Can you learn style? Comfort counts at the Vogue Festival

 

Designer fashion is on offer round the seasons; style is what you choose, goes the maxim.

For too many of us this old saw goes missing somewhere between the catwalk and the wardrobe. We hate to admit it because clothes shouldn’t really matter, people should be judged on their merits not their labels. Yet we know that isn’t how the world works.

I’ve never considered myself particularly well dressed. My wardrobe is a mismatch of items bought in sales and things that don’t quite fit. So can I learn to be stylish? The opportunity to learn the secrets of style from three of celebrated fashion mavens is irresistible.

At the Vogue Festival 2014 at the South Bank Centre in London yesterday the three fashion heavyweights tasked with tackling the conundrum – Personal Style and Do You Have It? are Lucinda Chambers, fashion director of Vogue; Amanda Harlech, fashion consultant and muse to Chanel’s head designer Karl Lagerfeld, and Alexa Chung, It girl, TV presenter and darling of the glossies.

The outlook isn’t promising. “Style is that elusive thing,” says Vogue’s editor, Alexandra Shulman. “It is so hard to pin down, yet so desired.”

Introductions done, who’s everyone wearing? Chambers pairs a pleated Céline skirt with a jacket she picked up for 20 quid in London’s Portobello Market. Harlech, who sits in the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame, wears her style ambassadorship lightly in an all-black Chanel Couture robe and Manolo Blahniks, and Chung’s high-collared shirt, sequined waistcoat and pair of Marc Jacobs heels is a look destined to inspire teens everywhere. The heels, she admits, are “horribly uncomfortable’”.

Wise woman: Lucinda Chambers Wise woman: Lucinda Chambers This admission leads all panel members to speak in support for the first, unlikely, principle of good style: comfort. Speaking to me before the panel convenes, Chambers had earmarked the “c” word. “I think when people don’t feel comfortable in their clothes, they’re not stylish. If a skirt is too tight, a shoe is too high, if the colours don’t work for you, I think you can’t feel stylish.”

Next on Chambers’ list is experimentation, which she assures me, is “fabulous”. “I think people get worried and think I should born with style, it should come naturally. Bollocks. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.”

As Harlech puts it: “Style is anti-fashion; it’s not about following trends.” To which she later adds the wonderful maxim: “There is no beauty without strangeness.”

Amanda Harlech Amanda Harlech Harlech may be the most poetic of the panellists, and Chambers the most influential, but Chung is the real crowd-puller. Introduced as having “one of the most copied and referenced looks in the world today”, a quick glance at the young crowd in the auditorium confirms this.

Then the Q&A. If you could only wear one designer for the rest of your life, who would it be? Chambers goes for Prada, Harlech sticks firmly to Chanel Couture, and Chung opts instantly for Topshop to get “the best of all the looks”.

And for the item of clothing she never gets tired of wearing? Instantly, simply: “Knickers.”

Soon, I’m wondering if Chung might be the guiding style star I’ve been after all these years?

 

While many messages are thrown out over the talk – “freakish can be good”, “wear armour”, “don’t lose your bottle” – it’s a truism that seems to transcend and bind them: be yourself.

“Style is self-expression, but you have to have a self to express,” Chamber says. And it is Chung, in her honest awkwardness, who seems to best capture this.

Post-talk, the fashion pack sate themselves on kale, spinach and Fuji apple juice from the Harrods bar in the lobby and queue to renew their Vogue subscription, before, I presume, piling towards Oxford Circus and the Topshop flagship store, in search of Chung-ness.

Sport
sportGareth Bale, Carl Froch and Kelly Gallagher also in the mix for award
News
Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food has bought GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena
news
News
A tongue-eating louse (not the one Mr Poli found)
newsParasitic louse appeared inside unfilleted sea bass
Life and Style
The reindeer pen at the attraction
lifeLaurence Llewelyn-Bowen's 'Magical Journey' and other winter blunderlands
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
Tana Ramsay gave evidence in a legal action in which her husband, Gordon, is accusing her father, Christopher Hutcheson, of using a ghost writer machine to “forge” his signature
peopleTana Ramsay said alleged discovery was 'extremely distressing'
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Windsor and Aljaz Skorjanec rehearse their same-sex dance together on Strictly Come Dancing
TV
Money
Anyone over the age of 40 seeking a loan with a standard term of 25 years will be borrowing beyond a normal retirement age of 65, and is liable to find their options restricted
propertyAnd it's even worse if you're 40
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps longest awaited is the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with Brazil’s Walter Salles directing and Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen as the Beat-era outsiders
books
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

    £30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

    Argyll Scott International: Risk Assurance Manager

    Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Hi All, I'm currently recruiting for t...

    Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

    Ashdown Group: IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    Day In a Page

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'