Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Interview With Designer Hilary Grant

Readers of my fashion musings will know that a few years ago I spent time working at Alexander McQueen as an artwork assistant. Obviously working in a studio with Lee McQueen on the run up to fashion week was as stressful as it was a privelage. But, as well as being inspired by the late designer and his skilled team, which included Sarah Burton, I found myself completely in awe of some of the other artwork assistants and their unique artistic talents. One of the friends I made during my time there was Hilary Grant, who has since forged a career as an acclaimed luxury knitwear designer. She recently increased her existing customer base after displaying at Earl's Court's Pulse trade fair, but her accessories can already be found in London, Denmark, Hong Kong Osaka and New York.  I wanted to find out how the experience at McQueen helped her get to where she is now, as well as discovering bit more about the process behind her wearable designs.

We first met working at Alexander McQueen. What valuable things did you take away from your time there in terms of designing and the industry?
It's so difficult to know where to start as I consider my time working at McQueen to be far more valuable than my years at university. At McQueen we we pushed so much in terms of our design ability and physical stamina working till 11am every night! It was a true education in fashion and textile design and I still gain a lot from the experience from reminiscing and reevaluating things I did there. The things I value  the most was learning how how engineer pattern, understanding the rules of pattern, and proportion and that you can achieve amazing things if you work hard enough. 
My final year collection was very different to the style at McQueen, more frivalous and colourful but I never really felt it was a true reflection of myself or thing kind of designer I wanted to be. I treated my internship like an MA and used that time to be absorbed in another aesthetic and learn from it. It was the most exhilllerating and surreal time of my life!

When did you know scarves and knitwear was going to be your concentration?

I specialised in knitwear at university, and it was always an area I was interested in. I love that in knitwear, pattern is as much of the structure of the fabric as it is the surface design and always wanted to come back to knitwear. I think it was a case of being patient till I felt I had developed an aesthetic that felt true to me and that took a little time.

Starting your own business is notoriously hard and stressful. What has been the most difficult aspect and what would you do different if you were to start a business again?

Starting up and running a business is equally the most exciting and terrifying thing! But that's always what I wanted in a job and I love it. Keeping your cash-flow healthy and financial planning is always difficult and not always very fun, but it's essential.

By the information on your site it doesn’t sound like you will rely too heavily on trends. How will ensure your pieces are desirable to fashion followers each season?
Colour and pattern is what sets my products apart. My designs aren't about dictating to people how they should look, I want people to buy my accessories and wear them with whatever they want and that's what excites and inspires me. I love street style photgraphy and seeing how people wear the same styles in different ways. I think you can design clothing and fashion that is relevant culturally and visually but not necessarily directly relating to trends. I hope to think my accessories are a more subtle than that.

How long did it take for you to get the quality where you wanted it to be? How many different production processes did you experiment with?

My first season was produced entirely in-house and produced on a domestic knitting machine using punchcards and the fairisle technique. This quality was fantastic, as all of the pieces were designed with the constraints and capabilities and of the machine in mind.  To keep up with demand out collections are now produced with a knitwear manufacturer in the Scottish Borders. The pieces are produced using a slightly different technique, giving a slight rib to the reverse of the knitting and a much sturdier fabric. It's so important the products are of the highest quality so I'm delighted with it.

We can buy knitwear accessories on the high-street for under a £10. In a time where we are watching the pennies, can you explain why one should invest in what of your pieces?
The quality of manufacture and aethetic values are what you pay for when you buy one of my pieces. The people who make my scarves make a good living wage and you pay for that. When some one buys one of my scarves they're buying something really special, and ultra practical and something that will last a long time and still look great after many winters.

Your pieces are extremely wearable and classic. Were you ever tempted to go down the shock or ultra modern route in the hope to gain a lot of fast press?
I think it's just important to find your own aethetic and do something that you can do well.

Hailing from Scotland, how important was it that it informed the aesthetic and manufacturing?
I love Fairisle knitting, but I'm really conscious that my designs aren't just re-worked versions of Fairisle. To do that would be like re-writing a chapter of a book. Instead I want to learn from the technique in terms of colour proportional,  the rythym and proportion of scale. With knitwear manufacturing always informs the aethetic and it's something that's really exciting to explore. 

Things like architecture also feature in your inspiration. Do you have a sketchbook with you, or do you take pictures on your phone?

I do, all the time. Knitwear is all about pattern and texture and I can be inspired walking around the city as much as walking around the countryside and the fields.

