Monday, 2 June 2014

Hay Festival

I am not one for a festival. I went to Glastonbury once for a day in my 20's and the experience was enough to confirm what I already knew: me, mud, music and camping don't mix. I have managed to avoid festivals ever since. Then I received an invite to The Hay Festival. Intrigued at a festival "of literature and arts" I started to book tickets and muster clothes related plans; if I was going to survive then my wardrobe had to be up to the task. Check out the STYLE blog page to see what I wore. But for now let me tell you about one event I booked a ticket for which blew my fashion socks off: Julien Macdonald.

Picture the scene - a rain soaked, mud sodden, albeit covered, festival. It's Sunday night and I am waiting patiently (and coldly) in line to listen to Dylan Jones of GQ in conversation with Mr Julien Macdonald. I wasn't sure what to expect - after seeing the fashion designer on Strictly Come Dancing last year I was curious - was his career on the skids? And what on earth was he doing at Hay? The first pleasant surprise was Julien Macdonald walking the length of the line saying "hello" to everyone waiting. Then surprise after surprise came towards me like models storming the catwalk, my ambivalence to the talk was quashed and I left the tent a bonafide Macdonald fan.

The stage is set for Julien Macdonald

Honest, funny, talented and hugely entertaining, Julien held the shivering masses in the palm of his hand for his entire talk. The expectation was that at the age of 16 he would go and work in the lightbulb factory where his mum worked but he knew he was destined for another life so did A-levels (the first person in his family to do so) and then went to university (also another family first). From then his career skyrocketed with the help of the infamous Isabella Blow. He used education as a way out of the small Welsh town in which he'd be born and he has never stopped learning. He talked so passionately about his positive experiences of education that I began to think he should be working for the Government.

Asked whether he was a fan of sustainable fashion and ethical clothing, - his answer was basically 'no'. He praised Stella McCartney for "doing her thing" (she's a bit of a champion when it comes to sustainability) but at the end of the day Julien Macdonald admitted he "just wants to make women look sexy." That honesty was refreshingly brilliant - even Dylan Jones was impressed. After years of politicians saying something without actually saying anything and people trying to make amends for what they did or didn't say in the press, he knocked it out of the park.

Julien Macdonald and Dylan Jones

He listed the famous stars he has dressed: Beyonce, Kylie, Jessie J, Shakira, Taylor Swift, Paloma Faith to name but a few but it was crystal clear he was never star struck, never overwhelmed by the fashion industry or the job he had created for himself. At the heart of his talk was a healthy appreciated for his talent and a closely knitted tie to his working class Welsh roots which kept his dancing feet firmly on the ground.

So why appear on Strictly Come Dancing? queried Dylan Jones. Again, the honesty was electrifying: to raise awareness of his clothes range at Debenhams. He realised that the women his diffusion line would sell to were the women watching Strictly: the masses. WOW. Savvy doesn't even begin to cover it.

He then proceeded to stay behind to sign autographs and let people have their picture taken with him.

Julien, it was a pleasure to hear you talk. Thank you for making my Hay Festival.

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