When it comes to the alchemy of individual style, super stylist and ex-Vogue contributing editor Bay Garnett has magic powers. In fact, she literally wrote the book …
I had been gently thinking about working on a book for a little while; how nice it would be to delve into a different working world. I knew I didn’t want to do a book about secondhand or sustainability (I don’t know nearly enough). And in 2006 I did a book called The Cheap Date Guide To Style with my friend Kira Jolliffe (very much pre-Instagram and internet access) that was inspired by the books we loved from the 1970s like Cheap Chic and More Dash than Cash. So I knew I didn’t want to do that, and I couldn’t do it without Kira. The older I get, the less qualified I think I am to tell other people how to dress. Although I am a stylist by trade, and I know what I love, I don’t have the desire so much anymore to “re-style” other people, so the book couldn’t be my take on what I think is stylish. I mean, who would really care, plus I would be done in a chapter.
But what I did think would be interesting would be to find out what other people thought was stylish; different voices, different ideas from people who have lived different lives but thought A LOT about clothes and style in their own particular way.
How does Chloë Sevigny manage to subvert the everyday in such a genius and original way?
Once the list and ideas started it became so exciting! I knew Rachel Weisz always loves wearing blue denim jeans so I knew I wanted to ask her why she does. And Davina McCall is great friend a of friend of mine and we had lunch together and the way she talked about her love of good sexy underwear was so inspiring and interesting. So I knew I had to her voice in there. I learned so much speaking to people, and was so touched by the time, depth, heart and thoughtfulness that the contributors revealed. I loved hearing Susie Cave of The Vampire’s Wife, speak about why Gothic resonates with her so much, and how brilliantly Lucinda Chambers of Collagerie understands colour.
Trying to pin people down could be a challenge but it just added to the thrill when someone said yes, they would love to be involved. I enjoyed doing the interviews, really trying to get to the bottom of what I was digging for. This changed so much from person to person – as it should. As I wrote earlier, one of the reasons I was reluctant to do a book about style was how narrow it would be if it was just my thoughts, and this book set out to do the very opposite. I feel like it has achieved that – each person is inspiring and revelatory in their own way but all are so different from each other. And that is what style should be of course – individual, tailor made.
I loved bringing in literary extracts from the past. I loved how rounded it made the book feel, and how it gave a sense of literally dipping into the past, where so many style sources spring from. A lot of the extracts tie in with the contemporary pieces from the book; for example, Bram Stoker’s Dracula works perfectly with the Susie Cave piece, and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando goes hand in hand with designer Harris Reed’s thoughts on fluidity.
I was so inspired by the revelations from people – whether about colour, character, punk or scent – but Charlotte Tilbury I think summed it up beautifully when she said: “Fashion, clothes, make-up, hair and fragrance should never be trivialised because style, at its best, is about creating and harnessing a glimmer of light, of magic. It’s about energy.”
Style and Substance: Why What We Wear Matters (John Murray, €20) is out now.