On the first day of London Fashion Week, we chat to legendary fashion writer Colin McDowel. A lead commentator on all four fashion weeks, he has worked as a senior fashion writer at The Sunday Times, is the author of 22 books, founder of Fashion Fringe, Senior Fellow at the Royal College of Art, MBE worthy..the list really is endless.
London Fashion Week, or in fact any Fashion Week, would not be complete without commentary by the great man himself. His opinion speaks volumes in the world of fashion and is regarded highly by many designers including John Galliano, the late Alexander McQueen, Donatella Versace, Marc Jacobs and Miuccia Prada to name but a few. So who is the respected voice looking forward to seeing this season?
“The Fashion Fringe show on Tuesday is going to be extremely special as we have some truly inspiring, extraordinary new designers on board. But in regards to the established Erdem, Burberry, Christopher Kane and Richard Nicoll are doing some really amazing work of late aswell. But oh did you see the Victoria Beckham show? Now wow, Mrs. Beckham is very much a truly fledged designer in her own right, her dresses were stunning. There was nothing negative I could say about the entire show, which as you know for me, is astonishing! She really has found her feet in the last couple of seasons and flourished.”
But it seems even the leading advocate of fashion can feel the drawbacks of the recession and all those other vulgar worlds that float about in the media in such an uninspiring manner.
“No London is the only Fashion Week I am attending this year as they cannot afford to fly me out! (What, even a legend like you?) Yes dear, if newspapers like the News of the World are going bust, what chance do any of us have! But to be honest, Milan has lost its spark as the only design houses worth seeing are the big names like your Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and that’s it and then New York, well how can you really take seriously a city that follows a standing ovation for a T-shirt! But Paris, now Paris will always be exceptional and truly graceful.”
What, Colin McDowell not on the front row at a show? That is like strawberries without its cream, Manolo without the Blahnik, Anna Dello Russo without her headwear.
“Yes but here is something very exciting, we have set up a panel discussion group called, SHOWstudio in which myself along with a couple of other voices of fashion, watch the show on screen and dissect it after which is then streamed live online. It is a virtual experience and when you have seen as many shows as I have, you can read them instantly so being there in person is not of great importance. Our first show was the Beckham one, and with a few technical hitches that can be expected in the early stages of production, we ended up having to talk riff raff live for 20 minutes before the show; and as they say, you need to be careful as timing really is, everything!”
McDowell has also always been a lead promoter of young designers as, helping them realise their talents and follow their often tough journey to success.In 2004, he set up Fashion Fringe with Management Agenc IMG, to build a platform for designers to help set up their business in London. The scheme has been a huge success with past graduates including Basso & Brooke, Erdem and Aminaka Wilmont, just imagine if these wonderful designers had not managed to find their feet and were lost from the fashion scene altogether!
“It so important for young designers to have the support they need to grow.” But where does he think the future in fashion lies?
“I think menswear is where it is at the moment, it really is going from strength to strength whilst womenswear is just stuck on pause or going round in circles. Menswear is exciting and thrilling to watch on the catwalk, with the likes of Jonathan Saunders making it OK for ordinary men to wear pink without being considered a pansy. Men are more up for colour and pattern, you seen Dad’s walking down Oxford Street with a lilac shirt on, beer gut and all, it’s great.”
With the warmest smile, a soft affectionate voice (the northern accent has left no trace) a white beard and the homely Grandad physique, I could have listened with complete uninterrupted interest for hours. He speaks with such ease, inspiration and insight that you get lost on every word due to his trusted knowledge of the industry. From the inside to the out, McDowell has seen and heard it all and yet it is his fostering of the new that makes his work and personality so fascinating. For such a legend (I understand the dominant adjective has been used consistently throughout but it goes without saying) he is so welcoming with it.
Sian @FashionBite xx