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Interview: Edward Enninful, Jonathan Kaye, Nancy Rohde & Panos Yiapanis

by SHOWstudio .

Zoe Whitley: How did you first become interested and involved in fashion and the Fashion Industry?

Edward Enninful: I met stylist Simon Foxton on a train on my way to sixth form college when I was sixteen. I became his assistant a year later, and Nick Knight introduced me to i-D which made me fashion editor at the age of eighteen.

Jonathan Kaye: I chose to study a degree in textiles, which led me onto a fashion MA at St. Martin’s, where I concentrated my interest in fashion towards styling and creating images with clothing.

Nancy Rohde: Well, I think I was always interested in it from a small child and you just develop. You don’t necessarily choose to have it as a career and you go and do other things because it seems a bit of a frivolous thing to do. Something happens in your life, like in my case, my best friend died, who was finally doing what she wanted to do. I just though ‘oh, well I’ll go and do fashion then because that’s what I’ve always wanted, really wanted, to do. Maybe I won’t be a physio- or psychotherapist or something like that’.

Panos Yiapanis: I met Corinne Day through some friends and she was taking pictures for her book and we became really good friends. I wasn’t really aware of what she did as I haven’t got a history in fashion. It never really interested me as a kid. I didn’t really buy any fashion magazines. She showed me a lot of her fashion pictures and I really found them refreshing. I just had a vision of fashion as being this fake red lipstick and power suits. When I saw her pictures, I found something that I could relate to so I’d tell her to go back and take more fashion pictures and she was not really interested in entering the fashion industry again. So, six months later, after I constantly said ‘do it, do it, do it!’ she said to me ‘I’ll do it if you do it.’ I said ‘do what?’ and she said ‘style it’. I didn’t really know what it meant. But she liked the way I used to dress, which is the same as what I’ve done in my styling work. For our first shoot together, I just used all the clothes I have on the men. When it came to the womenswear, I just raided my sister’s wardrobe because she wears some designer clothes and there was this Hussein shirt and I just ripped it to pieces. So that was my first shoot. And when it came out, a lot of people were doing like computerised, slick, digitized, Sølve Sundsbø and Vincent Peter-type images. So I got a negative reaction to my approach. People were like ‘this is really boring and dirty’. So from the beginning of my career, I kind of felt like an outsider. Which was a bit of a blessing.

Zoe Whitley: What led you to styling specifically?

Edward Enninful: My mother is a dressmaker, so I helped her design and make clothes from a young age, but it wasn’t until I met Simon that I realized styling was a career option. I did not want to be a designer but I loved photography and fashion; styling seemed like the best combination of both fields.

Jonathan Kaye: I guess it was the opportunity to work my ideas with those of designers, photographers, hairstylists and make-up artists as part of a collaborative team.

Nancy Rohde: I went to university and did photography. I’ve always loved photography. It’s there that I really got interested in fashion photography. You know, I really enjoyed looking at Italian Vogue. I really enjoyed looking at The Face and all those magazines at the time that people like Stephane Sedanoui were doing twenty-five page stories for, like The Face. I realised that I wasn’t committed to photography in the way that I was committed to fashion. In doing it. I didn’t feel like I had a style that was ‘me’ and that was ‘it’. I didn’t have a photographic vision but I felt like I really was into fashion.

Panos Yiapanis: Even before I was styling, I used to dress this way, I always used to write on my clothes or customise them and that’s when Corinne [Day] was like ‘oh, let’s work, I’d like you to style’. I have a tough time with it now because people seem to have accepted what I do. I feel like it no longer has a place because it’s been accepted. I don’t necessarily want to be confrontational or alternative, but there’s no point in doing anything unless it’s new and interesting. There’s no point in rehashing what’s been done. You’ve gotta keep going. And if I can’t find a way to evolve, then there’s no point.

Zoe Whitley: Do you attend the shows during the various Fashion Weeks?

