Since he has no thread here, maybe this interview is a good way to start.
Stylist Simon Foxtonís ĎGood Stuffí
BY OLYA KURYSHCHUK 27 AUGUST, 2014
To mark the launch of the second issue of 1 Granary, the magazine made by Central Saint Martins students, BoF brings you an exclusive profile of renowned stylist Simon Foxton, formerly the fashion director of i-D magazine.
LONDON, United Kingdom ó Stylist Simon Foxton opened the door to his London office and immediately greeted us with a smile, and the offer of a cup of tea. ďIs the music too loud?Ē was another opening question, and itís just as telling of his gentlemanly manner as it is of his taste in music.
To be honest, the extent of his kindly demeanour, with his soft-spoken Northern accent and the local allotment where he grows his own veg, caught us a little off-guard. It seems worlds apart from the in-your-face (ahem) Ďappendagesí on his Tumblr, and the captivating, high-impact, sexually-charged imagery of his editorials for The Face, i-D and Arena Homme Plus. All of which sit much-loved and dog-eared in the library at Central Saint Martins, where Simon graduated in 1983. It turns out that you can have the best of all worlds though, and we neednít have been surprised. Simonís all Good Stuff, just like the title of his Tumblr, and more than happy to stick the kettle on and talk about his early days over a brew.
Olya Kuryshchuk: People tell us weíre a boring generationÖ
Simon Foxton: Things are much more geared up to getting a job and making some money these days, they have to beÖ When I was at college in the early eighties, a career was the last thing we were thinking about. Most of us were on full grants so didnít have any fees to pay, so were just there for a laugh. I chose Saint Martins because I was at school in Edinburgh and didnít want to stay there. Iíd been into punk rock, and thought there must be something in London for that.
CSM is notorious for being a place where you compete to be the best, sleeping there day and night, sacrificing a lot of thingsÖ
I envy people who had that focus and drive! Iíve never had that. I think sometimes, itís an odd thing to admit to, but going through art school and then going to fashion is the path of least resistance. Quite lazy really, but Iíve never been ambitious. Iím surprised that Iím still working in fashion. Itís totally beyond me how that happened. I just think Iíve stayed in the same place, just by being here this long.
Your shoots are still fresh though. They still look really Ďnowí today.
Iíve never seen myself as a fashion stylist. I use clothes to make imagery. Most of my shoots are another idea Iíve thought of, and bought clothes that describe that. Clothes are Ė sounds really pompous, but Ė theyíre the paint I use for my paintbrushes. Iím not concerned with fashion as such.
You donít follow any trends and youíre not trying to please advertisers or editorsÖ
I think if I were starting out now, I wouldnít be allowed to do that. Somehow Iím very fortunate! I know a lot of people who run the magazines, and they know what Iím like and let me do my own thing.
How do you pick the clothes?
Generally, I look on Style.com, and occasionally Iíll have visits to the showrooms.
Iíve never been an avid follower though. I know if I want some baggy trousers or something shiny and pink, that I can style the look around that. I donít really care if itís from Topshop or Yves Saint Laurent, as long as it has the right type of look. I donít know how I get away with it sometimes! I have up until now.
How did you first get into styling, and establish the relationship you have i-D?
Iíd recently left Saint Martins and started my own fashion label called Bazooka. It was successful in that it had lots of press, but money-wise it wasnít a success in any way, so I was getting slightly disheartened by the whole thing. People I knew from college were working at i-D magazine, which was still in its infancy then: my best friend Steven Male, who was on the graphics course at Saint Martins, and Caryn Franklin. Both of them said, ĎWhy donít you come do some styling?í
Is this how you met (long-term collaborator) Nick Knight?
Yes, I went in to the magazine and met Terry Jones, and he said, ĎWeíre working with a new guy called Nickí and put me in touch with him. Iím trying to remember if we actually met before the shootÖ
How old were you?
I must have been 24. We talked on the telephone, and then did this shoot for i-D. I donít remember what the concept was; we made it up as we went along. We just clicked and have worked together since then.
Does he ever influence the styling when youíre on a shoot, like ĎI wonít shoot that jacketí? Iím interested in how the two of you work together.
Nick knows what works and what doesnítÖ heís not like ďthis is shitĒ. We know each other so well now that I know what he will like, and what will work in for him in a photograph. Itís quite organic. I wouldnít give him a piece of beige knitwear!
What was the hardest thing about working as a stylist at the time?
Probably getting hold of clothes for shoots. There were a few PR companies, but generally I used to have to borrow clothes from shops. Thinking back, itís quite a long way of working. Because I was working for magazines like i-D, it wasnít about the forthcoming season, shooting four months in advance. We would have to shoot what was in the shops at that time. I didnít have any money for years and years. It must have been 6 or 7 years before I made anything, and even then I didnít make much! Iíve never made much money from it. Trying to make a living, I donít know why I stuck at it, but I must have loved it!
Why didnít you? Iím sure you had so many opportunities to style big brands and work on big shows Ė but I know it was your decision not to.
Iím not ambitiousÖ Iím quite lazy! For me, luxury isnít about having money. Luxury is time. I very much value my free time. Iíve had job offers in New York, but one of the major things that has held me back is a dreadful fear of flying. I hate flying! The whole thing is so traumatic for me. Iím not desperate to work overseas!
I sometimes think that maybe we go into fashion for completely different reasons than you did 20 or 30 years ago.
