Throughout my career as a Vogue editor, I was constantly asked what was “in”.
Back in the nineties, this was relatively easy to respond to. The other fashion editors and I would have travelled to the ready to wear shows in Milan and Paris, and dutifully noted down all the trends. We would have then relayed what we saw to the staff back at the office
“Metallic is very important, seen here at Chanel, soft suiting and flat shoes at Armani, black, oversized silhouettes at Comme de Garcons,” we would say.
We would hold on to this secret information for six months, while we prepared the issues that would eventually deliver the reader the news.
We were all about trends. We could literally go to an event and declare to women, “Ultra short skirts are back” and they would all either smile or groan and then promptly start wearing them.
But after a few years of noticing the same but slightly different trends returning over and over to the runway (“Plaid for fall. Seventies. Spanish ruffles”) and then appraising what women wear in their actual day-to-day lives I realised trends are fun, but most often irrelevant.
So, instead of replying, “Wide-leg trousers and baby doll dresses,” when I was asked what was in, I tended to just say, “Anything you like and feel good in”.
The relentless quest for the new is what makes fashion so exciting, and the massive amount of choice out there means that no matter what you put on, you will never look out of date. You’ll just look different.
It’s so easy to skip a trend you don’t like nowadays, because there is such a vast array of alternatives, which certainly wasn’t the case for our mothers and grandmothers. Or even for my generation.
When I was fifteen, I began dressing like a punk and I really had to get inventive. There were no skinny jeans available, we had to buy Levi’s and run them in at home on the sewing machine.
It was even impossible to buy black jeans for women – for years we dyed them ourselves. If I went out to buy a pair of jeans today, I would suggest there are literally hundreds of styles and labels to choose from.
I also stopped paying attention to trends as I became older and wiser.
The ‘It’ bag phenomenon of the early 2000s was a wake up call. Huge sums of money were being spent on whatever was deemed “the handbag of the moment”, which would promptly change by the time you got your next Amex bill.
I watched girls pay $2000 they couldn’t afford for a Balenciaga Lariat bag which then had to be put away in the cupboard, forever, once Lindsay Lohan started carrying one.
Then there was the showy Balmain jacket with the super sharp extended shoulder pads that was insanely covetable for about one year, cost almost one year’s salary and which then disappeared in a puff of bugle beads when the designer moved on, never to be seen again.
Once you have kids, a mortgage and financial responsibilities, you can’t lose your mind over every irrational dictate the fashion world releases. That’s when classics really come into play, and you find yourself buying things that you like, rather than items that are “in”.
This is the way to really build a successful, timeless wardrobe, and not waste money. It doesn’t mean boring, and of course you can inject a new season shoe, or a piece of jewellery to make you feel on trend if you wish.
My mantra is: If you really love something, and you feel good in it, then you’re always en pointe.