How would you describe Scottish style?

It's very varied and I think there is definitely a different from city to city. Glasgow is very flash, lots of people dress in black and it's all about the right labels. I think not enough people in Scotland dress for the weather and that doesn't mean you can't look stylish.

How much do you consider environmental and ethical issues?
I make an effort to ensure that my production and raw materials are sourced responsibily. Our distribution is set up so that orders are dispatched straight from the factory too.

Can you describe the environment you work in when you are sketching ideas?
I'll usually sketch where I can relax, I'll sketch ideas in bed and I usually work on the floor. I use my phone all the time to collect inspiration and I'll print those out and photographs of people, art and landscapes and compile a mood board. I'll work with a Wacom/ tablet to draw out ideas for designs on photoshop and develop them into repeat patterns.
Who are your personal style icons?

I love how Michelle Williams dresses, an obvious one, but I'll always enjoy Susie Bubble style and outfit posts. I've followed her blog for about 6 years now.

If you could pick one person you’d love to see wearing a scarf who would it be?

I'd love seeing anyone wearing my pieces! It's always really exciting to see how they wear the scarves, what they wear with them. 

The favourite accessory you own?

Well it's certainly nice to have lots of samples to wear if I'm cold around the studio. I'm really looking forward to being able to wear the pom hats from my collection- but apart from that I love my brogues. 

Your favourite designers?

I love what Folk do, their aesthetic and design principles. I also really like Margaret Howel, Alexander Wang and labels like Sessun and Humanoid. 

What trends do you love and what trends you wish would disappear?

I actually don't mind what people wear. Taste is so subjective and I who am I to be offended by what someone else wears. It's nice when you see people in clothes they look good in and I think you can tell they feel good in them as well. 

Favourite red carpet or movie use of an accessory?

The costume design and styling in Never Let me Go I thought was really beautiful and subtle.


Monday, 24 September 2012

My Interview With Julie Delpy

If I didn’t have the part of the brain that censors, I would go on another gushy mission when describing today’s interviewee. In honour of maintaining a level of restraint I will just request that your refer back to my review of Two Days in New York’ A quick scim read should educate you in my admiration for the Writer, Director and Actress. 
That said, if I was to write this with Marion in mind, Julie Delpy’s character in the duo of films about life, love and family, I would just let whatever was in my head blurt out for all to judge, with little worry about for how they might perceive my mental stability. 
When I interview or meet musicians/actors that are considered hot property or simply hot for example, I receive comments on Twittter saying how lucky I am or how jealous they are that I got to be in their presence. It has been a while since I have felt truly thrilled or excitable by the mere prospect of interaction with such people, because you quickly learn that despite the fact their careers may allow them to experience different things, and despite the fact their faces may appear on the TV and grace many bedroom walls, they also battle many of the same troubles, and hold the same flaws as the rest of us. What makes my job pleasurable is the opportunity to explore and delve into projects and work that have brought pleasure or inspired, or simply getting to chat with people who are interesting or fun to converse with. Before I digress into an essay about modern day’s way of putting people on a pedestal for their ‘celebrity’ status, what I am trying to say, rather inarticulately, is that speaking to the mastermind behind some of my favourite films was a pretty good day at the office. 

Upon hearing that Two Days in Paris was going to have a follow up, I had the usual anxieties. Would it second part taint the near perfection of the first outing, would Delpy’s continued story differ from what I hoped for the characters, and if so would I enjoy the ride she’d imagined. Thankfully, although opting for a different future for Marion than I had predicted, I felt completely satisfied in observing the life she has made a few years later in New York. However I did wonder how she came to the decision that she would have a new partner, one in the shape of Chris Rock, particularly as the dynamic between her and Jack (Adam Goldberg) was so hysterical to watch. 

Last week I had the opportunity to ask Ms Delpy just this, as well as finding out about Directing her father and the inaccuracies of many mainstream films portraying 30-somethings. Not that I am here to disassemble her personality, I am sure she wouldn’t have an interest in reading the judgment I cast, but she was exactly what I hoped she would be. She was open in a way that most actresses have been media trained not to be. She made knowing comment on the foibles of the US and the way it functions. She commented freely on PMS and sex. She also talked very honestly but lovingly about her father - which perhaps is unsurprising considering that family and the relationships within are the backbone of the films. She was also unguarded enough to give me clues to the activity that was taking place in the house that day, occasionally having to break in between questions to speak to her family who were having to deal with certain events that day.

