Scribbled in my diary this Vogue Festival season was the Fashion and Personality talk with Sir Paul Smith and Alexa Chung. Last season I dithered for so long about the ticket situation that I ended up simply waiting in the wings and enjoying a hasty scroll through Twitter at the coverage, but in short, it’s a weekend of fashion-filled musings chopped into hour long chunks in talks from industry natives, and this year, I was invited as a guest of Coast – the evening dresses specialists – who offered me a ticket. Thank you, Coast!
The talks covered a range of topics, from design itself to personality, to sustainability and even some snippets of branding and business. Vogue Festival certainly lends itself to a knowledge feast paired with a generous helping of coveted beauty treatments and merch temptations. Read: a plethora of Vogue experiences, including a faux Vogue cover shoot, Vogue Braid Booth, a cafe and pop-up store to name but a few. (Between you and I, I’m still feelin’ too sad about my current lack of grey Vogue sweatshirt. You win some, you lose some.)
Sir Paul Smith focuses on personality, quirks and the love of life in his fashion industry dalliance. From the word go, he prompted ‘There’s a lot of good, you just have to be better – look and see,’ as a starting point for a room packed with young’uns simply dying to get stuck in to the industry. His motivation? ‘A love of life and quality. To me, fashion shows are just part of the process, they aren’t the highlight anymore but just an ending point. The process is a cocktail of knowledge.’
Throughout the talk, the primary focus was on individuality and having an opinion. With the ongoing shift into digital, it can be all too easy to become reliant on the immediacy of social media, the Internet and the ol’ Instagram. Who needs to be in Paris for PFW when you can type an address in and stream a show whilst lying in bed with a cup of Earl Grey? You do. Sir Paul Smith takes his own photographs (‘Not on an iPhone, an iPhone can’t do this.’) and often uses them for both inspiration and campaigns. With no computer, laptop or mobile in sight at the PS household, Sir Paul Smith noted that it was important to keep that balance between the modern world and observation. Man, do I need to get involved with this! Perhaps I should cut down on my morning commute that consists half of being buried in a book and half scrolling through my Instagram feed, and start to be inspired by what’s on the other side of the glass, who I’m sitting adjacent to, or where people are headed. Inspiration is everywhere and, coupled with your individuality, experiences and quirks, is just the ticket to Fast Track Fashion.
Key to Sir Paul Smith’s slot was the realisation of just how interesting he is. Alexa asked him a random ‘So what’s it like, being a ‘Sir’?’, to which he responded: ‘It was kind of painful, with the sword and everything. It feels a bit weird and I’m still not sure about it yet, I haven’t used my knighthood for anything yet, but my parents would be proud – I think. It’s funny because we checked the date of my knighthood and it turned out I’d be knighted at 11am, and married at 4pm the same day.’ And yes, even better is the evident adoration for his wife, who peppered much of his conversation with Alexa Chung.
What I mostly took from the Fashion and Personality talk was his infatuation with fashion. He remains truly passionate about inspiration and taking the brand forward. Sir Paul Smith doesn’t like criticism and nor does he take it on board, he’s already ‘onto the next thing by then, so who cares?’. Affirming my admiration for him, Smith even notes that we should all ‘respect each other’, on getting ahead in the industry. It’s all getting a little tattle tale out there, non? ‘Nobody cares about you used to be. It’s about your energy, personality and life.’
To finish off my little love confession for Sir Paul Smith — I feel completely inspired to be someone and to persevere. In a fast-paced world and, indeed, industry, you can easily lose sight of who you are and where you’re headed. Sir Paul Smith holds a wealth of knowledge, hidden behind a business-like facade and quirky demeanour, and I am wholly jealous. Pass me those striped socks. (FYI, the males in his family regularly receive those bad boys as gifts.) Sir Paul’s parting words? ‘Do it 100% or not at all, it’s a competitive but lovely – I promise – industry.’ Bravo pal.