The guest creative and fashion director of AnOther Magazine A/W16 reflects on contemporary style, championing strong women, and the collaborative inspirations behind the new issue
When Katy England first joined the Dazed family, it was as a door girl, guarding the entrance to the Leicester Square nightclub where Rankin and Jefferson Hack would stage club nights in order to raise money for the magazine’s print run. “I was a door whore and I loved it!” she remembers, “And then I met the gang: Jefferson, Rankin, Phil Poynter. It felt like there was this new energy; Dazed just felt like an opportunity: somewhere to express what you wanted to do.” The rest, as they say, is history: she went on to become fashion director of Dazed & Confused in 1999, working nights in the office while spending her days down the road with Alexander McQueen. Then, she was part of the group that founded AnOther Magazine in 2001, the biannual “older sister” to Dazed. “I couldn’t even imagine the workload,” she laughs, “but I just I had to do it, and it became this vehicle for strong women that I wanted to see, wanted to represent. It was lead by stylists, by amazing people like Venetia Scott and Jane How and Alister Mackie, and it felt womanly. That’s what I loved about it.”
In the years since its inception, England has remained an integral force within AnOther – responsible for stories like the groundbreaking Alexander McQueen archive editorial in S/S15, and Winona Ryder's cover story in S/S06 – for the Autumn/Winter 2016 issue, she returned to the fore as guest creative and fashion director, bringing with her both the aesthetic style and remarkable vision that have established her as one of fashion’s greatest creatives. “This issue of AnOther Magazine is an exploration of fashion design in its purest sense, of designers and creative directors unique in their passion for independence, individuality and the sheer, heartfelt expression of their distinctive points of view,” writes editor-in-chief Susannah Frankel in her Editor’s Letter, explaining that the issue is built around people who “in their own way, are disconnected from the mainstream, from the white noise and the constant stream of unedited product and information that is all too easy to be swept up in today.” It is this same authenticity that inspired England in her direction for the issue; this same, uncompromising creativity that sets her in such revered stead within the industry.
“A lot is based on shock value at the moment,” reflects England. “People looking for instant gratification and to get talked about, people looking for something that will get them in the news. Designers are set up in competition with each other, so that everyone feels like they need to be competing with the newest person – it’s weird times. I haven’t gotten my head around it, and I just kept thinking, ‘Hang on, I believe in really beautiful clothes and really beautiful women of all ages.’ And I wanted to represent that – not in a boring way, but in a cool, sophisticated, timeless way. To celebrate women, to celebrate fashion.”
“It's a luxury to work with people who you respect, when you can come together as a team” – Katy England
Such an attitude permeates the issue: “Alaïa is the designer’s designer,” for example. “He just makes beautifully crafted clothes that make women look gorgeous, and he doesn't give a shit about the rest of it,” she laughs. “I’d never met him before and I was starstruck; to meet him, to work with his whole collection; it was a dream come true.” So, she turned to photographer Alasdair McLellan “because he doesn’t like tricks or effects, and so it became so chic, this all-encompassing mix of portraits of different people.” Then, of course, Naomi – because “she’s just so powerful, isn’t she?” And her edit of the season, captured through the masterful lens of Craig McDean, which England describes as “a challenge to photograph the designers ‘properly’. I was like, ‘okay, you’ve got to put a full designer look into each page but still maintain a creativity’ and I wanted that challenge, when I’ve always had such freedom, when I’ve never come from a place of constraints.” And, for her third story in the triptych of cover editorials, she turned to Willy Vanderperre for an intimate exploration of Dorset, and the area that surrounds the home of one of her closest friends. “That day in Dorset, I felt like I was in heaven,” she says. “Everyone was there: including my dog, my son, Willy, the gang. It was just so familiar and nice: it was great – and it’s so very personal. Personal work is for me, and Willy is amazing because he’s so into fashion and I so respect his opinion. It's a luxury to work with people who you respect, when you can come together as a team.”
This ethos of teamwork is abundant throughout the issue, which champions some of England’s greatest collaborators – both established names and younger talents. There are long-time icons like Guido, Alister Mackie, and Nick Knight, but equally newer contributors such as photographer Sarah Piantadosi, whose creativity England is keen to nurture. “The digital age has changed everything,” says England, “but I grew up without it, when everything felt far more personal and completely creative. You need to see clothes, touch clothes, engage with things physically – and we can’t just let that die, we need to pass it on. I feel like that about the legendary designers: Alaïa, Rei Kawakubo, John Galliano, Yohji Yamamoto, Karl Lagerfeld. We’ve got a duty to champion them, and that feeling, and to hold onto it. That is AnOther’s point of difference, and it’s essential.”
AnOther Magazine A/W16 is out now.