The only slight disappointment of our twenty minute conversation was my inability to glean any information about her upcoming projects, including whether we would see her and Ethan Hawke have another romantic rendezvou. Whatever her next work turns out to be there’s no doubt my mind it will be a predictably refreshing turn with more than a bit of rebellion against Hollywood convention. 

I read that you didn’t feel that women of your age group of correctly represented in films. What did you particularly want to veer away from in the ‘2 Days’ films?

Well, its not that I don’t think we are represented right, I often see characters in movies, women in their late thirties, well I rarely see women with you know with kids, with... whatever.The first film was younger thirties and people having problem in their twenties still, dealing with issues of people in their twenties and early thirties and stuff. But late thirties issues of being in a relationships, having kids, being remarried, all the complications of getting older... losing your parents. Obviously it's not often in comedies because it's not that funny (laughs), particularly when you’ve lost your parents or something like that, a lot of people try to avoid that. You have a lot of actors in their late thirties who are really they playing characters who has issues of someone more like twenty eight. 

Like not being able to get a date for instance?

Yeah yeah exactly, worrying about getting a date, worrying about their looks, worrying about all that stuff. I mean when you have kids you don’t have time to worry about what you look like. I haven’t done my toenails in like 6 years, or something.... I exaggerate. But I am an actress, I should be worrying about that stuff.. a little bit at least!

Did you always know that you wanted to do a sequel or did you just find you had things you wanted to explore?

That came later actually. I decided as I was growing myself, in my life. I thought it was an interesting thing to kind of explore something else in a light hearted, fun way - a light movie, not taking it too seriously, even the serious matters in the film. A certain lightness to life.

A lot of people enjoyed the dynamic between you and Jack (Adam Goldberg). When did you decide you needed the split to make a satisfying sequel? 

Just because in a way, because even though she loves him, their dysfunctional behaviour was too dysfunction, and I don’t think it would go much further in a way. I felt it wasn't right for them to still be together, and wanted to explore reconstructed families kind of thing. Hey... one second, we are having a family planning meeting.....Its a lot of work to have a child in America! 

I think you said that Chris Rock was almost the starting point with this movie. What was it about him that you felt was so right for the role?

You know what I don’t know, I trust my instinct in some way, and I had met him briefly at some luncheon in Hollywood or whatever. I was observing him talking to a friend of mine for a minute and thought this would be an interesting combination for a couple, like its not expected in a way, especially in Hollywood. Basically I thought it would be very interesting, our dynamic.We come from different backgrounds of acting, very different film and work. I’ve always loved his work,I’ve always love his stand up, I think he’s a very fun guy, you know provocative and a little bit politically incorrect, which is so refreshing in this country.

Obviously we are used to seeing Chris loud and almost manic on stage. How did he adapt to being the most ‘together’ and ‘normal’ character of the ensemble?

To be the straight man more or less? Although not really, still craziness in the family. He was interested in the film because the part was not that obvious. Not the loud Chris Rock part that he gets offered every other day. He really followed my ideas of the look of the character, the demeanour of the character, he really sort of listened almost religiously, not in a really religious way, gosh... I hate that word... he carefully followed my...umm... direction. 

Did you have chemistry immediately or did it take time to warm into?

You know chemistry is something that I know when I’m meeting an actor. I know if I am going to get it on screen or not.That's something I’ve known as an actress since 14 years old. Sometimes it's terrible when I’ve been on a movie and I meet the actor they’ve cast and I'm like okay this is terrible, I know there isn’t going to be any chemistry between us. And I can try, and I can be really friendly, and we can get on tremendously, but I can know there won’t be any chemistry on screen.

Its very unpredictable, but as I am Director I can choose the actor. So, I had a meeting with Chris, we have friends in common like Nelson George, who is a film-maker. We met when he was releasing Good Hair, which was really fun and cool, and basically I knew we would have that chemistry on screen. I could just see us you know what I mean. It just felt right. It wasn’t obvious, like ‘oh you guys are perf’ (trails off).... but I could feel the fun, the spark.

Your Dad had a relatively major part in this film. Off set does he ever tell you that he wasn’t happy with your direction, or how you spoke to him that day for example? 

