In the autumn of 2005, I was persuaded my now good friend Andrew Aveling to join his band as an eighteen-year-old big-haired skinny-jeaned tambourine madman. He had already recorded a song with Pete Doherty, who had invited his band, Littl'ans on an upcoming tour with him. As the aforementioned tour was a success and as I'd officially joined the band, to make us a five-piece, we were offered our own UK tour - which involved us being doubled booked with Echo and the Bunnymen at Liverpool Academy. Unfortunately we also found ourselves being pulled over by the police more times a jumper thanks to our connection with that scene, yet it was thanks to that connection that I ended up having the most extraordinary encounter with one of the most inspirational men I've ever met and the connection that followed, changing my life forever.
On the final date of a most-fun but extremely chaotic Littl'ans tour at the end of 2005, we played a sold-out show at the infamous 100 Club on Oxford Street in London. We had Babyshambles' drummer Adam Ficek on the sticks as the other guy had quit mid-tour and I jumped around on stage with a pair of girls jeans I'd knicked from a party with a saety pin holding together those and my flimsy make-shift shirt to protect my mid-rift, awarding it some modesty. With a hundred beads around my neck and the most care-free attitude I've ever had, I danced around the stage, culminating in smashing all the necklaces against a speaker stack, which exploded all over the audience, much to their delight. In fact, I remember one girl telling me she had found beads in her bra later that evening. I liked that. Yet the most important moment of that gig was one I was totally oblivious to.
The gig finished and a friend Anne McCloy came up to me and gushed over how Hedi Slimane had been in the crowd and how much he seemed to love me. I thought nothing of it. There had been someone who had been photographing me for the entire gig, and I did find it odd he only seemed to focus on me, but thanks to the arrogance of youth, I didn't find myself too excited by her announcement. I'd heard of a Hedi Slimane before, but only because he'd released a book the year before where he'd photographed some of my friends crowd surfing to the likes of The Libertines and The Others at various London venues. Sadly, most of these places don't even exist anymore.
So off I trot not thinking anything of the fact I'd taken the gaze of the world's most famous menswear designer aka Mr Dior Homme. But by the next week, I had been tracked down by the company and my wiser bandmate Andrew (who had much more knowledge when it came to these kind of things) told me, "Hedi wants to meet you in London!", as I popped round to his Camberwell flat - which he once shared with Jarvis and Steve, members of a little band named Pulp. I shrugged, unfazed, my first thoughts being "will he buy me lunch?" as opposed to anything potentially amazing.
Andrew filled me in on Hedi. It turned out a few of my friends had previously recorded music for his shows, that the man was a fashion icon, and he was considered a God by many. I noticed Phil Bush of the Cazals had modelled for him and one of the guys who did the guestlist for Club NME at Koko (those were the days). I had the littlest idea about fashion but it seemed worth at least meeting the bloke. A pretty girl I spoke to at the time furthered my excitement. She was into fashion and couldn't believe I was going to meet him. So much so I brought her along to my first encounter with Mr Slimane. Having no idea of how important he was in the industry, she sat star-struck watching me engage with him as he told me his plans.
I had inspired him to create a short film he wanted me to star in, as a homage to a cult Parisian street dancer, who too danced a lot in a wild fashion, but remained on the same spot throughout. He wanted me to be filmed against a white background, stepping onto a white stage and reproduce an entire timed gig, ritually performing and tranposing my act. Hedi told me that he was exploring the semiotic conventions of rock performance - the ritual the sacrifice... "the genesis of icons". It all sounded pretty ridiculous to me, but he said he'd pay for me to go to Paris and I'd watch it in the company of the French Prime Minister, so I agreed. After all, at this point in my life, I'd never been abroad before.
The day of the filming was great. I was the only artiste so I was well fed and suitably watered as I began to see flashes of Hedi's eccentric genius. I listened to Littl'ans demos through headphones obscured from view and stomped and rattled my way through an entire set, with Hedi capturing the whole thing on a single camera, enthralled by something I didn't think was that interesting or particularly difficult. As we parted ways, I thought it was an odd experience to have too part in, but so were most of the things going on in my life at that time.
Still, I was excited to visit Paris, and also curious to see how the film would turn out... and since I'd filmed it, and seen the reaction people gave me when I'd said I'd met the guy, I started to grow interested in just what exactly it was that Hedi did. So before our next encounter, all that was left now to do was to buy my first passport and wait for the week of the premiere. A man from Dior wired me money so I could get a fast track one. I'd never had anyone wire me money before! The tickets arrived and I couldn't believe it: I was going to Paris. I was going abroad fr the first time! And I'd managed to blag Andrew and our girlfriends tickets too. Brilliant.
Let the adventure begin...
Part two coming soon: The Time I Modelled For Dior