spruced by marlene

in the front row with stella mccartney

By Marlene | Published: 15. July 2013

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After hosting a panel discussion with Marc Jacobs last year I thought: it’s impossible to be more nervous about something. I just wouldn’t survive it.

I was wrong.

The request came in May. It had gone so well with Marc, could I imagine hosting the talk again this year – with Stella McCartney.

I imagined it for a moment: there’s me, sitting in front of fifty people, some of them colleagues, Stella McCartney enters, sits down by my side. I raise the microphone for my first question and out comes… nothing! Blackout! I have forgotten how to speak English! Waaaaahhhhhhhh!

Then I pushed that image from my mind and said yes. Because I love Stella McCartney’s designs and when you’re given the opportunity to interview one of your sartorial heroes, you’d be crazy to say no. And also because I knew from last year: talking, listening, reacting – it’s possible. In front of an audience. Without fainting. Although I cannot explain how it’s possible. Sure, the preparation helps. The night before I had to go on stage, I did a trial run in the living room, with James as the audience and a sofa cushion sitting in for Stella, saying the text over and over again until I could do it without swearing. If James had woken me up in the middle of the night to tell me, „Pssst, I think there’s a burglar in the apartment”, I would’ve gotten up and asked the burglar „What inspires you in your work?” But even the prep doesn’t explain why, when you put a microphone in my hand, this is what happens: „What inspires you in your work, Stella?” „Oh, anything. Riding my horse in the woods, like I did last Sunday. The detail of another woman’s look. It could be something about your hair that inspires me.” „Something like… fluff.” „Exactly. I see that bit of fluff and I think: that’s from last night. What has this girl been up to? I know! My next collection is going to be about: sex!”

And that’s how it happened that Stella McCartney discussed my sex life.

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But from the beginning. For a few years now, Peek & Cloppenburg have sponsored the Designer for Tomorrow award for young designers, which is given out during Fashion Week in the summer. This year, Stella McCartney took over from Marc Jacobs as the patron of the award. That means, among other things, that she spends a few days in Berlin, meets with the jury and picks a winner from five finalists together with them, does a bunch of other appointments, among them a panel discussion for journalists and bloggers, hosted by: me.

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So, what is she like then?

Funny. Truly, the first word that comes to mind. Not bitchy, not entitled, no snob – all the things you’d readily assume about somebody whose father is one of the Beatles, who is besties with Gwynnie and Cammy, who runs a fashion empire. She is also extremely charming. And warm-hearted. Just one of us. Which is even more striking, because in many ways she is not one of us (her father is one of the Beatles, she is besties with Gwynnie and Cammy, she runs a fashion empire etc.) Let me give you an example: she comes on stage and before she even sits down says: „I think I just spotted one of my blazers in the audience. I like you girls already!” Another example: in answer to the question what she’s learnt about being the boss: „Nobody wants to sit next to me at the Christmas party anymore. I used to think I’m fun at parties. But when I became the boss that was over. I sit by myself now.” One more: „I’m still wary of compliments. I always think that they can’t mean me. They must mean someone standing behind me.”

Come on, she can’t be that nice.

Honestly, she is. And if it’s just an act, she plays it well. Although I prefer to believe that it’s not. She is, after all, someone who has always stuck by her convictions, trying to find success in an industry that relies on selling leather accessories without using either leather or fur in her collections. Fine, maybe it’s easier for someone not to believe in failing when failure is not figured into the CV for biographical reasons alone. Still. I think it’s noticeable that she puts her famous last name to something she believes in. Besides, she graciously answered questions about her family, even talking about how much influence her mother Linda’s style still has on her. Although the atmosphere never got so chummy that I dared ask her the question my friend Natasha wanted answered: „Can you ask her what she, Gwynnie and Cammy gossip about when they’re eating gluten-free pizza from Gwynnie’s backyard brick oven?” Saving that one for next time.

And what did she wear?

Her own designs from head to toe. She looked grand. Two favourite details. One: no jewellery, except a blinging three carat diamond on her left hand. Two: the neon pink elastic holding her ponytail in place couldn’t have cost more than ten cents in the drugstore.

Just between us, has she had something done?

Surprising, how much this was discussed afterwards. Then again, perhaps not so surprising. This is the fashion industry after all. The close-up: while her eyes are untouched and look reassuringly, and beautifully, like the eyes of a woman her age, including wrinkles, her lips are curiously plump and her brow amazingly smooth. I’ll go with James’ assertion: „Yeah, but even without Botox, do you think she’d have many worry lines?”

What was she like backstage?

Just as nice. After she thanked me – by this point I was ready to sign up my unborn boys as stable mates on her horse farm – I was at once relieved that it was over and disappointed that it was. I floated a few inches above ground for the rest of day, high on adrenaline and Stella-ness.

The next day, Stella and her jury picked Ioana Ciolacu as the new Designer for Tomorrow. Lucky for me, since she was my favourite out of the five finalists. Here’s one look from her winning collection. Hopefully, Ioana will get her own show at Fashion Week next season.

By then I might’ve gotten over the Stella McCartney experience. Although probably not.

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Thank you, Julia and James, for the pics of me not fainting!

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3 Comments

  1. sidsel
    Posted 16. July 2013 at 06:38 | Permalink

    love love love this piece!!!!!!! did i mention, i LOVE this piece. well written, so personal and so just what i wanted to know. that, and of course „Can you ask her what she, Gwynnie and Cammy gossip about when they’re eating gluten-free pizza from Gwynnie’s backyard brick oven?”… Xxx

  2. Charlie
    Posted 22. July 2013 at 21:09 | Permalink

    love the piece on stella- i agree with sidsel!

    well written- quite like reading Marian Keyes … haha – the similarity being that it was fun – easy reading and felt like i was there in your head ! :) i would have fainted too being so starstruck!

    but as you say, you are a career woman on the way up and she is a carrer women on top (comes with age) – you have more in common than you think! :)

    my claim to fame is that i know Marlene – who is chummy with Marc and Stella… !!

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