We just had one bad day. I talked about it and from then on everyone kind of like picked it up, because its kind of like funny, because its my Dad.
I see my Dad and my dad and at peace for all that growing up crap of blaming you parents for stuff, I’m so passed that. 
My Dad and I are like friends, really good friends, I can tell him everything and we have laughs all the time .Yes, we can argue, but like old friends.I’ve put away all that idea of your Dad is responsible for all your troubles thing. 
My parents weren’t perfect  they were actors,  partying all the time, they had crazy friends, all that stuff, but I’m like whatever. Obviously my Dad wasn’t a major problem in my life, like he was a fun Dad, crazy even. Some people blame their parents for everything, but I’m way past that. We had one day that was bad and it was partly my fault.... 

Uhoh. What did you do?

No no, I was just in a bad mood that day, PMS, you know what I mean ..... the thing that scares the financiers with women. I really have one day a month, I have my emotions out of control and that is the truth. I really have on day a month where I am not myself...once a month!! Its ok actually, I was not that bad, I know what it is so I try and control it a bit. He was the only person I was in trouble with, no one else noticed. 

He knows you too well I guess..

He was the one I was taking it out on. Poor Dad. He’s such a sweet person, so unfair. He’s like a sweet bear.He’s a very nice person, some people may not like that sort of person and that’s okay - some people hate their parents, or hate people in general. He’s actually a very loving person. I haven’t had one friend meeting him who hasn’t wanted to adopt him in some way. People fall in love with him.

Obviously the film tackles losing your mother. How hard was that to film? 

Not because I wanted to unload my problems on the public, its not what I do. In a way, somehow weirdly enough, I have had a lot of friends who have had birth and loss at the same time. So I didn’t think I was imposing my own personal issues. I feel like a lot of people have gone through it in some weird way, like its happened to a lot of people I know, this weird combination of birth and death.  I had to include it in the film, not because of catharsis, maybe a little form of psychotherapy through a creative process, but mainly because I thought it was right. The weird thing about growing up is you become a parent, you lose a parent, you lose both your parents eventually... all of us. Then you are next etc etc. 

You have an interesting cameo in the film and you cleverly play on people's perceptions of him. How did you get him involved? 

Well I wrote it for him, and when I wrote it I knew he had such a great...well, people undermine that he has a good sense of humour you know. He’s a very provocative character/human being, so people assume he doesn’t have a sense of humour. He's an extremely smart person. Basically, when I offered him the part - I wrote it for him - initially he wasn’t crazy when I told him about it because I said you play yourself and he said ‘ Ah I don’t like playing cameos', and you know, playing yourself on top of it is not a very attractive prospect. A lot of people would have said no, you know its scary playing yourself. Either way when he read the scene he said ‘This is really something I like’, you know what I wrote about the soul, having a second one, even if there's no soul, the conceptual piece of art bit. The whole scene really appealed to him and we ended up doing it. He was nervous at first he was like ‘what is that’, and then he read it, he was like ‘It's perfect, its funny it takes the piss out of myself’. He loves that. So yeah....

Have you got plans for a third film, have you left it intentionally open?

No, I think I’m probably done with the Marion character. I just hope she finds her own peace and happiness in her its own dysfunctional way, because obviously it will always be dysfunctional with her.
Who has the perfect life? I don’t know anyone. Anyone with the perfect life, I’m very suspicious that something's going.
Probably some people are less complex, less crazy, less neurotic than her. I don’t know, are people who are less neurotic, are they happier? Are they hiding something? Are they living a lie? I don’t believe in anything perfect.

Yes I don’t buy it. I don’t trust people that say everything is perfect...

Then you find out they never have sex! (laughs)They’ are like ‘everything’s perfect, the kids are happy,we love each-other, but do you know we haven’t had sex in two years!’ (laughs)

What are you views on the terms soul mates and true love?

I have no idea... well the truth is, you know, I’ve found a peace in life, our relationship is pretty amazing, I didn’t think I would end up like this, but it is unusual, its unexpected for me in a weird way. But, it's good, it's all good. Lets see what the future is like!
Soul mates? I don’t understand any of that. It feels a little new-agey for me. Im not that know. Some people find their soul mate, I guess in some sense. I think my parents had found each-other in a deep and profound way, and in a very funny way. They shared a great sense of humour which made half of their relationship and thats great. I don’t know many people like that.

A lot of my friends have settled for being moderately happy....

Moderately happy?! Like kind of happy... yea...fuck... I dunno is that the answer?

What is next for you?

Im writing a bunch of things. I don’t really talk about what I’m doing next, because actually I have a bunch of things, and I never know what will come out first. No clue actually...