Edward Enninful: Yes. I start in London, occasionally move on to New York, then style a show in Milan, then move on to Paris as a spectator.

Jonathan Kaye: Some.

Nancy Rohde: Yeah, usually. It depends on what’s going on in my life. It depends what magazine I’m working for, what other shows I’m doing, or things like that. It varies from season to season.

Panos Yiapanis: I’ve made some friends and certain designers see things the way I do. So I always go to those. But they’re very few. One menswear designer and two or three womenswear.

Zoe Whitley: What is involved in your preparation for Fashion Week shows?

Edward Enninful: Before the shows, I fax all the designers whose shows I am interested in seeing. Because I work constantly for Italian Vogue, i-D and Japanese Vogue, I have to make sure I cover designers ranging from the young and avant-garde, right through to established, classic houses like Valentino and Ralph Lauren, who are all but Vogue advertisers.

Jonathan Kaye: ?

Nancy Rohde: Pencil and a notebook. That’s it.

Panos Yiapanis: I went to more shows this season because I’m working for The Face now. They’re trying to get me to be a bit more interested. They actually asked me to do Milan, which I laughed at because I didn’t see why. I mean, magazines have to send a certain amount of stylists and I was just telling the director that I didn’t think Prada or Gucci would be very happy if they sent me as their representative. I don’t think it would do wonders to their advertising, which they agreed with.

Zoe Whitley: Do you have a favourite show?

Edward Enninful: No. I have designers whose shows I am interested in seeing, but generally I look for new ideas in every show.

Jonathan Kaye: A number of designers are consistently good... but it’s always refreshing to be surprised.
Nancy Rohde: Yeah. There are certain ones. People like Martin Margiela stimulate you intellectually. It sounds very pretentious but someone like him, I feel, is a truly modern designer. Even though he heavily references the past, he does it in a way that is really truly modern, in a way that other people don’t seem to be able to do. There are other shows that are really fun like McQueen because they’re just fun to watch or Galliano, but they don’t inspire the same admiration in a way, you know? Well, they do in other ways. That’s the one thing about fashion, there’s many different ways of tackling it. And selling yourself!

Panos Yiapanis: I don’t see many shows. Whatever I do see, they maintain what they do so I don’t walk away with ‘this Season’s Greatest.’ I’m very narrow minded in what I like anyway so, there’s a loyalty. Raf Simons actually makes clothes I like to wear. Usually, the only stuff I get is from Camden. I like what Veronique Branquino and Martin Margiela do and Rick Owens.

Zoe Whitley: What goes through your mind as the girls come down the runway?

Edward Enninful: I am too busy studying clothes and accessories, whilst dissecting hair and make-up trends even to think.

Jonathan Kaye: I’m looking for impact. Inspiration. And for something that I feel is going to work photographically.

Nancy Rohde: I don’t know. It depends what show it is. Sometimes it’s really exciting and sometimes it’s really boring and sometimes it’s you have no opinion. It’s just like you go to see anything, whether it’s a show at the Tate or anything. It’s like sometimes it’s going to inspire you, sometimes it’s not.

Zoe Whitley: How do you record what is seen on the runways? (Sketches? Notes?)

Edward Enninful: Sketches and notes. Also, I normally have an assistant filming on video camera.

Jonathan Kaye: I prefer to see the actual garments of collections in a showroom environment where I can take note of fabric, colour, texture, etc.

Nancy Rohde: I don’t really take notes because I don’t work in a fashion arena like Vogue or something like that. I don’t work for a magazine where I have to write down the key trends. I just write down things that I like and that trigger my imagination or give me ideas. When I decide to do a story I’m going to go back and look at all the collections anyway on style.com or in the look books.

Zoe Whitley: Let’s talk about the industry’s ‘look books’. Can you explain what they are and how you use them?

Edward Enninful: Look books are photographs taken of a designer’s runway show and presented in the form of a booklet. Let’s say four months down the line, I am shooting a story: the look book serves as a reminder of what I saw or noted in my sketchbook.

