From Malaya to Marie Claire.
As part of NE1’s Newcastle Fashion Week, Elizabeth Walker held a lecture this evening at Northumbria University, speaking about her incredible career in the fashion industry.
Beginning by describing her childhood in colonial Malaya developing severe phobias of snakes, though she admitted that she’s not adverse to a pair of python pumps. She recalled helping her mother tearing out pages of Vogue to take to tailors in Kuala Lumpur so that they could have beautiful dresses replicated for special occasions.
Speaking about her early career in fashion, I liked the fact that she wasn’t a total London fangirl. She admitted, “London was never my mecca, it was never somewhere I felt drawn to go to. It was just that that’s where all the best jobs were.. It’s still the same now. The heart of the fashion industry is always going to be in the capital.”
Having worked in the industry for such a long time, she was full of anecdotes about the famous faces she had encountered over her career, from meeting a young Mario Testino, who at the time was squatting in a disused hospital because he couldn’t afford rent, to Manolo Blahnik showing up for a shoot in sky high stilettos after having just had an opp on his achilles tendon: “When I asked him if it was a good idea to be wearing the heels straight after surgery, Manolo told me, ‘if you girls have to suffer for my art then I should too’ and kept the stilettos on!”
Though she described the kind of glamourous life which I could only hope to aspire to, there is something incredibly grounded about Elizabeth. After the talk Katy, Lisa and I were lucky enough to stay behind and chat to Elizabeth. After hearing her speak, and the kind of life she had lived, I think we were all a little star struck by her. But she has such an amazing personality, I think what I loved most about her was that she had this kind of reserved persona but you could see that she had a little bit of mad in her and every now and again it surfaced. She was literally one of those people that you could spend hours talking to. It was very inspiring to know that someone with so successful a career, and who had worked in the industry for so long could be so grounded.
I’ve just finished writing up an article on tonight’s Elizabeth Walker lecture for North East based fashion and lifestyle magazine, Etc. You can read it online here. Now I think it’s definitely time to sleep…