Everyoneís youth is fabulous whatever era youíre in. Iím trying to not sound like some old fart saying it was great in my day! Certainly being at Saint Martins from 1979 until 1983 was great with the whole explosion of the London club scene. I think being at Saint Martins then was like being in a nightclub every day. We were all trying to outdo each other by dressing up. It wasnít about consuming fashion, it was about creating fashion. I donít remember anyone really buying anything designer in those days. It was almost shunned.
Have you had any big failures?
I can think of a few editorial shoots that were less successful. But, saying that, thatís why Iíve always worked with i-D. They allow people to fail. I think failing is a very important part of the creative process; if you donít try something then youíre not going to learn anything. If everything is immaculate then whatís the point? A lot of my shoots have been experiments, things Iíve thought about, but then when itís come on to the final page, I look at it and say Ďoh that hasnít really worked outí. Itís a picture in a magazine at the end of the day, and itís not going to change anyoneís life.
Would you ever go back to designing like you did straight after Saint Martins?
I would rather do a collaboration with someone, go in with drawings and they take it away. We did it for Fred Perry. Really, thatís why I got in to styling, having been a designer first you realise Ė and I absolutely take my hat off to any designer, big or small Ė the amount of work to produce even a small collection is quite phenomenal. Iíd rather, and Iím very much up for, collaboration.
Are you up for collaborating with young photographers and magazines? Can they just approach you?
Oh yes, absolutely. I love working with new photographers. Quite often, I work with people I have never worked with. I like that process of discovering or trying something new, and generally young photographers are more open to that.
A lot of the time, for me, the process of doing the shoot is far more important than the result Ė I make it sound like some conceptual art, and thatís not what I mean! I actually enjoy the whole coming up with ideas, discussions, working on whatever it is on that day.
What is usually your starting point for any shoot?
Often, I will have seen an image somewhere else that I think is beautiful or interesting. Then I think about how I can twist it. Thatís the starting point, normally. Then I try and do some research around it to find more imagery. Itís more so I can explain to the photographer the world that Iím imagining, and it helps hair and make-upÖ I like to see what happens on the day.
Do you make a lot of spontaneous decisions?
Yes, very much. I think, again, within the world of Condť Nast, it seems all about getting the right look, correct credits and the fit is great. Thatís what their publications are about. The sort of shoots that I do, Iím allowed more spontaneity, and a lot of it is trying things on all day and, ďoh that looks funny!Ē
Iíve read that the reason you donít style womenswear is because you donít really understand it. Thirty years in the industry Ė were you ever tempted?
I have tried it a couple of times. I like the results, but from the reactions of my friends I can see it wasnít as successful! With menswear, I can feel it and itís a gut instinct. With womenswear, itís like I am guessing. Iíd rather not. I have always named the people who are very good at it, and better than I would ever be, so Iíd rather leave them to get on with it Ė I can do my thing, and they can do theirs!
Do you think styling can be taught, or do you think itís all about instinct?
I think itís a mixture. I know there are courses for styling now, I donít want to put them down, Iím sure theyíre very good, but I canít quite imagine how you teach styling. Iím sure there are great educators on those things, but I canít imagine how it could be approached. I think, for me, itís just gut instinct, but I think being at Saint Martins, as I said, it was being there at that specific time that was very useful. I was there with John Galliano in my year; it was all the Blitz club crowd, all sorts of people. I think Saint Martins was very important to me in spite of the teaching. Not that the teaching was awful, but there really wasnít anyÖ we were left to ourselves. There were pattern classes, cutting, sewing, whatever, but I wasnít a very good student. I spent most of my time wandering around Soho and things. It was more to do with contacts you made and the environment.
Are you still friends with the people you met at Saint Martins?
John [Galliano], I saw last year. I had a show at a photographerís gallery and he came along to see that. Weíre not best buddies or anything! There are two or three college friends that I still see regularly.
A lot of our friends at CSM were actually talking about you the other dayÖ We realised we were all following your Tumblr. We were talking about how diverse your references are.
My Tumblr is my pride and joy. Itís probably my favourite thing, possibly the thing Iím most proud of. Itís the one thing Iíve done thatís most me, above all things. I like doing photo-shoots and things Ė I love them Ė but for the most part itís a compromise. Itís a necessary compromise. Youíre working with a team: models, a photographer and make-up artists. Everyone is putting in their own. I like that team effort, but at the same time, you end up with something that isnít very you. It can be better than you imagined, but with Tumblr, there are no compromises. Everything there is chosen by me, so I feel that itís the closest reflection to how I think.
What do you think about the digital platforms and printed magazines?
I donít know. For myself, Iíve discovered so much more Ė gay blogs, different avenues, tastes, aesthetics Ė through things like Tumblr. People have gone on for a while now saying that magazines are dead, but I donít know if I believe that any more. For a while, things were online and exciting, and I thought, maybe, but then I think about the way you look at an image on a printed page in comparison to the screen. The two are good when they go hand-in-hand. I think if a magazine is purely online, Iím not sure if itís taken very seriously. Thatís the nature of looking at a screen; you can skip through things. If itís there in front of you, then you will stop. Itís probably something to do with the brain. I think magazines are here for a long time yet. Though Iíve never kept magazines.
I thought you did. Do you still use a scrapbook?
Oh, I keep my scrapbooks. To be honest, my Tumblr has more or less taken over from my scrapbook. I used to buy magazines and tear them up, but I hardly ever buy them any more. I find everything I want online.
Do you like where fashion is heading?
To be honest, I donít know where fashion is heading! I donít know! Itís a world I work on the outskirts of; I never go out to parties and that sort of thing. I have an allotment and grow vegetablesÖ