Jonathan Kaye: Look books are photographic manuals composed of runway stills and are for fashion editors and stylists to refer to following the shows. Look books are invaluable and Style.com has become as useful as the look books.

Nancy Rohde: Well, they usually come in two forms. Often people have them on the Internet, people like Helmut Lang or Dries Van Noten or people like that. I use the internet sites a lot. Or I use Chris Moore’s website. Or there’s other people that send out look books where every outfit is numbered and that’s what you use to call in the clothes for the shoots. When you’re putting a shoot together, they’re absolutely invaluable. They feature clothes you’re never going to see in this country because they’re not the designers represented here. I’d say only 3% of designers are represented here in London so it would be impossible to see those collections without look books.

Panos Yiapanis: I use look books quite a lot because I don’t go to the shows and I have to use some of the advertisers. So when a magazine tells me that I have to photograph Prada and I haven’t got a fucking clue what they’ve done, I have to go to the books to see what black items I can get away with. I use things like firstview.com because they’re basically like look books. I can source designers that I need to use. I would rather go on the internet than go to the actual show because I’m not very into that social ‘who’s sitting where?’ and you know... So it’s much nicer to sit in the comfort of your office at 2am and go through things in peace and quiet.

Zoe Whitley: Can you talk me through your process of styling a ‘look’ for the season?

Edward Enninful: My ideas never come from the runway. Sometimes I might be inspired by anything visual - people, the street, a location, films, music, nature, postcards, abstract thoughts, you name it. The next stage is amassing research from anywhere, from books to vintage clothes. By the time I approach a photographer, I would have amassed a great deal of research. Then all the logistics that go into a photo shoot - casting, location, clothing, hair and make-up, photographic ideas - follow to create my version of what I feel is right for our times, never the season.

Jonathan Kaye: It starts with an idea, garment or random inspiration, which is then explored in collaboration with a creative team. Creatively, whether I want to support a particular collection and how best a garment may serve the image. Publications also have editorial requirements, which often need to be accommodated. Whether for work or personally, all selections have to appeal to my sensibility.

Nancy Rohde: Well, I don’t think there’s necessarily any formula. I think everybody has their own built-in formula, which is their style. So, a look I’m going to put together is going to be different from someone like Venetia Scott or is going to be different from Panos. And that’s why people pay you to do the job. I think it’s to do with taste, isn’t it? That’s why you can’t ever teach anybody it. There are those stupid courses at colleges where they teach people to do styling - well, it’s impossible. It’s the same as painting. It’s like either you have something that people want to pay money for or they don’t. And it’s not necessarily that the work people don’t want to spend money on is bad, it’s just like not an accepted taste and it’s just a case of that. I really believe it’s something you cannot teach. It’s something you can open people’s eyes to but you can’t learn it like you learn to do law or accountancy or something like that.

Panos Yiapanis: I’m very influenced by what music I’m listening to at the time. There’s two types of music usually: I listen to one type for six months then I get sick and tired of it and I listen to something else. And my work ranges between the two things. One of them is a very black aesthetic, very dark. People would say it’s gothic, but I don’t see it as that. Then there’s the other side that’s a bit more military and khaki. A bit more colourful. Like browns and stuff like that.

Zoe Whitley: Would you like to say anything specific about the choices you have made for this project, SEASON’S GREETINGS?

Edward Enninful: They inspired me in different ways.

Jonathan Kaye: ?

Nancy Rohde: I don’t know, I think I just picked out pieces I thought were quite funny or that I liked. I don’t know exactly why I choose them sometimes. I can only remember bits and pieces and I don’t even think they all worked together!

Panos Yiapanis: As a stylist, I don’t think I’m here to dictate what people should wear. I just show what my world is and what my views are. If people find something there that they want to take from it, cool. If they don’t, that’s fine as well.