Five-minute memoir: Camilla Morton, John Galliano's right-hand woman, on life at the 'creative Camelot'

'Eyes wide as saucers, I watched Galliano, absorbing every detail'

There's currently a sewing machine on my table. It's hot pink. Bright arrows. Easy-drop bobbin. How very different things might have been if I'd learnt to use this when I was meant to.

Foundation course, many, many years ago: I sat terrified in front of a sea of faceless white sewing machines that gave away no clues as to how to thread up a bobbin, and seemed to earn status by chopping off fingers. But I had always understood, through fairy tales, that looking good at a ball seemed the fastest route to a fabulous Happily Ever After. Clearly, I was destined to be a fashion designer creating magical froths of tulle. Happily thinking of this, I put my foot on the machine's accelerator.

Then everything went dark: the university had experienced a massive power cut, and I was left trapped, half my own sleeve chewed into the mouth of my evil machine. As I snipped myself free, my career ambitions shifted to the safety of writing. 'Sewing machines' was added to the list of things I never intended to risk again: hockey, ice-skating, sausage rolls, Brussels sprouts.

I decided construction was to be left to wand-waving Fashion Godmothers, or Couturiers. Namely, the person I had cut out and pinned on my mood-board while others idolised pop stars. I had set my compass for Neverland, passing through Saint Martins, Fashion Weeks, Manolo Blahnik's arms (as I tripped on some cables) and to the fashion cupboard of Russian Vogue. Finally, after all this faffing, I made it: snuck in via the press office and up to the studio of John Galliano at Dior. He glanced up from a cigarette. Lightning Bolt. He passed me a pen. I faxed home that I had moved to Paris. Neither of us blinked.

Did it matter that I didn't speak the language? That my flat had more shoes than furniture, books rather than groceries? When it snowed they sent furs, as if off to Narnia, rather than do something as mundane as to call the energy board. No. Life was Technicolor. At last, I belonged.

Weeks were spent writing love letters, rummaging through books and vintage treasures, and stripping roses of their thorns. Heaven was this creative Camelot. Eyes as wide as saucers, I watched, hardly daring to blink, absorbing every detail. I would slip invisibly into the corner and witness something possibly more exciting than the Night Before Christmas – final fittings, Galliano and his gang solving puzzles more complex than a Rubik's Cube. As I looked on, I knew it was time for me to be bold. I returned to London to be a writer. But only after we agreed I would eventually come back to him – a deal we struck in McDonald's Gare du Nord over a (very) Happy Meal.

And I did. Adventures spun him around the world, and each return would be punctuated with a commemorative snow globe for me, and a mountain of photographs, tales and ideas.

Was it then when I realised what a magic world I was part of? Or those moments backstage as girls crammed into confections, Walkie-Talkies screeched, and war-paint was slathered on while hair was teased into place? I would catch John's eye, he'd wink, and all was calm. He always said a show was like a swan gliding across lake. Who cared how hard her legs were kicking underneath?

Any time I arrived in Paris, my heart would pull me straight to wherever they were. Any time anything went wrong, I just set my compass for the red sofa and all would be well – even the time I discovered my hotel room had been ransacked. I arrived, mascara down my cheeks, and the unthinkable happened: fittings paused. Friends came first. We wrote not what was stolen, but what was missing from my life. My main skills were considered to be making tea and walking in high heels. So we listed all the other things I should do to be even more fabulous. That became my first book.

Ilearnt more here than any school or college could teach. It was as liberating as it was empowering. Fashion pretends to be all about labels and name-dropping, but the unknown adventures you have with it, the 'who', 'where', 'when', is the treasure that maps your soul. Friendship isn't endless parties or shows where kisses are delivered but not meant. It's about inspiring, nurturing, and being there for each other. That is what made all those creations beautiful: the laughter was as important as the pin-tucks and pleats. You can't always load a bobbin or stitch close to the edge, but practice and patience a beautiful creation makes. Surprise and challenge yourself, don't be predictable or give up, this is the greatest 'How To' I've learnt. After (slowly) loading up a bobbin.

Camilla Morton's 'How to MAKE a Beautiful Life' (Quercus) is out autumn 2014

News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
    How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

    How to find gold

    Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
    Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

    Not born in the USA

    Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
    10 best balsamic vinegars

    10 best balsamic vinegars

    Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
    Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy