A Lifelong Passion for Fashion
Byline: By SARAH DREW JONES Western Mail
Fashion writer Justine Picardie has interviewed everyone from Donatella Versace to Coleen McLoughlin for Vogue, and has loved fashion all her life. Now the journalist, who spent her teenage years in Cardiff, has written a fantastic new fashion memoir full of stories from the catwalk shows, and lovely tales of her whole family's passion for clothes. WM's Catherine Jones met the fashion maven
JUST because Justine Picardie (contributing editor at Vogue and interviewee of the likes of Donatella Versace and Karl Lagerfeld) is an uber-fashionista doesn't mean she joins the ranks of sniffy commentators who have done down so-called chav Coleen McLoughlin.
In fact Picardie - author of a lovely new book called My Mother's Wedding Dress about clothes, fashion and family - launches a stout defence of our Coleen after doing the words for the now-infamous Vogue fashion shoot with Wayne Rooney's fiancee.
In a chapter called 'Chav Versus Chic', Picardie - who writing on the death of her sister, Ruth from breast cancer, has moved so many of us - describes the bewilderment of Coleen and her family at the vitriol which she has attracted.
'She tells me that she can't understand why one of the newspapers said she was 'The Most Hated Girl in Britain',' writes Picardie. "They don't know me, do they?' she (Coleen) says, her voice trailing away, 'those people that write that stuff'.'
Picardie says that she realises within a few minutes of talking to Coleen and her mother, Colette (who has an adopted seven-year-old daughter, Rosie, who is severely disabled and needs her full-time care) that the two are avid Vogue readers. Colette, her mum, and her aunt, Tracey - who is also at the shoot - are the ones, says Picardie, who save for the Chanel handbag or Yves St Laurent shoes. They are what keeps the fashion industry alive and at the same time they get the title of chav which is clearly, according to Picardie, just another word for 'pleb' or 'peasant' or 'prole'.
'And all of this is beginning to make me feel quite angry, which is also odd, because you don't expect to find yourself thinking about the inequities of the British class system at a fashion shoot,' she adds.
Vogue readers didn't need to fear a lecture though. After talking through her thoughts with the magazine's editor, Alexandra Shulman, Picardie is given the advice, 'You don't have to make her emblematic. Just let her be who she is...' (For the record, Coleen looked 'undeniably chic' in the monochrome outfits).
Perhaps what makes My Mother's Wedding Dress such a layered read - Picardie likens it to a cross stitch sampler, only making a whole once you finish it - is the author's effortless ability to see beyond the surface (which might surprise those who think fashion is merely frivolous wrapping).
It's also full of gossipy snippets. Like the time at a catwalk show where supermodel Erin O'Connor nearly passed out while wearing a 13 inch corset, 13 inch platform stilettos and a heavy hooped skirt (her arms turned blue and blood vessels started popping in her legs). Or the occasion Picardie's friend, Harriet Quick, the fashion features editor at Vogue, tried on a Biba jet-beaded top in a second-hand shop and saw a stranger's face, a woman with 'flame-red hair', staring back at her. And the memorable confidence from the newly-svelte Karl Lagerfeld to his muse, Amanda Harlech, who told Picardie, 'Karl once said to me that before he lost weight, he felt embalmed in fat.'
The book is described as a 'fabulous treasure-chest of a book' and it is - full of stories. There are the tales attached to Picardie's own clothes; her gingham school uniform, the black plastic trousers she wore to Cardiff Top Rank, her Nicole Farhi wedding dress, the 'Je t'aime Jane' jumper she borrows from fashion designer Bella Freud, the treasured black Gap jacket that belonged to Ruth, who died in 1997, aged 32. …