In 2011, Cathy Edwards said this to me of her arrival at Dazed & Confused magazine, where she was fashion director from 2003 to 2007 before taking over at AnOther: “I got there in March and stayed all through the summer assisting. I remember Katie [Grand] telling me not to bother going back to college – ‘We [Katie, Rankin and Jefferson Hack] didn’t go back to finish our degrees. What a waste of time.’ But I thought I ought to crack on.” And crack on Cathy did – it is a typically pragmatic, almost old-fashioned phrase and a sentiment that seems now to capture her attitude well.
After graduating from Brighton University with a degree in fashion design, Cathy returned to Dazed. “Before I had even finished college I had a job. I was 24 and I knew that as long as I was here and my foot was in the door, I was going to stay,” she said. “I sat in the same space or thereabouts for 15 years. There was always such a definite sense of energy. It wasn’t just a place you came to work, it was very sociable, very part of your life. It was independent too.”
Cathy inherited the title of Fashion Director from Katy England. She said that it was with Katy as Fashion Director, before she herself had that responsibility, that she enjoyed the purest creative freedom.
Cathy’s work was never predictable. She was a brilliantly imaginative and quietly subversive fashion editor, with an exacting instinct for what was coming next and a tirelessly original point of view. That point of view embraced everything from the beautiful to the blithely imperfect, always with knowledge, intelligence and warmth at its heart. She shared her indefatigable knowledge of fashion with those she collaborated with, directing with sensitivity and strength and speaking of her chosen métier with unprecedented eloquence, wit and charm. Cathy made everyone she worked with feel special. Cathy was the special one.
If the essence of great fashion imagery is the coming together of a like-minded team, then Cathy understood that better than anyone I have ever met, before or since. She cared just as much about other people’s work as she did her own.
As Fashion Director of Dazed and then AnOther, Cathy was responsible for many things, commercially and creatively. She always carried that responsibility lightly, however, never allowing it to affect the way she treated the people she commissioned and the many younger editors she nurtured. Cathy’s legacy lives on in their work. She told me she never felt that her job was a real job, that she did it for the sheer love of it. Her belief in the magazines and the people who worked for them was passionate and unflinching. It was a real job, of course, and Cathy was great at it.
Cathy was powerfully – if always quietly – inventive. She remembered driving to the airport with Sølve Sundsbø and a model, who was scanned. “It was a 3D scan of her whole body. There was this big, fat man with a scanner and I think he didn’t really know what was going on – he was used to scanning luggage,” Cathy said. Later, that same image was used by Coldplay for the sleeve of A Rush of Blood to the Head. Talking about her early work she said, “It was all about patenting some kind of new and fabulous idea and getting it out quickly so that people knew it was yours.”
Of course, a great fashion editor reflects the spirit of their time and Cathy’s work did just that, extending in reach far beyond the confines of conventional fashion imagery and finding its way into culture more broadly. She never wanted her styling to be too shiny. Instead, “Everything was a bit shabby. Everything we hated was commercial. It was sometimes seen as a little serious but actually there was always humour in it. It was always quite dry.” Looking at those pictures now, they are also extremely personal, as understated and unassuming as Cathy herself. Layers of joy, humour and humanity resonate, never shout.
Cathy’s collaborations with her best friends Sofia, Shona and Emma Cook are especially precious. They went through college, came to London, lived together and started their working lives, married and became mothers: like an extended family and one more functional than most. You can feel their love and their laughter on the page. “Shona and I did this project called Fashion In The Community. Shona painted old rubbish with a Miu Miu print and we photographed it in a skip in Docklands. She mocked-up a mural of a girl wearing Dolce & Gabbana. We did a huge gold Prada logo on a stairwell on an estate in Tower Hamlets.”
