MANCHESTER FNO 2013: ALEXANDRA SHULMAN AND ME
After an unplanned break in blogging left me aching to write, I found myself at the Vogue Fashion’s Night Out, Manchester, asking Alexandra Shulman herself for a spot of advice. She happily obliged…
Two weeks on and the wise words a Million Girl’s icon are still ringing in my ears.
Because, that’s what I was doing two weeks ago; chatting with an icon over a glass of Prosecco and a mini Quiche tartlet… Not really. But I did attend a Q&A with one of fashions most loved editors, self-professed Manalo Blahnik super-fan, and – as of quite recent – fiction author, Alexandra Shulman.
I’m all to aware now that it’s been over a year since my last post (my last real post), and if I have any readers left that aren’t family or obliged friends I’m a lucky girl. Still, the past twelve months have been busy to say the least. But, I’ve missed this. The way you miss an ex when you see or hear something funny and immediately want to tell them but realise you don’t have their number anymore.
With work and life and study, I’ve drifted further and further away from the writing desk, but jeez, I’ve ached for it. I’ve found myself injecting small, witty paragraphs outlining micro trends into my weekly comp shops (one of my intern jobs) and sending too-long texts to friends expelling much-too-much detail for mundane day.
The truth is, I practically feel like a stranger, an intruder on my own blog, because starting all over again after such a long time feels like too much of a blessing, like an old friend welcoming me back with open arms and no questions. It’s nice. And writing, no matter how little, feels like home, that’s the beauty of independent ‘hobby’ blogging, I guess.
So, anyway, when away from my blog and the work that comes with it, I attended the Vogue Fashions Night Out Q&A hosted by Harvey Nicholls, I wasn’t planning on asking any questions, just to stand on the side-lines and enjoy seeing the lady herself in full colour and maybe take home a little life lesson with my swag.
Then, when the Q&A was nearing it’s end and a man I didn’t recognise asked one last time if there were any questions from the room and my arm, in the too-heavy, wool sleeve of my oversized black pea-coat shot up in the air and my body raised up on its tip toes, I shocked myself.
What was I doing? I hadn’t prepared any questions, and this woman had probably heard them all a thousand times over, in fact she was probably itching to leave and grab a complimentary ‘Alexandra Shullman’ cocktail on her way!
But here I was with my arm in the air. In hindsight, in amongst all the tall, slender fashion-types in their silk, silver slip dresses and high, high heals, I’m all sure the unrecognisable man only saw of me was my (freakishly small – so i’m told) home-manicured hand poking above heads.
But when he directed a small, smiling woman with curly red hair bobbing at her cheeks to pass a microphone my way, as if it were an instrument of fashion magic, the crowd of pretty people fell away and offered a small passage by which Ms. Shullman and my eyes would meet.
I must have looked terrified, because she smiled at me, the kind of warm smile a knowing mother extends without ever realising, to a child looking for advice, the kind that says ‘it’s all going to be okay.’ And it was.
I suppose I’d missed my little blog more than I knew and in the twelve months of aching to write again I’d finally reached my limit because the word’s fell out of my mouth:
“I’ve been studying toward a career in design for half a decade now, but I adore writing; is it ever too late start again?”
CRINGE. As quickly as the words left my mouth I wished I could breath them back in, give myself a minute to compose myself, re-word my question, make it less cheesy and sound less naïve. I couldn’t, of course, they were already out there.
She didn’t seem to mind though, if anything that already plenty-big smile grew, and I didn’t feel so silly and childish when it did. Maybe she was refreshed to hear a question so obviously unprepared. Then again, maybe she felt utterly sorry for me.
Her response was simple, after remarking how it was a nice question, she told me:
“If at 54 I can write a fiction novel, and you’re a lot younger than I am, I don’t see why you can’t do what ever you’d like to do.”
Simple. To the point. Not like these mass ramblings you endure from me! It just never occurred to me that what I have, are another 70 years (if I stop smoking and start eating plenty of yoghurt) to worry over the details. How silly of me.
If we’d all listened to our Mothers when they told us we can be what ever we want to be, this generation of ours probably wouldn’t be running aimlessly toward our futures, holding our breath and praying to come out the other end in one piece, we’d more likely just be enjoying it, equal measures work and reward. How lovely would that be?
Illustration by Ellie Foreman-Peck