Confessions of a Fashionista, by Angela Clarke
Unlike my infuriating little sister, who has ensured her role as the favourite by becoming a doctor, I left university with no idea of what I wanted to do. One of my best friends got an internship at The Sunday Times Style magazine, which she parlayed seamlessly into a job. This seemed to me to be one of the best jobs possible- because it was at The Sunday Times, so sounded incredibly impressive, yet was on the Style team, so most of her day was spent eating the free cupcakes that PR companies sent to the team, and wafting about thinking of good 'video blog'* concepts.
Unfortunately, a loathing for wearing heels during the day and a deeply held belief that cupcakes are, in fact, inferior to muffins meant that I could not follow her to this excellent position. Also, they had filled it already. With my friend.
There is something, however, deeply fascinating about the fashion industry. It's like the music industry- absolutely enormous, with billion pound turnovers, yet closed to outsiders. Gossip and scandal abound, yet even my friend, who had been allowed into this magic world, was infuriatingly vague about the whole thing.
Which is why I was so looking forward to Angela Clarke's tell-all expose, 'Confessions of a Fashionista'. Clarke started by writing an anonymous Daily Mail blog about her time in the fashion industry, which was filled with excellent stories that I personally began using to justify my own slovenly behavior. 'I know I didn't replace the loo roll,' I explained carefully to my flatmate. 'But did you know there's a pop star who won't let anyone show her their bottom?' It was also from this column that I really finalized my potential rider requests, once I realized the previously cherished idea of colour-separated M&Ms was embarrassingly small-time.
'Confessions of a Fashionista' begins with Angela Clarke leaving university, unsure about what to do. Upon expressing a desire to work in fashion (at that point, having almost no idea what that would entail, but liking the way it sounds), her Mother helpfully points out that, 'That doesn't sound very likely, how about a nice job in the council?' Recently dumped by her long-term boyfriend, living with her parents and having shared a taxi with Alexander McQueen but failed to recognize him, Angela has no possibility but to succeed.
Which, hilariously, she does. And she takes us along for the ride- as a mildly bemused interloper in an industry where basic human needs (sleep, food et) are thrown over giddily for extravagant parties and hideously expensive accessories. Luckily for us, she is far more explicit about what goes on in that gilded world than my friend was: from tales about her colleagues who treat themselves by sniffing cakes rather than eating them, to assistants whose job it is to administer cocaine to their bosses- rectally. I would have liked to have heard more about Mr Darling, the live-in boyfriend whose role is sadly demoted to occasional flare-ups of anger at never seeing his girlfriend; I think it would have been interesting to probe deeper into the difficulties of sustaining a relationship with two very time-consuming careers. But over-all this is a well-written, entertaining romp of a book- and some of its insights into the deranged world of fashion are still making me laugh. At best, it's shown me that there are other careers filled with extraordinary characters- and though my little sister's tales from the NHS are equally bizarre, the outfits are much less exciting.
*I put 'video blog' in these sardonic air quotations because I'm not convinced that it's a real thing.*