In an article I wrote for The Independent about Emma Cook in 2009, Cathy had this to say about the woman she worked with throughout her career, styling any associated imagery and also Emma’s shows. I can almost hear her speaking, her words are so sweet, spirited, idiosyncratic and wry. “So a girl will be out in a dress and it will seem quite simple. And another girl will say, ‘That’s nice, but what’s that?’ pointing to a wooden carving on her shoulder. Then the first girl will say, ‘It’s a wooden owl actually; it’s hand-carved.’ And her friend will say, ‘Lovely.’”
Cathy was one of very few human beings who might truly be described as magical. In an industry fuelled by ego, she was modest, gentle, funny, open, supportive and kind. Cathy Edwards died on March 19, 2015. We miss her terribly and think of her always.
“I met Cathy on our first day at university more than 20 years ago. Those years of friendship had the most profound effect on me. Our lives were intertwined and I always craved her company. I felt so happy to come into work every day to a job that I loved and to sit next to my best friend. In the end though, the far greater privilege was to know, love and be loved by Cathy. In thinking about this tribute I looked at her favourite work, the things I loved and knew she loved too. Now that she’s gone, it is no longer possible to look at these familiar stories, a lifetime of extraordinary work, through the same eyes. So much that I loved about Cathy is preserved in the pictures. They are treasures, examples of Cathy’s exceptional talent, humour, warmth, gentleness, intelligence, inventiveness, humanity, grace – all touched by the surreal. Their brilliance and beauty will continue to inspire.” – Sofia de Romarate
“Cathy called the Dazed office asking if she could come and work on a placement for us. I think at the time there were only two of us working in the fashion department and I happened to pick up the phone. I said, ‘Sure, can you start tomorrow?’ And she did. She was really quite brilliant. Cathy had a very curious way of looking at fashion. Her sense of proportion and colour was quite unlike any other stylist’s. She was truly unique, which is about the most important asset you can have in this industry.” – Katie Grand
“Cathy could always get the best out of everybody and wanted to take risks, and then, on top of it all, she had this very unusual vision of the world. You never knew quite what to expect from her stories as they could lead you in so many directions, but you knew that direction would be crafted, thoughtful and enduring; that it would probably make you smile and never exclude you like so much fashion can.” – Rankin
“When I became fashion director of Dazed way back in 2000, I was so lucky to inherit Cathy as my deputy. As I flitted about, she efficiently, without any fuss, got on with the nitty gritty and very quietly kept it all together. I completely relied on her, but certainly not just in an organisational capacity. Her point of view shaped the magazine. She had great taste and I valued and needed her well-considered opinion. In her own work, Cathy presented an intriguing woman, cool and intelligent. I remember when I first saw her fantastic story, Voodoo Ray, shot with Benjamin Alexander Huseby and Shona Heath, I had that feeling when you see really great work and you’re kind of gutted because you wished you’d produced it yourself.” – Katy England
“The Dazed office was like a family and Cathy was really at the centre of it. She was one of the people that made things happen and was so supportive to everyone there, as well as making her own beautiful work. I remember very well shooting with Nick Knight when Katy [England], Cathy, Nicola Formichetti and I all turned up to make looks for an epic team shoot. It was like styling It’s A Knockout, a very special project that could only have happened in those circumstances, when we were all part of a team and having a good time making pictures.” – Alister Mackie
“Cathy created incredible shoots and you could always tell it was her vision: a quirky, girly world. She taught me all of the know-how and tricks of fashion.” – Nicola Formichetti
“Cathy was the first fashion editor to give me a main fashion story in Dazed. From the many times we shot in her apartment, or painting a horse at Shona’s parents’ farm, to when I cast a rather feral friend of mine from Norway who we had jumping around naked in a swamp outside the M25 with a broken foot, it was never really work, just laughs. She used to call me Bengina – not an easy name to forget!” – Benjamin Alexander Huseby
