After months of anticipation, Vogue festival 2013 finally rolled around this weekend. For those of us that attended last year’s inaugural event, comparisons between the two were inevitable. Firstly, the South Bank Centre is not as aesthetically pleasing as the Geographical Society, where last year’s Vogue festival was held. Even the presence of the glamorous Vogue staff and a host of fashion heavy weights including Alexa Chung and Anna Dello Russo couldn’t detract from the grey walls and concrete floors that dominated the South Bank Centre’s open space. And while last year’s waiters from the Vogue café appeared to be scouted from a male model agency, this year’s were, rather disappointingly, just waiters. The whole affair just seemed, well, less Voguey.
The first talk we attended was with the woman who changed the face of luxury shopping. Natalie Massanet’s CV reads like a fashion fairy-tale and explains the sense of excitement that filled the sold out auditorium as she took to the stage. Following an illustrious career in fashion including stints at Women’s Wear Daily and Tatler, Massanet founded Net-a-porter in 2000 and sold the company just 10 years later to luxury holding company Richemont for a staggering $533 million. She currently serves as Chairman of the British Fashion Council. Unfortunately, much of her talk focused on the personal rather than the business. Photographs of her childhood and teenage years were displayed and stories of carpooling with Lenny Kravitz to her first job in the Beverly Centre were told. She also revealed the fact that Alexandra Shulman had once interviewed and rejected her for a job at British Vogue. (There’s hope for us all!) What we didn’t get was much of an insight into Natalie the business woman – where she gets her inspiration, the ups and downs of running a global business or indeed the secrets of her success. Although humorous, we couldn’t help but feel that most of the audience were there for a talk on her business experiences and that £40 a head was a little steep for a flick through the Massanet family photo album, impossibly attractive and stylish though it may be. Thankfully the questions and answers section of the talk brought her back to business and produced some inspiring quotes.
On her role as Chairwoman of the British Fashion Council;
“We have a £21 billion fashion industry in the UK – it’s bigger than the car industry – I think we can double it in the next five years” –
On her business network;
“I meet with Angela Ahrendts, Anya Hindmarch (who had about 18,000 children and still gets it done”), and Tamara Mellon. We talk about the standard business stuff – hiring, structure, that sort of thing – but we also just talk about the practicalities of just getting a job done.”
The highlight of our day was Mr American Fashion himself, Michael Kors. The man is charm personified. It’s easy to see why he’s so successful, he makes women feel good about themselves, be it through words or his skillful, wearable designs. The impossibly young looking Yasmin Le Bon (she’s 48 but could easily pass for 20 years younger) seemed a little awkward in her role as interviewer rather than interviewee but Kors was more than able to take control with his clever and often hilarious insights to the glamorous world that he’s created. His number one tip to aspiring designers? Work in retail. “Don’t tell me you can’t get a design job, go get a job in Harvey Nichols” he tells the audience. Kors himself began in retail and this is where he learned first hand what the customer wanted. Other Korisms included
“Fashion is like food. Not everyone wants the same menu!” and
“I do sportswear, clothes you can move in. There should be an easiness to it, even if it’s glamorous”.
Other highlights of the day included Anna Dello Russo, dressed head to toe in Saint Laurent, she lived up to every glamorous expectation that we had. We were also pleasantly surprised by her humble nature and distinct lack of diva behaviour!
One criticism we have is the questions and answers section –why do so many people insist on telling the speakers their life stories (often in garbled English) and then proceed to tout for work experience? Time is at a premium and many spectators have real questions they want to ask! We blame Stella McCartney. Last year she, rather sweetly, promised an audience member work experience in her company – now it seems every fashion student in London is hoping for a similar opportunity.
Images via Vogue.co.uk