Before I started working in fashion, I was just a lover of fashion, and although I dress in quite a simple way, I’ve always loved fashion and have done as far as I can remember. I always wanted to be smartly dressed and that led to an interest in clothes at a fairly early age.
I’m a lover of real things. With electronic media you don’t have that same sense of discovery. There’s something that draws you to the spine of a book in a way that just doesn’t exist in the digital world.
I chose the [James II] wedding suit because I think it reminds us that men are allowed to dress in a more interesting way, than on the whole they do. This suit is of an age when men, admittedly rich men, dressed in a way that was just unconstrained and joyous. So much rich dressing, there was so much brocade, there was so much lace, and getting dressed was very much something that they did everyday – it wasn’t just a haphazard activity, it wasn’t just a chore, it was part of who they were and I think this piece reminds us of that.
I grew up in Edinburgh, and Edinburgh’s new town is this quite incredible neo-classical vision and a lot of that was inspired by Robert Adam, and actually a lot of it was built by Robert Adam. I think there are a lot of people who use proportion and shape well but what he did was use embellishment. He knew where to turn it up and he knew where to play it down. And the bookcase is just an object of singular beauty. It’s a functional object, its proportions are quite elegant; they are so reminiscent of the most beautiful buildings that he created, the craftsmanship within in it is something that again, in most of our life today, we don’t see. I think it’s a great sadness that modern furniture…you know much of the furniture that we use everyday is just of dismal disposable quality.
I think [Alexander] McQueen was just one of these guys whose talent overrides any of your own preconceptions, or any of your own beliefs, about what clothes should or shouldn’t be. He began his journey through fashion on Savile Row…you know Savile Row tailoring is not just about learning how to cut, it’s about understanding the human body. The placement of the print within each section of the dress is not something everybody is able to do and I think it’s something here he’s created an object of enormous beauty.
[David] Bailey just dragged the person…like no other photographer in that era I think he captured the personality of his sitters more than anybody else. He was incredibly fortunate to have a generation of brilliant men and women as subjects. I think he enjoys the process of trying to bring out the personality of his sitter in a way that I think great portrait painters do. I like his photographs of women too - I mean Jean Shrimpton was just astonishingly beautiful; they are just lovely, they are almost ethereal images. I think the time that he puts into creating it pays back in the time we want to spend admiring them.
The National Museum in Tokyo I visit as often as I can. One of the things I enjoy most in the museum is the gallery of armour. As was the case with a lot of British armour, armour then was not just about protecting the body, it was about expressing ones power, it was about demonstrating ones wealth, and what goes into these suits of armour is quite wonderful. They are one of the most intricate, beautiful things. You’ve got animal skins, you’ve got woven textiles, you’ve got natural bamboos and beautiful sculptural headpieces. I enjoy clothes that feel weighty. I enjoy military clothes. I like hefty cloth that feel like armour and the collection we’ve just put together for E Tautz is all about that weightiness.
Craftsmanship is of fundamental importance – there would be no [Alexander] McQueen without the seamstresses and tailors. I love these objects because they have been made by people who have learnt a skill from somebody else, a skill that has taken them, in many cases, decades and decades to perfect - these are the things I love.
EVENING TALK: Lord Snowdon is one of the defining photographers of our time. Renowned for his iconic portraits of royals, celebrities and cultural icons, his subjects also included people from all walks of life around the world.
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