Last week fashion-lovers were treated to a fantastic event at our Long Acre flagship store, not only did they receive a complimentary 20% off any purchases made, a goodie bag packed full of Green & Spring treats, and champagne and canapés on tap… but they got to witness a very special presentation by Editor in Chief of Vogue UK; Alexandra Shulman.
Alexandra has turned her creative fingertips to penning a novel, titled ‘Can we still be friends?’ It follows the trials and tribulations of three young women as they embark on their careers after leaving university in the 1980s. As it is published by Penguin books, we thought it would be great if publishing director Juliet Annan would interview Alexandra about her first novel and life as a fashion editor. The audience were then invited to ask Alexandra their own questions. They were then able to have their copies of ‘Can we still be friends?’ signed by Alexandra herself, we included a hardback edition in each goodie bag. Alexandra really captivated the audience, and we were so excited to have fashion extraordinaire Hilary Alexander and blogger-of-the-moment Abi Marvel in attendance. Read on for an insight into the world of Alexandra Shulman…
On choosing to write a novel…
I knew I wanted to write a book, my job is always a collaborative process, and I do very little that starts and ends with me, I work with fantastic people that strengthen me. But after 17 years at Vogue and two years GQ, I wanted to do something on my own. I didn’t think I was going to write fiction, that was a surprise to me.
On not writing about fashion…
My day job is fashion, so I really didn’t want to do something else that was fashion. It’s an incredible business, even those who aren’t interested in how they look, really are interested in how they look, because they’ve made a decision not to be interested. Also, I couldn’t think of a way to write about fashion and keep my job… the fashion world is stranger than fiction.
On the loneliness of writing a novel…
I didn’t find it lonely, I found it a retreat. Normally I start my day off with the cat, and then my son, and then to work, I never have a moment when I’m not engaging with someone. And so the excuse of being able to say I’m writing my book so I can’t be bothered is very freeing.
On the characters in ‘Can we still be friends?’…
It’s set in the 1980s, they’re 22-23, they’ve just left university. Annie, who I most closely identify with, is very insecure, pretty but insecure. All she wants is a husband, she doesn’t really think she will get a job. Sal is the converse of that, she doesn’t think about the consequences. And Kendra hates her parents for being rich and wants to rebel.
On being a journalist…
I didn’t want to be a journalist, both my parents are journalists and I thought it looked like hard work and low pay. I wanted to work in the music industry but I got fired. But then I was temping before uni, at a magazine called Over21, and I found that I loved working in magazines. Then, I got a freelance piece commissioned in Tatler, it wasn’t published but they hired me. I had actually always wanted to be a novelist, in fact I wanted to be a novelist before I knew I wanted to be a journalist.
When I look at the office now, I think they have a lost less fun then we did. Journalism in the ‘80s, there was a good time culture, now no-one drinks anything, but it’s not just the alcohol, the mentality was freer and more fun. Today there’s endless information from computers, it makes people work harder, it was much easier to go AWOL in the ‘80s.
On the Photoshop culture…
There’s nothing new in Photoshop, they used to actually physically cut the pictures of the models down to make them look smaller. Several times I’ve told the photographer that I want more reality back into the pictures. It is important to educate young girls, so that they understand that what they’re looking at is not reality. It’s not about being thin or fat, it’s about being healthy. I’m going to be doing some school lectures about this.
Quick fire questions…
How important do you think it is to dress for your job?
The range of clothes out there is phenomenal, nothing like the range when I was younger. Everyone dresses differently we didn’t have that freedom. You were either eccentric or business like. Today, you can dress in a more maverick way and still be taken seriously.
What are your most successful Vogue covers?
The millennium issue which didn’t have a model on was our most successful, it was like a mirror and you looked in it and saw your own face. Most of Kate Moss’ are successful, she’s incredibly popular. The more creative and edgy the worse they sell.
What pieces are you most proud of?
I was very pleased to interview Victoria Beckham. At the time still had little fashion credibility, and those on the industry were very critical. I was also proud to be asked to chronicle the G20 spouses when they came to London. I have had some fantastic experiences.
What did you want to be growing up?
I wanted to be hairdresser called Gillian
Will you be writing a sequel?
I want to write another fiction book, whether I do a sequel… I want to write a book with a man as the central character, and I don’t want to write about the ‘80s. I could do a sequel with them grown up set now.
Any tips for aspiring novelists?
Just do it, I made myself write, if I waited for inspiration then I knew it would never happen, it’s better to do it badly than not at all.
If you were able to give just one piece of advice to your 20 year old self, what would it be?
Enjoy it more, worry less, I spent my 20s in a panic about everything.