BEING A JOURNALIST is that you get to ask nosy, impertinent questions to people who, by virtue of being interviewed, have been deemed to be pretty fascinating. And by and large, they are; anointed with charisma and talent and the kind of wisdom that only comes from endless days philosophically staring out of the window of a tour bus, or having once been Andy Warhol’s dance partner at Studio 54.
These people really are the deﬁnition of the word ‘star’. They leave you better than you were before, a touch of their stardust having rubbed off on you, and – if you’re really lucky – with a different perspective on life, love and/or the universe.
Or… they won’t. Some are mind-bogglingly average, but are utterly convinced they’re enlightened beings, existing on a higher plane to the rest of us – a delightful side-effect of being surrounded by nothing but sycophants for years. These people are absolutely my favourites to interview. Why? Because they make by far the best stories. Like the time a major British actress kicked a shoe at my head after nicknaming me Pollyanna, or when a world-famous photographer made my friend and I hide behind a pillar in his studio. I can’t tell you their names, obvs, but if you see me out and about, buy me a coffee and I’ll think about it.
Anyhoo, it’s the ﬁrst lot that I’m going to talk about today. Partly because I don’t want to lose my job, and partly because it’s our career issue, and some of these people have had some pretty sage vocational advice to give me, inadvertently or not, over the years.
A standout memory was when I interviewed megamodel and all-round excellent human, Erin O’Connor. She said if my dreams didn’t scare me, they weren’t big enough. Natalie Massenet, of Net-a-Porter and British Fashion Council fame – and, incidentally, my old boss – told me it was all about the team around you. It’s that age-old adage; if you’re the most intelligent person in the room, you’re in the wrong one, so surround yourself with great people, young Padawan. OK, those might not have been her exact words. I’m paraphrasing for emphasis.
Another gem that I hold dear came from Manolo Blahnik. A man of almost unparalleled charm and brilliance, he told me – in a roundabout way – to stay open-minded about the future when you’re starting out in your job. Your trajectory is highly unlikely to be exactly what you envisage. His illustrating point? He described a meeting he’d had with the late Diana Vreeland, the legendary then-editor of US Vogue, as a young fashion illustrator. She honed in on the drawings of the shoes, telling him to forget everything else and focus on those. So he did.
Founder of The Business of Fashion, Imran Amed and Erdem each had similar points to make about getting your voice heard through the cacophony of competition; “The most important thing I’ve learned is to have your own handwriting,” Erdem told me. And then, “Don’t be afraid to understand what you’re good and not good at, and to ask lots of questions along the way.”
Speaking of along the way, Jenny Packham told me that the key to a happy career lies far more in the journey than the destination, while Angela Missoni extolled the virtues of a work-life balance.
Perhaps my most memorable, though, was when I styled my favourite writer, Caitlin Moran. Around her neck hung two engraved dog tags. As we’ve established, I’m pretty nosy, so I asked her what they said. She read out, “Always dress like you’re going to meet your mortal enemy.” As a fashion girl, this resonated. Fine, it’s not quite as wholesome as, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” – but in my eyes, it’s even better. It reminds me not to compulsively shoehorn my feet into stilettos day after day, or to ensure I have a weekly blow-dry, but to always be prepared, to always have my game-face on, and – when all else fails – to always, always have a sense of humour.