"Growing up, I was always the kind of kid who would scour the fashion credits and mastheads of my favourite magazines, looking to see who contributed what," explains Kin Woo, the man responsible for anothermag.com's long-standing Insiders column. Founded in 2009 as a means to breaking open an industry that can often appear inscrutable from the outside, over the years he has interviewed legends from Mr Pearl to Robbie Snelders; visited ateliers from Chanel to Maison Margiela; investigated the roles of muses and PR gurus. In celebration of the 100th interview in the series, we look back over some of his favourite subjects and what we can learn from them...
After meeting textile artist Edwina Pellikka at a post-show Rodarte dinner (following the A/W09 collection for which she had dyed the marbled fabrics), Woo "knew I had the perfect first interview subject for the series. That really set the tone for the column: to seek out and celebrate the lesser known artisans who all contribute in their own way to the designer’s vision." A woman who has collaborated not only with designers like Rodarte but was also responsible for the hues of Oscars gowns in the eighties and the outfits of many a Hollywood starlet, it was an opportunity to discover the laborious process behind the craft: “I had to build the most enormous trough anyone’s ever made [for Rodarte A/W09] to contain 73 gallons of colours. It took two days to mix!”
Chanel Metiers D’Arts series
In 2002, Chanel purchased the seven ateliers that make up PARAFECTION, in a bid to preserve the future of haute couture. Woo and photographer Alfredo Piola took a "whirlwind trip" through five of them; meeting Monsieur Lesage of the atelier de broderie, visiting Maison Lemarie and learning that the powder pink tulle and feather concoction worn by Nicole Kidman in the iconic Chanel No. 5 advert took over six weeks to craft out of 50 metres of tulle and 200 ostrich feathers. As Lesage himself explained, “This house was made in the age of couture. If we were not here, couture will fly away,” and the exploration of the artisanal craftsmanship that goes into every element of a couture collection makes this mini-series one of Insiders' most resounding successes.
"With her antique Chinese robes, masses of clanking costume jewellery, and topped off by her owlish frames, Apfel is a fashion icon," explains Woo of the 91-year-old woman who has achieved legendary status for her approach to fashion. But despite a lifetime of devotion to the sartorial, it was not until 2005 – when the Metropolitan Museum put on Rara Avis: Selections From The Collection of Iris Barrel Apfel, showcasing her brilliant archives – that she broke out of a relative anonymity. "It made me a geriatric starlet!" she exlaimed – and now, with a documentary about her about to be released, the nonagenarian who describes herself as “the world’s oldest living teenager” is set for even further celebrity.
The one and only interview that Susannah Frankel has ever been the subject of, her conversation with Kin Woo was both enlightening and moving. AnOther's Fashion Features Director is one of the most renowned voices in the industry and both her insightful features and witty weekly column offer an informed and intimate understanding of everyone from John Galliano to Lee McQueen. "When you wear fashion it’s very personal, and with a good designer, you feel their handwriting in the clothes you’re wearing," she explains, but "the best fashion is about ideas, images, aspirations. I think it’s nice to approach fashion in a non-consumer way. You’re not patronising people saying 'buy this or that', you’re saying 'hey look at this, isn’t it amazing'".
"It’s been a relic of Victorianism, an expression of female sexuality, an 'instrument of oppression and ill health' and a fetishist kink: has there ever been a garment of female clothing quite as divisive as the corset?" opened the 50th installment of Insiders; an exploration of the career of the world's most famous master corsetier, Mr Pearl. After six months spent trying to track him down ("all I had was a fax and a phone number he never answered!"), Woo visited his "postage stamp sized atelier" to discover the life of a man who has spent 24 hours in a corset for over a decade; “Corsetry is deeply intimate between two people," Pearl said. "It is for this reason I wear them – to try to deeply understand the effects. This is my laboratory. I am only wishing to share this pleasure.”
Judy Blame's influence on the fashion industry can scarcely be overstated. A member of Ray Petri's eighties Buffalo collective, a stylist of Björk, a collaborator of greats from Rei Kawakubo to Kim Jones, he has been witness to the emergence and evoutions of subcultures spanning the past three decades. After the V&A's Club to Catwalk show in 2013, Woo spoke to him about his eighties heyday and the contemporary incarnation of the industry; "People aren’t encouraged to be different anymore. Everything now is so safe! You go to the shows now and where’s the spark? Where’s the dream? Fashion promotion should really be about dreaming and changing." Luckily, since the piece, he has re-emerged into the industry to become Louis Vuitton's Menswear Accessories Designer where he is putting his punk spin on luxury fashion to brilliant ends.
Not only was 2013 the year of Club to Catwalk, but it was also the year that the deeply impressive Isabella Blow exhibition was staged at Somerset House. In honour of the occasion – and after a lifetime of wanting to speak to Guinness – Woo interviewed the founder of the Isabella Blow foundation who famously purchased her entire private collection to preserve it in perpetuity. Their discussion spanned everything from Guinness' first memory of Blow ("She said I looked like a grasshopper. I liked her immediately; she made me roar with laughter") to her renowned generosity ("she would give away her last fiver if she felt someone needed it more"). One of the most intimate pieces in the column, it offered a beautiful insight into the lives and characters of two of fashion's greatest insiders.
Maison Margiela Artisanal Atelier
Following on from the success of the Chanel atelier series, Woo went in a different direction for his next exploration in couture: visiting the Maison Margiela Artisanal Atelier, whose stated objective is to "reuse, recycle and reinvent." "Entering the atelier in the 11th arrondissement in Paris where every surface is draped in white fabric was like entering a surreal dreamlike world" explained Woo, whose investigation into the journey from trash to treasure took us behind the scenes at one of the world's most mysterious institutions. And, as Woo explains, it was the perfect time to document: "Given that the next season, John Galliano would take over as creative director of the Maison meant that we were given a unique opportunity to document a maison in transition from its past to a radical new future."
The Fashion Assistants Series
As well as profiling established figures, for the Fashion Assistants series Insiders chose to focus on emerging talents within the industry: three of the fashion assistants who make things happen. Reuben Esser, assistant to Another Man creative director Alister Mackie explained his love for research projects while Clemence Lobert, assistant to Jacob K, spoke of trips to Mexico shooting Tilda Swinton. But, aside from the glamour, what emerged from the three young assistants were the real reasons why they love learning from the greats that they assist, and a candid insight into the hard work that is seeing their blossoming careers flourish.
As part of the three-part muse series, Insiders featured Robbie Snelders, previously Raf Simons' right hand man. As Woo explains, "In 1998, a 20-year-old Robbie Snelders was just another moody, serious tattooed youth living in Antwerp listening to industrial music and going to techno clubs; in other words the real life personification of the subculture that Raf Simons presented in his early work." It was after meeting Simons and being cast in one of his shows that Snelders met stylist Olivier Rizzo, make-up artist Peter Phillips and photographer Willy Vanderperre, and went on to be subject and muse for some of the most iconic imagery and creativity of his time.