What was the last film you really enjoyed at the cinema?

Ah, God I don' t go the movies much anymore...I don’t have time. Weirdly enough I just watched a video which I love, The Decameron. It’s a movie from the 60s, late 60’s, its very much about sex actually, it's very beautiful, a total sense of freedom in movie making and spirit. which actually made me cry. The film is funny and kinda free, but it actually made me cry to realize which extent we have lost our sense of freedom in movie making... and in life, and in our spirits.
The loss of freedom of these days in more worry-some than anything else to me. You look at the 60’s, 70’s, the films...We have gone into a space of total... well, the spirit is not free anymore. That film is hundred percent free and it’s worth seeing for the freedom within it.

Oh god, but I cry at anything these days..

Haha...Well anything that can move something within know. Its particularly amazing because Its totally free.

And with that movie tip I let Julie carry on with what seemed a pretty hectic day... what an absolute pleasure though. 


Thursday, 20 September 2012

LFW - House of Holland continued

I wore...

Old H & M Blouse
Motel Rocks Embellished Cross Skirt
M & S Patent boots
Vintage Doctors Bag

Before the scrum....

The House of Holland show is one of the hottest tickets of LFW amongst my age group - I'll just be vague and call mine the 20-30 bracket. You are always expecting something fun, colourful and with a tongue held firmly in cheek. 
Not many shows would lure a crowd to loiter outside an NPC car park, but by now celebrity photo hunters by  know that Henry's show will be one to attract the young 'it girls' of fashion, who will all be giggling together in the front row looking enviously cool. 
I've seen a an element of hysteria when Kate Moss enters a function and similarly when the Olivia Palermo sits her tiny bottom on the front row, but nothing could prepare me for the magnetic quality of Ms Chung. As soon as she entered the room, she hit the first port of chaos, a blank posing wall,  she was then swiftly escorted to her seat at the end of the catwalk which within seconds had transformed into some sort of football crowd - albeit featuring some very well dressed shouty people, with incredibly expensive cameras and dictaphones. 
Other front rowers included Laura Whitmore who looked very pretty in a textured dress and pink wedges. Pixie Geldof who had combined orange neon pvc with a crisp light blue cotton shirt and couldn't wait to go an hug Chung and the gang. Kelly Osbourne opted for red latex and statement specs with the best accessory possible... a doting boyfriend. The most fashion forward of the Girls Aloud gals, Nicola wore a high pony and one of HH vivid maxi's. I was always told you never wear the designer of the show you are going to, but I guess the rules are different for celeb folk! Delilah won the best dressed award for me in her figure hugging stripey green number, glossy waves and fancy shades. 
Now enough waffling about the celeb sightings, let's get down to what it should be about... the clothes. 
A crazed man dashed across the entrance to the runway, so we knew the start was imminent. Once the the giggles and general buzz subsided the music played. From that moment we knew the nature of the show we were in for... 90's clubbing heaven. Shampoo, 2 Unlimited and other dance tracks which featured on my Now Thats What I Call Music tapes as a youngster were the apt soundtrack to this typically funky collection. 
Festival goers and home customisers can breathe a united sigh of relief... it will still be deemed current and 'cool' to wear tie and dip dye next summer too. As well as the the tummy baring crops and slinky maxi's embellished with glistening flowers, there were bright biker jackets, trousers, silky above the knee slips... actually he pretty much catered to any of your dye desires. However, my pick of the crop was the dungaree dress....NEED! 
Of course he has been famed for his witty and youthful motto/text tees, although they didn't monopolise the collection there was a catty inclusion of a baby pink 'Bitch Tee', and if his Instagram is anything to go by there are plenty of other fun word plays to purchase. 

To carry through the club mecca aesthetic there is of course glitter and metallics, but don't worry if you look for structure and elegance too. There are more statement trousers in the form of a pink infused brocade, and perfectly moulded chest via his enlarged trademark tartan garments.

I could go on and on about all I loved (lets not forget the bejewelled beanies) ... but why not watch the show and decide for yourself!!

Henrys T-Shirt slogan was the antithesis of what he had delivered this fashion week. 

Good work HH. 

Goodies for the front row

The swarm of journos, bloggers and photographers around Alexa Chung

Pixie Geldof chats to ITV stylist Mark Hayes

Kelly O and her boyfriend get seated

Delilah looked amazing in a green striped maxi

Nicola Roberts enters the room in a floor length Henry Holland dress

Behind the Scenes

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