Sep 13, 2019 | By Athena Chen
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I have hundreds of magazines. Not virtual ones – real ones. And although my collection started in the early Eighties, it wasn’t until the Nineties – during my university years – that I truly began to connect to the images in these inspiring, visual, cultural feasts.
Gorgeously odd, awkward, raw, natural, real models (think Stella Tennant, Maggie Rizer, Rosemary Ferguson) wearing interesting and inspiring outfits by Margiela, Lang, Junior Gautier photographed by Mario Sorrenti, Craig McDean and Peter Lindbergh. Juergen Teller for magazines like Purple, Dutch, I.d, Harpers Bazaar and eventually even Vogue.
I left university in the mid-Nineties and started working for a young designer called Lisa Johnson. She designed the fabulous wooden-heeled strappy shoes of the moment, created with the manufacturer of the famous Vivienne Westwood rocker shoe.
I must have sent these shoes to every shoot in London at the time, sitting in a store cupboard, glamorously relishing just writing the names of the photographers and stylists on the parcels. Then one day there was a fashion emergency – Corinne Day needed the only silver versions of them immediately and I was to actually drop them off personally at her flat in Soho.
This was the height of the Kate-Moss-and-Corinne-Day era and I can thankfully say my bubble wasn’t burst in any way. I was welcomed into her home like a friend – “fancy a cup of tea?” The decoration was as sparse as my Notting Hill bedsit and I vividly remember a huge Dualit toaster. Tea and toast, what’s not to love?
There was – and still is – a lingering negativity around the Nineties era, sometimes dubbed “heroin chic”. Looking back now, I guess there was a much more youthful aesthetic than today. In the magazines boobs were small, when they were visible – which was quite often – and this can portray youth and naivety.
For me, there was never a sexiness to the model images – it was almost a boyishness I could relate to. Also, in that decade I was young – impressionable I guess – but not stupid. I aspired to the images in the magazines but also related to them. I didn’t want to look grown up, I just wanted to buy the clothes and live that life. Now I look back at it, I did and loved it.
A few years ago, I was in a cab in Soho dropping off a colleague following a particularly slow work social event. As we pulled up outside her apartment block I had a sense of déjà vu and remarked, “Wow, I remember coming here about 20 years ago – Corinne Day used to live on the top floor.”
“Yes,” she replied. “That’s the flat I live in. When the estate agent showed us round, he highlighted the marks on the wood floor where Kate Moss used to dance.”
For some reason I wasn’t surprised – only the Nineties would be cool enough to leave scuff marks as a legacy.
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