Outgoing Fashion Editor, Caroline McWilliams, writes of her love for fashion and looks back on her time as editor and the questions it has posed regarding the concept of fashion.
My mother had a pair of black velvet block heels that I used to totter around in, with her nervously looking on, quite convinced that I would break my ankle. My grandmother warned me against wearing heels or tight fitting shoes, saying that I would end up with feet like hers. Luckily I had a lucky charm up my sleeve and at home I always, and still do, emulate my other grandmother who either wore moccasins or went barefoot. Additionally, in a stroke of luck, the only time I have broken a bone to date was when someone dropped a metal chair on my foot. I was wearing trainers…
Either way, and despite any warnings, I became a model at the age of seventeen and my lights eye up when I enter a designer boutique or see the latest photographs from Paris Fashion Week. The lightness of heart that fashion gives me is the same that my art historian friend experiences when she stands surrounded by Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces. Yet, I am a bundle of contradictions, I hardly ever buy an item in these designer boutiques, instead I buy almost everything on sale or I find vaguely chic items in charity shops and remake them, adding my own spin. My latest has been turning a silky dress with a slightly hideous neckline into a replica of a 1930s dress seen on the Riviera.
Fashion is my love, clothes are my inspiration, fabric my paradise, and yet, what do I really know about fashion? Over two years when Label approached me to become their first Fashion Editor I readily accepted but then started wondering, what on earth makes me qualified to do this? At the time it seemed as if I didn’t know a single thing.
I spent that summer studying fashion in London and by the end of the six week course felt slightly more qualified to write for a fashion section but no more prepared to edit one. However, I soon found myself with a group of wonderful writers and the task became simple. All I had to do was encourage them to write about what they were passionate about. Occasionally a writer would come to me saying they really wanted to write an article but did not have a subject in mind. It surprised me but I found that I could readily find topics that interested them.
In my two years with Label Press we have had such a plethora of fashion articles ranging from social justice issues to tips on how to dress for autumn. The pieces that have inspired me the most have been written about the issues closest to the writers’ own hearts: fashion and eating disorders, historical fashion and personal style studies. My writers have been from all over the world and each has had a different take on the idea of what ‘fashion’ is.
It perhaps took me a while to realise but the word ‘fashion’ means something different to everyone. To me it is an art form, brimming with history, personified by talented designers and inspiring generations. To others it may be the thing that got them through a mental illness, inspired them to exercise or merely the thing that covers their body from day to day.
I have written before that fashion is a worldwide language and I now say that like music it can inspire social revolutions and create legacies. And I now know what qualified me to be a fashion editor. That answer is absolutely nothing. My opinion counts for nothing more than anyone else’s even if I do have a fairly good knowledge of historical and contemporary fashion movements. To be a good editor for anything at all one must only have an open mind and accept each writer for who they are. The grammar will not always be perfect, paragraphs may need to be cut and photographs may require revising. However, if the writer is passionate, reading their ideas and helping them to put their vision onto paper is just a true joy.
Fashion is what you make it. Fashion is universal. Fashion belongs to you just as much as to me.