A few months ago I decided to back to school. Not a decision to be taken lightly by a man in his 40s who hasn’t studied or completed assignments in almost two decades. That said, I have loved fashion and shopping for most of my life but other than my own instinct for what goes with what I didn’t really have any true understanding of why some things work and some things don’t. So, having spoken to our wonderful QVC fashion guest, Wendy Elsmore, she persuaded me that she would be able to help.
Before I knew it I was signed up for an intensive course in personal and fashion styling at her school, The London College of Style and was due to start in September. It would require one full day at college plus about 30 hours of assignments per week for an intensive 12 weeks. I could just about manage that as well as work I thought to myself. We were going to learn about fashion history, colour analysis, understanding body shapes, customisation and editorial styling (that’s photoshoots to you and me). We would have practical experience of styling our own shoots for college assignments as well as working on professional and celebrity shoots with our course tutors who are all working professionals, we were to learn about menswear styling as well as women's wear and best of all we would have access to London Fashion Week!
I don't mind telling you that on that first day of class I was more than a little nervous. What would the other people in the class be like, would they be super knowledgeable about fashion, would they all be really young and would they all look at me like I was their dad who had turned up at school to embarrass them in front of their friends? I walked into class, having been stuck in traffic for over an hour so was a few minutes late (a personal peeve of mine) and class had already started. The entrance to the class was at the back of the room so all I saw was a sea of backs of heads and I couldn’t really make out what anyone was like.
As I sat down as quickly and quietly as possible my first dawning realisation was that everyone else in the class was female. I was the only guy in the room. Gulp. Just at that moment when I was shrinking into my chair, our college principal, lovely Wendy Elsmore, called upon me to stand up and introduce myself as everyone else had already done so before I arrived. ‘Oh no’, I thought, ‘this is going to be embarrassing’. As I stood up all heads turned to look at me and in that moment I realised that everyone in the class seemed to be about 20 years old. So, not only was I the only man but also the oldest by a very long way. If I am being completely honest I wanted to turn around and leave. I had one of those increasingly familiar moments where I just wondered, ‘what on earth am I doing here?’ ‘Why did I think this was a good idea?’
Having stumbled through an awkward hello and a brief bit about myself (I have no recollection whatsoever about what I said, it's all a blur) I quickly sat down and blushed profusely for the next 20 minutes. On my desk in front of me were my ‘school’ books; a thick black folder filled with course information, assignment dates, and useful information. It was already quite thick but it was expected that we would put all the information we learned into it as the course progressed. Alongside this we also were given ‘The Little Black Book’. Where we expected to get names and phone numbers of potential dates? Not, it transpired, the names and numbers of potential dates but of useful fashion contacts, three per week to be precise! How was I ever going to manage all this?
We then had a visit from a well respected fashion blogger and tweeter, @Disneyrollrgirl (check her out, she is really knowledgeable about fashion and beauty and is really down to earth). She proceeded to advise us on the importance of social media and blogging as a fashion stylist, particularly as an emerging one. In fact one of the first things we had to do was set up a blog. I had to think of a blog title that would be relevant to what we were doing and also easy to find on a web search. There were even discussions about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), which made my head swim a little! I decided to call my blog London Fashion Look (https://londonfashionlook.wordpress.com/) – check it out here. In fact I would love it if you followed it and fed back any comments you have. As an emerging stylist any comments I make on there are only my opinion and it would be great to hear yours too!
I was already feeling overwhelmed at this point. It felt like too much and we were only about two hours into the day! I spotted a bottle of water and a chocolate bar which had been placed on everyone’s desk as a little welcome gift. As the room started to close in on me with the overwhelming realisation that I was going to be doing this for the next twelve weeks, I gulped down my water and took comfort in my old friend chocolate. Once the sugar kicked in I got a grip of myself and thought that I needed to just chill out and try to enjoy the experience. (I’m afraid that whilst sitting in the classroom, old memories of school had come flooding back and they only reminded me that school was not a particularly brilliant experience for me!)
In the afternoon we had a visiting lecturer by the name of Claire Angel. Claire was going to be teaching us fashion history and customisation over the 12 weeks. On that first day I don’t mind admitting that I had no idea who Claire was. After some research it became clear that she was a very big deal in the fashion world. Not only was she one of the founding members of English Eccentrics, a well respected British textile design company in the 80s but she also had taught people like John Galliano and Christopher Bailey (Burberry Prorsum). In fact you can see examples of her work on show, right now at the Victoria & Albert Museum in their 80s fashion retrospective ‘Club To Catwalk’. Check out my report on the exhibition on my fashion blog here.
Claire was a font of information and a joy to listen to. She listed art, fashion and even architectural exhibitions she felt we should be seeing (I never realised that fashion was so all encompassing). Inspiration, it seems is everywhere! She set us multiple assignments including putting together a mood board and customising a pair of shoes to represent the 1920s. Our lecturer Dan then took over and talked to us about what it was like to actually work on an editorial styling assignment. It all sounded a little bit glamorous but in reality I knew it was probably all hard work. We were then given our first editorial assignment brief and told we would be shooting it on location in three weeks time. (We’ve just done it and I will tell you all about it in my next Styling blog).
By the end of the day I was feeling a wide variety of emotions; admittedly I was exhausted, overwhelmed and relieved but also I was excited, eager to learn and anxious to get going! It’s never easy going back to school and learning something new when you are older but if you have a passion for it and really want to learn and succeed then that will help you overcome any of the barriers in your way, whether they are put there by yourself or someone else!
If you would like to know how I am getting on then tune in next week for my latest update. In the meantime you can follow my progress and my blogs by going to: https://londonfashionlook.wordpress.com
Or tweet me your fashion comments on: @FashionLookUK