Fashion Magazine

Secret and Lies – A Guest Lecture with Fashion Elite Colin McDowell

By Alicebodkin94 @AliceBodkin

I was on my way to a lecture, a familiar event that occurs in a student’s life. Yet this day was oh so unfamiliar. I suppose one could argue this was due to the fact I was residing in a larger lecture theater. I made my way hurriedly down the steps of the room. It was already getting packed. I wanted to be as near as possible. I wanted to get as close to Colin McDowell as I could. See, it’s not everyday that one can experience a person who carries such tremendous credibility about them. 


I had been waiting for this day for a few weeks. As soon as he opened his mouth, I was transported to a world that inspired. He began by asking two people from the audience to volunteer to feel three of his scarves. He was interested to discover their view of which scarf was 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 into the UK economy. Thus, supplying a justified contrasting fact to anyone who depreciates 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 greatly 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.

The thought behind my current lectures at university are evolving around the notion of developing one’s critical voice within written work. I have decided to dedicate my summer to learn the history of fashion and also fabrics. I consistently establish myself to be a position of utter inspiration. I develop a real desire to learn. I find such beauty in possessing knowledge and understanding. 

Which leaves me to deliberate what Colin McDowell had to express over education. He proposed the question ‘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 on my blog, Paul Smith declared ‘you can find inspiration in everything’. I find such truth in these words. To make it in fashion, one 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 that talk feeling a buzz. I found myself falling in love with fashion yet again. I was in a state of confirmation that I was dedicating my life to the perfect course. It was a similar feeling to what I felt at the Vogue Festival last year when I attended a lecture with Christopher Bailey in conversation with Alexandra Shulman. I remembered clearly he stated ‘you have to remain humble to learning. Once you believe you know everything, you become boring’. Thus, what I have taken from both Colin McDowell, and Christopher Bailey is that education is absolutely vital. 



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