Fashion: A mind of his own

Martin Raymond teaches the next generation of fashion journalists how not to follow the flock. Susannah Conway sits in

There's something about Martin Raymond that keeps you listening to him. He has been a senior lecturer in fashion journalism at the London College of Fashion for the past three years and you can imagine his students sitting in rapt attention, listening to his tales of the mad antics that go on in the fashion world. He is quick-witted and amiable and seems a touch eccentric, which may explain his predilection for trainers and combat trousers one day and a tweedy olive-green suit the next.

"At first I thought I would hate teaching - I felt I lacked a historic and cultural understanding of fashion - but I think teaching has helped put that in place. When you teach, unless you yourself learn there's no point in it. You learn from what students are wearing and from people arguing with you in class. My students often question what I say because you can't teach something as transient as fashion and assume it's always accurate and correct."

Looking you straight in the eye, Raymond will fire questions back at you with a raised quizzical eyebrow. "I had an aunt who taught me two things: that you should get up every morning and try to learn five new things per day and I've always tried to do that. And secondly she said you can sleep when you die. So in between how much sleep do you need? I irritate people because I'm doing things when they're sleeping and ringing them when they're getting out of bed."

He moved to London from Ireland in the early 1980s, aged 21, to pursue the two things that really interested him: fashion and the arts. "I was seen as an oddity in Dublin and was never allowed into bars because my hair was white and my trousers had slashes in them." Living in a squat for the first three years, he started working freelance for publications such as Elle and the Evening Standard, writing about fashion and architecture. In 1989 he became the editor of Fashion Weekly (FW), transforming it from an ailing trade journal into what he calls "the industry bible". While there, he saw a definite shift in the way retailers saw themselves. "They ask why we called their clothing industry 'fashion', but eventually they came round to that way of thinking because fashion was sexy and clothing was not. Clothing was what you wore at home and fashion what you wore on the street."

Leaving FW in 1994, Raymond went back to Ireland to present a television show he describes as "The Clothes Show with an Irish accent". He returned to London to host Look Sharp on Radio 5 and in the process discovered a medium he loved. "Radio requires you to listen and to listen to something means you are going to find fault, so you have to get things absolutely right. You have to describe fashion on the radio so you have to think about the images you create with your words."

As a journalist Raymond looks everywhere for inspiration and says most of his ideas come from observation. He visits every art exhibition, club and fashion event he can, a work ethic he passes on to the students he teaches. "My job is to teach journalism students to see things first and then filter them back in their general reporting. Fashion is information and information is activity and activity means going out!"

During the past three years Raymond has gone back to television, working as both a stylist and presenter. He says shows such as the now- defunct Style Challenge were "excellent to do because they gave you a chance to present wearable solutions to contemporary fashion issues. I have a thing called the Streatham Hill bus stop test, whereby I say to somebody 'if you wore this at the bus stop in Streatham Hill on a Monday morning, would people stare at you?' and if the answer is yes then it's not wearable fashion. That's the bottom line."

But Raymond thinks avant-garde designers are necessary to push fashion forward. "Left to its own devices, fashion would just be Marks & Spencer. We are accepting again that fashion can be knitted into the arts and culture without being inconsequential."

This year will see the publication of his first novel, Murder Most Fowl, and he is currently working on the follow-up, A Very Fashionable Funeral. "It's about the killing off of various dislikable people in fashion, none of whom will be thinly disguised, and looking at the effect on the fash pack as they move from Paris to Milan to wherever." As his book suggests, Raymond stays sane in the mad world of fashion by having a healthy cynicism. He adds, "Fashion editors aren't editors; they're weathervanes. When the wind of fashion blows they will all point in the same direction."

For more information on the London College of Fashion, call 0171-514 7400

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

    £13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

    £18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

    Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

    £20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before