My Secret Life: Katharine Hamnett, fashion designer, 63

Interview,Emma Akbareian
Saturday 26 March 2011 01:00 GMT
(Immo Klink)

My parents were... lovely. I adored my father – he was interested in everything, and spoke six languages. He was in the Air Force and ended up doing defence attaché jobs.

The house/flat I grew up in... We travelled a lot. We moved to France when I was five and then to Romania where we had a flat overlooking the president's palace. The Home Office would come round and dig out all the microphones in the walls. Then to Stockholm and a beautiful 19th-century house that belonged to an artist whose wife had an affair with Strindberg; he wrote a play about it, Playing With Fire.

When I was a child I wanted to be... It changed: a trapeze artist, followed by an actress, archaeologist, film director, marine biologist, then fashion designer.

If I could change one thing about myself... Probably my age, to about 30.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at... I'm a very good cook.

You may not know it but I'm no good at... lying. I used to be a pathological liar: on long train journeys as a child I'd always assume a different nationality.

At night I dream of... living near the sea with loads of animals, including giraffes.

I wish I'd never worn... school uniform.

What I see when I look in the mirror... I see hell! Hell! It's that bad.

My favourite item of clothing... A padded silk dressing gown.

I drive... I've got a very clapped out old Volvo. I've had it for about 15 years.

My house is... At the moment it's like a boarding house. I've got a lot of guests; it's lovely. I'm very proud my house is being used; people are busy with lots of ideas and excited about things. It's a hive of industry.

My favourite work of art... I love Las Meninas by Velazquez in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.

My favourite building... I really like the Temple of Vesta in Rome, that little round Greek building.

A book that changed me... So many. Maybe the I Ching (Book of Changes), the oldest book in the world.

Movie heaven... I was watching Charlie Chaplin's The Gold Rush with my new puppy the other day, and he barked when the bear came out and chased Chaplin, which was the sweetest thing. I love all the Hitchcock films, too.

My greatest regret... Too many. Anybody who doesn't have regrets is an idiot.

My secret crush... I think we all had a secret crush on Obama, but the way they are treating Bradley Manning, the guy who leaked the cables to Wikileaks, that's definitely a thing of the past now.

My real-life villains... Obviously Tony Blair, Gaddafi... where do you stop? Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao; it's endless, but I think Blair is probably up there in that league.

The last time I cried... Watching some of the poor Japanese survivors.

My five-year plan... One of my greatest ambitions is to reforest the desert and so I'm moving in on that one. Drive organic cotton, make it mainstream, have a worldwide nuclear ban, campaign for Britain to develop its renewable energy.

What's the point? Family, friends, doing things you believe in, helping people. These are the things that make you happy.

My life in six words... Kind of enlightened self-interest, really.

A life in brief

Katharine Hamnett was born on 16 August, 1947. She studied fashion at Central Saint Martins, launching her eponymous label in 1979. An innovator from the start, she invented stonewashing, distressed and stretched denim, and caused a stir with her protest T-shirts. She also promoted the use of organic cotton and ethical manufacturing in the fashion industry. Hamnett lives in London with her sister and dog and her spring/summer collection goes live on this week

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