“The process of working with Cathy was unique. Her gentleness and respect made her very special. There was never a tense feeling on a shoot with her. Everything was based on the pleasure and excitement of the work we did together. She was a very classy lady in that respect.” – Horst
“Cathy was caring, decent, respectful, honest: a good person. We did a couple of CD covers for Goldfrapp together and a lot of AnOther shoots, and I would always come to London with a smile on my face knowing she was there and therefore nothing would be painful. Cathy’s humanity apart, she had a great sense of graphics and colour. I did most of my best work with her. She knew what the essence of the word collaboration meant.” – Serge Leblon
“For someone with such a youthful appearance, Cathy had the wisdom of ages and could invariably be relied upon for a deadpan riposte to any fashion nonsense. I remember the first season I had to go to the Milan collections I was really concerned about doing the many shows on foot, somehow under the misapprehension that heels were mandatory there. Cathy put me straight in no uncertain terms, reeling off the six definitive flat options of the season without pausing for breath. That, for me, was Cathy in a nutshell – intuitive, compassionate and always in possession of a pragmatic sartorial solution.” – Penny Martin
“Cathy had perfect taste. Everything around her was beautiful and special because she always went the extra mile, or however many it took, to find what she was looking for and she had such an incredible eye. Cathy cared so much, gave so much. There are a lot of people who would not be where they are today without Cathy. And we definitely wouldn’t have had half as much fun getting there. If we ever had to think about the ideal AnOther woman, then it was always Cathy. Her influence on this magazine cannot be overstated.” – Nancy Waters
“Cathy’s creativity and talent were very inspiring to look up to. She had a beautiful, artful, interestingly strange vision that I felt privileged to be a part of. I also feel immensely lucky to have had her generous and unwavering support. Cathy’s approach to the people around her was so kindly nurturing and so rare: when she believed in someone she’d want to help them flourish. She’d back them, put them forward for things. I learnt not only how to be a better editor from her, but a better person.” – Agata Belcen
“Cathy and I took Britney Spears out clubbing in London. We were her surrogate best friends for the evening. You know that hot second just before Britney married her high-school sweetheart? There were pictures of her partying in the press saying, ‘Britney’s gone off the rails’. Yeah, that was us. It is truly not a stretch to say that without Cathy I would not have a career in fashion. She was always my ultimate cheerleader. Her dedication and commitment to her own unique and authentic taste and style is, and will continue to be, an inspiration to me. I am forever in debt.” – Karen Langley
“I remember my first day at Dazed. I was petrified, everyone was terrifying. The only person to acknowledge me was the most senior: Cathy. Later, when I was assisting Nicola [Formichetti], I was clueless and Cathy really empowered me. She commissioned me to pick a new designer, pick a photographer and shoot. I wanted the work I did to be really amazing because she had given me that chance.” – Katie Shillingford
“Cathy always cared about the total image. She had very strong opinions and wasn’t afraid of a creative tussle, but no matter how great differences were on a shoot or show she always heard out each party before a decision was made. Having known each other and worked together and tested Cathy’s patience on innumerable occasions since her days as an intern at Dazed some 20-odd years ago, I can attest to her unswerving loyalty to friends and colleagues through thick and thin.” – Peter Gray
“Cathy often simplified. I think that was her gift; simplifying and reducing and listening to other people’s ideas but, most important of all, allowing coincidences to play an important part of a story. She was not so much interested in the fashion itself but more in how it was being presented, in the idea that supported it. ‘Don’t worry about fashion,’ she told me many times. I will forever associate the places we photographed with Cathy, and can still hear her voice clearly.” – Vincent van de Wijngaard
“In all the years we worked and played together, I don’t even remember one instance of her being in a bad mood. Isn’t that incredible? One of the last jobs we did together was a show and she was on great form. She tried to convince the designer, whom I had only just met, to let us do the backing vocals on the track for the show. She made me sit with her and ‘audition’ our vocal harmonies. I was cringing and dreadful but she gave it her all – like an excited, eccentric little bird.” – Sam Bryant
