Katy England is a groundbreaking stylist, closely associated with the second wave of stylists who established themselves in association with new style magazines of the early 1990s. After studying art and design at Manchester Polytechnic from 1984-1988, Katy did a work placement at Elle, graduating to assisting roles at the Mail on Sunday and the Evening Standard. After meeting the photographer Rankin, Katy moved to Dazed & Confused, where she swiftly established herself as one of the most innovative fashion image-makers. As Fashion Director there, she galvanised her burgeoning relationship with Alexander McQueen, who first noticed and was inspired by her personal style. Katy is now Fashion Director of Another Magazine and Creative Director of McQueen's studio, involved in every stage of the process, from researching and picking trimmings, to working on the shows. England is represented by SmileToo.
she used to work with McQueen.... non?
i always misunderstand Katy England and the other Katy...
I remember when she "left" McQueen... the show was taking place in a gymnase... the show was really energy and sporty...
Creative director, Alexander McQueen
'Lee liked the way I looked,' says Katy England, creative director of Alexander McQueen. 'He said he'd noticed what I wore. I had a fantastic nurse's coat with an amazing shoulder detail.' Superficial though it may seem, it was the way Katy England dressed that first drew her to Alexander McQueen's attention.
She was working as the stylist at the Evening Standard, and he was London fashion's new bad boy. He had just completed his second collection. She began working with him on his third, The Birds, shown at Kings Cross, and has been a part of the team ever since. She works part time, allowing her to do other things, like her work for Dazed & Confused and Another Magazine, but is there at every stage of the process, from researching and picking trimmings, to working on the shows themselves.
'In the early stages of the collection, I'm involved like a design assistant,' she says. They are in the middle of working on the pre-collection, an early delivery taster for the main collection, that is traditionally more of an exercise in commerce than showmanship. By December, they will have started work on the main collection for autumn/winter 2003, to be shown in Paris in March. Part of England's job is to keep her eyes open and soak up inspiration, which might come from anywhere - 'Books, films, walking in the street. Sometimes you dream it.' Her ideas will be mixed up with those of the other designers and, of course, McQueen himself, and come out the other side as a collection.
'Lee is under pressure to keep increasing sales, but I try to keep my relationship with him the same. My job here is to inspire him, and help him achieve what he wants to achieve. I can enable his dreams and fantasies to happen. I try to think instinctively how he feels at the moment. It's Lee's collection, at the end of the day. The spark has to be his spark; I try to get that out.'
In many ways, their relationship is like a marriage. There is total trust and understanding. 'We think the same way,' says England. 'It's a bit telepathic sometimes.' However, she recently took some time out to start a family of her own, with her partner, Bobby Gillespie.
Although England, 35, trained as a fashion designer, at Manchester Poly, she says she never seriously thought she would become a designer herself. 'I think I would be capable of making a collection of clothes that girls would want to wear, but I wouldn't proclaim to being a revolutionary designer. There are only a few skilled and amazing designers in the world and Lee is one of them. I could never cut like him. It's a rare skill he's got.' Their partnership works perfectly. 'We're both pretty spontaneous. It's about making an outfit work for the right moment, which might mean hacking the hem off a skirt.' McQueen is famous for setting to a garment with a pair of scissors backstage, moments before it is due to go on the catwalk.
England's personal style continues to inspire McQueen. Today, she is wearing something of an urban pirate look - a reflection of next season's pirate-inspired pre-collection, with old stripy Westwood trousers, a pair of high-heeled clogs and a McQueen skull scarf tied at the waist. She never wears a designer look head to toe. Ever since she was young, dressing has been about making her clothes personal to her, and she is still passionate about what she wears. 'My style is overall a bit scruffy and a bit eclectic. Now I've got a baby, it's whatever I can find nearest in the morning, but I still enjoy the idea of dressing up.'
This season's must-haves include a YSL two-button jacket which she wanted the minute she saw it on the catwalk, and from spring/summer McQueen 2003 (stylists are always at least one season ahead) the 'Katy jacket', a little Victorian military number which might have been made precisely with her in mind.