England's glory

Katy England is Alexander McQueen's right-hand woman, riding all the punches of catwalk hysteria. For him, last night's London show was a hero's return. And for her? She told all to Melanie Rickey

Melanie Rickey
Friday 28 February 1997 00:02

This morning Katy England is having a well deserved rest. She is, in her own words, "the second opinion" to fashion designer Alexander Lee McQueen, and last night his show took place in front of a capacity audience of 1,000 in an old fruit and veg warehouse near London Bridge.

A 20-minute fashion show takes months of preparation. Firstly a suitable location must be found and accessories designed and/or commissioned to suit the collection. Then, when the overall look and feel of the clothing is finalised, models are cast (for last night's show there were 40 models - 30 girls and 10 boys) and outfits allocated (there were 100 outfits shown last night, most of which arrived from Italy, where they are made, on Wednesday night). Before this, hair and make-up design is discussed, checked for feasibility, then discussed again. Add to that last-minute problems like shoes not arriving on time, and models arriving late (or not at all), and you have a heady cocktail of stress that could fray the steeliest nerves. (All this plus the knowledge of having to do it all again for the Parisian House of Givenchy in two weeks' time.)

Katy England, 30, was a contributing fashion editor on the cult magazine Dazed & Confused when she decided to commit herself to working with McQueen. Known for her gritty avant-garde fashion shoots, she met McQueen in 1994 when he approached her in a bead shop. Before long England was styling his show entitled "The Birds" (October 1994) which to date is still her favourite McQueen show.

Since McQueen was appointed designer at Givenchy last October, England has been on hand as collaborator, muse and friend. This is the diary of her week leading up to the show entitled "It's a jungle out there".

Sunday 23 February

I feel like I have finalised all of the girls. In my little office, which is big enough for a desk and a phone (but no clothes), I have 30 models' cards pinned all over the wall. Quite a few of them came to see me on Friday and walked for me. The way they walk is really important. They must be able to carry off the clothes, as well as being beautiful. Some of the really young girls are gorgeous, but are not ready to do McQueen yet, they just haven't got enough attitude. We need strong, ballsy girls.

The boys are more complicated; we don't want modelly types, we want guys who are weird, brutish and extreme-looking so I have somebody street-casting for me.

The men's clothes arrived today and Lee and I put them together. He likes to get more involved with the way the men wear his stuff, because he styles it the way a bloke would wear it. Now all we need are the male models. They should come in tomorrow. There's nothing else I can do today. It is Sunday after all.

Monday 24 February

It's crazy here; the phones haven't stopped ringing, the computers have broken down, making our PR Trino's life a nightmare, and we've had Details magazine and a TV crew here all day too. Lee and I had to get out of the studio for some fresh air it was so mad.

The guys came in, though. There's one called Sylvester who is black with silver hair and blue eyes, and another called Matthew Hawkings who is really worn-looking. I put them in their outfits and took a Polaroid, and they are now sorted. We need another two but I'm not worried - yet. I discussed the men's make-up with Mira - they will all wear nail varnish, and some will have bruisy eye-liner. The girl situation is frustrating. Two of them, Esther de Jong and Carolyn Murphy, can't do the show because they are shooting in New York for W magazine. But Naomi Campbell is looking good and we've got James King and Nicky Umberto. I'm not sure about Kate Moss.

Half of the women's clothes came in today - all creased, but we have hung them up so it should come out. The beaded dresses also came in, and they are really beautiful. I only ate a tuna sandwich today, but I'm not hungry. I might make it home by about midnight.

Tuesday 25 February

We lost Kate Moss, who's decided to stay in New York, but Naomi Campbell has confirmed. She will be doing Jasper Conran's show first and rushing straight out to us. Thankfully Jasper doesn't mind. The butterflies have really set in today, though, and I can't eat. I keep putting lots of sugar in my tea to compensate.

The worst thing about today was that the clothes are stuck at Heathrow. They were supposed to arrive this morning, then tonight at 8pm, but we have just been informed that they will arrive in the morning. That leaves me a day to do the whole show styling. The pieces that are here cannot be made into complete outfits until this other shipment arrives. Stella Tennant is due to arrive in five minutes for a fitting and we have nothing to put her in, except the show pieces Lee has made here.

The women's shoes arrived from Italy and they are so sexy - really, really high stilettos. I hope the girls can walk in them. The men's high-heeled shoes, which are being made around the corner, are not ready. The jewellery is here, and the gloves, which go the full length of the arm and over the shoulder with buckles everywhere. Actually now I think about it, it's not too bad. We're nearly there. We just need the rest of the clothes.

Wednesday 26 February

I'm not so good, I had no sleep at all last night. Lee flipped and decided we couldn't wait any longer for the clothes, so we hired a van, my boyfriend Phil came over, and we drove to Heathrow to retrieve them from customs. We left at 10.30pm, sat at Heathrow for hours (like waiting in a hospital emergency room), and finally got the clothes at 2am and were back at the studio by 4.30am. Lee has just nipped home for a rest, but I am still here because the models are coming in for their fittings.

I styled 60 of the 80 women's outfits before midday today. Now I just need to see the clothes on the models. Our make-up artist Topolino arrived from Paris last night. By the time I got back from Heathrow he had tested the make-up look for the show on Catherine Brickhill, Lee's design assistant. It looks very strong and vibrant. Nicholas Jurnjack, our hairdresser, should be here any minute. He came over on Eurostar with trunks full of hairpieces so we had to send a car for him. Some of the samples are a little too long and big, which is a bit worrying - we will have to do some last-minute alterations. I managed to finalise the last two male models. We wanted some more black guys, and Maxim from the pop group The Prodigy will do it - he's the one with a row of silver teeth. A photographer friend of mine, Zanna, also found someone in Camden.

Thursday 27 February

Noon: I got four hours' sleep last night. We're running on coffee and cigarettes. Some of the clothes are bagged up and numbered but I haven't finished the running order and Lee is still doing the last fittings. There are 100 outfits altogether. The vans will be here in a minute to take everything. Then I will make my way over there, slowly, so I have some breathing space. We are all feeling very stressed. After Givenchy, I just cried.

Late afternoon: We're at the venue and it's madness everywhere. Russell Marsh, the show producer, is here. We are aiming to start at 9.30pm (the official schedule time says 8.15pm). Basically the show will begin when the models' hair and make-up is finished and because they arrive late from other shows we are at their mercy. It's strange, you never feel like you have done enough. But now all we can do is keep our fingers crossed and hope everyone likes it. We are happy with it and for us that's the most important thingn

For a full report on London Fashion Week see next Wednesday's Fashion pages.

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