“I remember Cathy always had the most amazing ideas for covers. There was one that was a mannequin head with an illustration drawn over the eye. Another was a model wearing Dolce & Gabbana painted as a huge mural on the side of a suburban terraced house. There was also the incredible digital scan of a head that went on to become a Coldplay album cover. She was insanely brilliant at surprising me with wit and wonder.” – Jefferson Hack
“Cathy had a quiet inner confidence, childlike humour and quirky view of the world that was infectious and endearing. She was warm, sensitive and ethereal but equally sassy and sage. I am eternally grateful to Cathy for my break into illustration for the magazine world. Cathy actively encouraged me to develop entire fashion stories with her at a time when fashion illustration was considered less desirable or even naff and certainly not worthy of a run of fashion pages. She never faltered in her vision to pursue this and pushed me to be more frivolous and fantastical. I remember being really shocked by her boldness. Cathy’s was a beautiful fashion voice that was, and will remain, timeless.” – Julie Verhoeven
“Working with Cathy for the shoot of our album, Seventh Tree, was my favourite time with her. She was buzzing. Cathy really loved vintage clothes. She was so excited about having found an old harlequin suit for me in an antique shop on Lisson Grove. We went to the New Forest to do the shoot. The weather was perfect. Serge Leblon was taking the photos. Shona Heath had made a fabulous owl out of paper. I was standing in a glade in the woods wearing a calico boiler suit and Cathy started to paint on me. So many things being created on the spot: paper hats, totem poles, pompoms. It was a very special and magical time. I will treasure it forever.” – Alison Goldfrapp
“Cathy was always very open to new ideas. She kept that throughout the time I knew her.” – Martina Hoogland Ivanow
“Cathy was always aiming for something higher, something special, something no one had ever seen.” – Julia Hetta
“I remember shooting our very first major fashion campaign together, for Miu Miu. We were shooting for days and days, all on film, and it was very intense. Each day Polaroids were scanned and sent to Miuccia Prada for her approval and we waited in the hallway together, super tired, sitting on the floor, sharing jokes and tears, until we received an ‘approvata’ from Italy. Sweet memories. What intrigued me the most about Cathy was her super-special, sensitive creativity, which I’ve always felt came from an inner source, not from the outside world. She combined the old and the new, the poetic and the mundane. She had the ability to create things that felt vaguely familiar – like a childhood memory, or an old movie that made a huge impression on you in your teens – and at the same time make something completely new, fresh, contemporary, strange and cool, which was exactly spot-on and which made you think: ‘Yes. Just yes.’” – Viviane Sassen
“Cathy laughing, her hunger for a funny story, her ballerina bone structure and her amazing eyebrows... When we first started shooting together we would take the whole team to my parents’ house in Worcestershire. We had such a laugh, concocting stories, painting fields, trying on clothes and watching The Wind in the Willows on my mum and dad’s bed. She was driving my van home from there – she hated my driving as I’m so slow and never remember to dip the headlights. Just as well as I was falling asleep in the passenger seat, sleep-talking to her about imaginary deer on the roads. She was racing back as Sofia was about to have a baby. Cathy was completely open, not scared to make mistakes or go too far. She took chances on unheard of creative people – photographers, illustrators, me – and made them comfortable to produce work that really showed their souls. I owe her completely for my career. Her advice was minimal but always concrete. And now she inspires me more than ever. Every day.” – Shona Heath
“Cathy was so clever, talented and so incredibly hard working. She would always push me and my ideas that step further, making sure it wasn’t ‘a bit lazy Cooks’. She would be on the sewing machine or gluing on the fringes or making amazing necklaces from bits of old bone tiddlywinks. She just wanted things to be great; there was no ego with Cathy. After all the years of love and friendship, my stomach would still lift every time she called me. We spoke sometimes five or six times a day just to say ‘Hiya’ because, quite simply, I liked being with this girl best of all.” – Emma Cook
This article originally appeared in AnOther Magazine A/W15.