December 2nd – Advent

Alice Bodkin
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Day 2 – Vada Advent Calendar 2013

Secrets and Lies – A guest lecture with fashion elite Colin McDowell

Undoubtedly one of my highlights of 2013 was spending an hour captivated by the brilliance that is Colin McDowell.

I had been waiting for this day for a few weeks, so as soon as he opened his mouth, I was transported to a world that inspired me. He began by asking two people from the audience to volunteer to feel three of his scarves. He was interested to discover their view on which scarf was the most expensive. The scarves were of Italian, French and British origin. They were gifts from Miuccia Prada, the late Yves Saint Laurent and Vivienne Westwood. The answer to his question was not important. It was the perception of the volunteers that proved most significant in this task. Although for anyone wondering, it was Yves Saint Laurent of course that designed the most expensive scarf.

Articulation and intellectual consideration are responses from perception. This is what drives fashion journalism. I am subjected to pure frustration when people see no benefit in the study of fashion, or naively perceive all fashion courses to be design focused. Many view fashion in a vacuous light. However, it is an industry that generates over £21 billion for the UK economy. Thus, supplying a justified contrasting fact to anyone who deprecates the industry.

To be a fashion journalist, one has to be fiercely intelligent. Colin McDowell advised the body of people before him that ‘you have to look out of the world of fashion for inspiration’. You have to consider the influence of other realms such as music, film, politics, art, ballet or sport to name a few. One must understand fabrics, and the cut of those materials. I relished listening to someone with such intelligence talk just metres in front of me. Those journalists who are the best within the industry, such as Suzie Menkes or Cathy Horyn, are phenomenal in their consideration of language and written expression. They carry knowledge of fashion with such precision they are considered equal to designers.

Colin McDowell also discussed education. He proposed the questions ‘what is an education about? What does it take to become an intellectual citizen of the world?’. He argued that there is something fundamentally wrong with fashion education. Aspiring designers should not be taught just design. No, they should be open to consume the ballet, or art.

As I previously mentioned in my writing, Paul Smith declared ‘you can find inspiration in everything’. I find such truth in these words. To make it in fashion, you must be able to come at the industry with a point of view. I cannot tell you enough how many times I have heard or read that phrase. It is fundamentally so important. For example, Lee McQueen was obsessed with the National Geographic magazine. He was concerned about the world and environmentalism. This was very much reflected in the designs of his clothes. Immediately they become conceptual and far more interesting than anyone making ‘pretty clothes’.

I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to hear Colin McDowell lecture. It was refreshing and stimulating. I left the lecture theatre feeling a buzz of motivation rush within me. I found myself falling in love with fashion yet again. And of course, his most recent book ‘The Anatomy of Fashion’ is on my Christmas List.

About Alice Bodkin

Alice – A life involving coffee everyday. I am a city girl, a fashion writer and study Fashion Communication and Promotion. Politics, philosophy and the cultural motivation that drives consumer behaviour and trends inspires me most. My loves are travelling, learning and mornings.

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