“Fashion is very important to me; it’s a platform for me to express myself. My clothes need to represent what I want to say before I actually speak, as fashion is the only way I can defend myself before I open my mouth. Paris is so judgmental and conservative—especially when you’re black—so clothes were the tool I could use to get people’s attention, to be seen as cool and to get my chance. Here in France, I’m part of the first generation born to African immigrants. We don’t have a lot of black lawyers or black doctors yet, so having a black designer doing things you don’t expect is unusual. As a black shoe designer, I’ve got a purpose: I need to show what’s possible. I’m trying to push the culture forward and break boundaries.” Camille Tanoh, interview with Kinfolk
I watched Diana Vreeland: the Eyes have to travel again. It’s a documentary about Diana Vreeland former editor of Vogue and Harpers Bazaar, a visionary. The spreads she produced were a joy and inspiration to see.
Diana encouraged people to dream, to exaggerate their ‘flaws’ and to ‘invent’ themselves. So different from the homogeneous models we have today, we need that kind of vision again in the fashion industry!
“Style—all who have it share one thing: originality.”
“Fashion is part of the daily air and it changes all the time, with all the events. You can even see the approaching of a revolution in clothes. You can see and feel everything in clothes.”
‘After the liberation of 1944, French couture was at a standstill. With limited access to materials, the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne conceived of a small exhibition, Théâtre de la Mode. The organizers commissioned two-feet tall dolls and invited the major fashion designers of the day to create exquisite miniature dresses. The show was an instant sensation.’
I spent a lot of my teenage years copying the models on FTV and later ended up doing some modelling myself. So how can you walk like a runway model?
The first thing to do is put on some heels, the more comfy the better when you’re practising.
Feet crossing is key to the model walk. Your feet should face straight ahead and as you move they should fall in line with each other or slightly crossed instead of parallel. This is what makes the hips wiggle. You can add a slight bounce to the walk by bending your knees but be carefully it you bend it too much it can look like your trotting. Long strides also look elegant and smooth.
If you’ve ever watched Miss J Alexander on America’s next top model, you will know that dead arms (not moving your arms or only moving one) or throwing them out loads are not good. The best tip is to smoothly swing the opposite arm and shoulder forward to the leg that in front.
Posture is also important, shoulders back and down, with your chin forward. Leaning back slightly creates an elongated line.
Pose & turn
At the end of the catwalk you can pose. Depending on the show, the pose can range from a straight on, to a side pose or backward facing one. For the straight on pose as you reach the end of the catwalk, throw one leg to the side and put your weight on it. To turn you can shift your weight to the opposite leg and turn on that leg. Or you could step back and turn with the leg that you have no weight on. Think of it a bit like salsa dancing.
Music and pace
It’s also important to walk in time with the music. Sometimes this is really hard because of the track but try to find a beat to walk to, it makes the walk look much smoother.
I love watching fashion shows old and new and the catwalk style changes from era to era and show to show. Here are some key styles:
The modern classic
This look is serious and expressionless. The face should show nothing at all, you are literally a hanger for the clothes. There’s little or no posing and sexy walks are not to be desired.
Best shown in the Gianni Versace show’s of the 90’s or by Naomi Campbell, this is a bold and sexy walk. It’s full of swinging arms and thrusting hips, multiple twirl and pose…. at the end of the catwalk, halfway down it, as you leave the catwalk. Synchronized walking may also be involved. The face is also serious but more of a I know I’m hot expression.
The Victoria’s Secret walk is playful, smiley and flirty. Bouncing and lots of sashaying hips movement. while walking, with hands and arms moving and flowing. Blowing kisses at the audience and a straight on hands on waist pose at the end of the catwalk.
This catwalk style is hard to describe. Lots moving to spot and standing in a pose. Turning body and head elegantly to show the back, front and details of the look. Length and elegance is key. This continued to the 60’s with catwalks becoming more abstract, performative and fun.
My mum is one of the most stylish people I know. When I was a teenager, I absolutely hated going shopping and found her comments about my clothes so annoying but I have since grown to love fashion and I have to say that most of my lessons in style have come from my mum. Even though she lives in London and I’m up in Glasgow I can still hear her comments when I choose an outfit. Here are her some of favourite sayings/ lessons:
Emphasis your strengths and ‘camouflage’ the things you don’t like about your body.
According to my mum for me it emphasis my legs and hide my shoulders! So I love skinny jeans and will once in a while attempt to get away with a mini skirt. The key is creating a balance, choosing colours that suit you is another key part of this. A lesson that I also learned from numerous episodes of Trinny and Susannah’s What Not to Wear.
Some shoes are only designed to be worn if you are going to be driven around
We have the most hilarious conversations about different sized feet and shoes that are designed to create pain (and there are many, even ones that look comfy can turn out to be absolute devils). Her trick is freeze the shoe with a bag of water overnight to expand it.
Dress your age
Since graduating, whenever I go home I get a lot of you should be dressing like a working young woman, not as a student and when I was younger my mum would encourage me to dress more experimentally but I was too shy. But it is true I’ve realised you can’t necessarily dress the same way you did when you were a teenager.
You look like a colour riot
This is one of her favourites and refers to wearing multiple colours or patterns. Although I don’t agree with the Nigerian love of matching everything (literally everything, shoes bag, jewellery), an outfit does look more elegant when the colour combination has been considered. My mum taught me about base colours like blue, black, white, grey, brown which can be worn with almost with anything.
Buy loads of tops and a couple of jeans
My mums trick, which she discovered at university to keep up her fashion kudos was to buy a couple of really good pairs of jeans and loads of cheap tops and then just alternate the tops. No one remembers your jeans but they may remember your tops, so it made her look like she had a huge wardrobe! It’s also a simple way to change up your style or keep up with current trends.
Its not how expensive it is but how you wear it
My mums love of fashion and constant shopping means she gets some great bargains but she has always said it’s not what you have but how you wear it. Which is why she’s obsessed with telling us to iron our clothes and keep our shoes clean.
Blend your makeup
Her tip is blend, blend, blend, you dont need loads of brushes, your fingers work well as the heat helps soften the makeup. Makeup like clothing is all about creating illusions.
Just because everyone else is wearing it doesn’t mean you have to.
Finally as my mum always says you don’t have to follow trends just wear what suits you and what you like. My favourite style icons wear what they love and what suits them and have a classic style that works despite whatever trenda are currently showing.