Diana of Wales did not know how to dress, according to Sarah Mower. Fashion journalist at Vogue USA, ambassador for emerging talents of the British Fashion Council and president of the NEWGEN committee, which supports the emerging talents of fashion in her country, this British fashion expert has been dedicated body and soul to the profession for too long How to be a diplomat. To the queen of England, on the other hand, he concedes that she has improved over time (70 years of reign go a long way) and a little professional help, which would at least distinguish her from the following generations of royals (including Catherine of Cambridge and Queen Letizia), which he finds practically interchangeable. Mower has visited Madrid to be part of the panel of speakers at the first Author Fashion Analysis Conference organized by the Spanish Fashion Creators Association.
The daughter of teachers, she had a far from frivolous training in Art History and began to be interested in fashion by observing the costumes of the portraits of the Elizabethan era. “Fashion and art are part of society, or at least I see fashion as a reflection of society,” she says half an hour before leaving to give her talk about the British model. “And I guess that’s how I keep writing about her.” Being a student at the University of Leeds, to relax in the middle of the exam period, she began to look through a copy of Vogue, and there she found an advertisement that called for young journalists to be candidates for the Vogue Talent Contest, which she applied for and won. There she would start her career that has made her one of the most authoritative (and implacable) voices in the sector.
What do you think of the phenomenon of red carpets, which often overshadow the cultural events they are supposed to be appendages to, such as the Cannes festival and the Met exhibitions?
God, that’s a tough question. Well, it is something that did not exist until the end of the 90s, it can be said that Tom Ford started it. Or Giorgio Armani before him, with that connection between actors and fashion. And often young people perceive that this is fashion. For better or worse.
Well, it is, isn’t it?
The fact that? For better or worse?
I mean that fashion is just that, the red carpet. But I also understand that it is other things. Which ones, then?
In any case, the fashion that has always interested me, and about which I have been curious, is what comes next. What young people say. I’m interested in going to their studios or wherever they do things and being told about them because that’s the way to look at trends like gender fluidity or sustainability. Many designers have worked for big firms and then left because they didn’t want to continue doing things that way as a matter of social responsibility. I also saw that in the last parade I covered, the Central Saint Martins high school graduates. It was incredible. Those people are the ones who are going to be in charge of the industry in the next ten years. So it’s no surprise to me that things change often. Ultimately, that interests me.
But fashion has traditionally been a question of power. It has been used above all to convey the strength of a certain elite.
Well, there are several types of power. Returning to the red carpets, in them, there is fame and power. But when you have groups of young people showing their identities, there is also that. You just have to look at the progress of hip-hop culture in the center of fashion. That is a social and cultural phenomenon that Virgil Abloh [American designer of Ghanaian origin who died in 2021 and was artistic director of Louis Vuitton] defended and promoted, and that has changed many things. I don’t like to talk about punk, but that was also a form of power, that of rebellion and scaring people.
Since you mention Abloh, I will tell you that shortly before he died I was at a dinner where I heard several people protesting the drift that many luxury firms had taken, including precisely Vuitton…
We would have to see if the case. But if the conversation was about Louis Vuitton menswear, it would be wrong, because there Abloh never abandoned tailoring but glorified it and integrated it with other knowledge from many sources, such as the African diaspora.
What they lamented was the loss of essence. And that was precisely my question if you think that this is a sensible speech or rather it hides a classist and racist vision.
But what was that essence? I just do not know. What moment were they referring to exactly? Because Vuitton has always been based on travel and luxury.
Do you think fashion can change society, or is it more of a reactionary, conservative force?
Well, for me what you have to look at are other things. The exploitation of women and the deterioration of the environment and the lack of responsibility in this regard. That damage is the worst disgrace.
I was talking before about gender fluidity, which, is now a very clear trend. But it already happened in the 70s…
Yes, in the 70s. And in the 80s, which were very transgressive of the genre. Especially in London, with Bowie.
But do you think this is a lasting trend?
Yes, I think that’s a fact, don’t you? Maybe because I’ve been seeing it for a long time in London, with the designer Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, who started with it. And Palomo in Spain, of course. Alexander also brought to Spain the thing about men wearing dresses and skirts.
What does that tell us about the present and future world?
I think the younger generation doesn’t see gender in the same way as mine. Or at least the older generations. It is part of a very positive liberation movement, at any rate in the West.
But at the same time in the middle class and some elites, it happens the other way around. Look at royal houses, for example. If you see King Felipe VI, by how he dresses, he gives the impression of wanting to look like any middle-class man, while the queen makes a great effort to fit into a very clear female stereotype, the one expected of a queen.
Yeah, okay, that’s a very gendered thing. Also, look at the way the Duchess of Cambridge dresses. She, Letizia, and all the female royals have the same shape and height. Mary from Denmark: same. She is almost identical to Kate Middleton! They are all very, very thin and wear the same kind of dresses, I suppose to look good in public.
That is what I meant. There we have fashion operating as a very conservative force.
Yes, I understand what you say. [Laughs] I wouldn’t expect Charles of England to end up wearing a dress.
It doesn’t seem like we can expect that in the future, right?
Not really. At most, they may wear a kilt.
And there is also the case of Diana of Wales, which has always intrigued me. When I was a child, people rather made fun of her dresses, including her wedding dress. No one considered her a particularly elegant woman.
It is that she was not!
Rather she was seen as a cheesy and old-fashioned person. And she’s suddenly a fashion icon.
I’m glad she remembers it, because younger people don’t see it, and they consider her an absolute icon. It’s funny how time changes people’s perspectives. Because I also remember the case of Stella McCartney’s mother, Linda, who was always made fun of, and now it turns out that she inspires many designers, including Stella. But yeah, Diana didn’t know how to dress. She wore clothes that were too old-fashioned, they looked like dresses of the ladies of the middle ages for the court. She didn’t have a personal style until she divorced her and she started dressing in Versace, which also didn’t look like Versace. And then yes, she was amazing.
How do you think the style of the British royal family has evolved, if at all?
Because we haven’t talked about the queen, right? I think she looks better now than ever. Now he has an amazing woman who saw her at Buckingham Palace and then moved to Balmoral to be with her. She goes out dressed in one color, and everything is better fitted, so you still know that she is the queen. She can’t wear brown, because no one would know who she is (she laughs). So the queen is a good example of that. When I was growing up she was considered very scruffy, so the last thing I would have expected in my life is to think that she is chic. But in the ’70s and ’80s, when things got wild, she just kept being herself. And I think she is amazing, she is a reference for many designers.
This leads us to the maxim that if you stick with one style long enough, you will eventually become an icon.
Yes, it’s just a matter of time.
And what are your fashion icons?
Oh my God. I have none. I’m not interested in celebrities, I’m afraid. Okay! Except Cate Blanchett. She is amazing, absolutely amazing. And she does really interesting things in that sense.
The fashion designer profession seems very hard, due to the stress that it entails, which has had some tragic consequences, as in the case of Alexander McQueen. Do you think that is changing?
I think that those responsible for companies are much more aware of mental health. Or they should. But I think there is a lot burned by the pandemic, people have worked a lot and are very alone, and all that has not gone away yet. But companies are more aware of it. I hope so.
Do you think that when you write your articles you play the role of a historian, in some way?
The present always carries the past inside, doesn’t it? The important thing is to ask yourself questions about things you don’t know. Every time I question myself more about what I don’t know because now voices are coming from many places and there is always something to learn. And I love to learn. Because my practice is part pleasing and part learning, I enjoy the research I do when I write.