Monday, 7 December 2009

24.0 / Chewing the phat / John Colver

What: Stylist
Where: London, United Kingdom
Website: John Colver

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Northern boy...
I'm quite outgoing with people I know but I'm painfully quiet with people I don't. The first day people meet me I don't really speak. I was born in Scunthorpe and had a very quiet childhood in the countryside. I was very lazy at college and did pretty badly. As a result, I couldn't get into university so I did an HND in Business Studies and Public Relations in Leeds, which was exactly the same as the degree course, also in Leeds. We were in a separate class to the BA class but had all the same subjects. I went to university as a teetotal sort of kid. I'd never really been nightclubbing. I was just into baggy jeans and basketball. A lot of my tastes changed at university. When I arrived I was one of the few people who was into hip hop in a sea of people who were into the Gallagher brothers and indie. That's the sort of scene I fell into. I didn't really go to my classes but just geared up to go out every night.

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Foot in the door...
I decided I wanted to do fashion PR and sent a very chatty email (too chatty) to a lady called Lulu Kennedy who does Fashion East. I pressed the send button, then reread it and thought 'what a creepy email'. It was too friendly and familiar. But she actually got back to me and said that she really liked the email. She said it was different to the usual 'I've got a passion for fashion' sort of email she received on a regular basis. Then I came down on work experience but didn't really plan it properly. I just turned up on their doorstep and by then I think they'd forgotten about me. But I was lucky that I emailed them, because they weren't a PR company like I'd thought but were more an events and production company. They were really small at that stage. I met a lot of amazing people through them and developed a nice friendship circle. I went back to college after that but decided that I really wanted to move down to London.
Student life...
Whenever I've been in education I've never really been ready for it. And I've got a bad habit of not taking anything in if I'm not interested. My course was very basic and dull and I think the lecturers were out of touch with the professional world. When I moved to London I studied at LCF. I'd had quite a bit of work experience by the time I applied so they let me in even though I didn't do very well at university. But I found the course there very unrealistic. We'd get asked to do quite elaborate projects that were in no way helpful in the real world. I think after graduating from LCF, your first employer after would have to retrain you to get the most out of a small budget. I lost patience with the whole thing and started doing more work experience and less university to the point where they asked me not to come back.

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Dazed & Confused...
My friends when I first met young people in London were part of a magazine called Super Blow, which was about the spirit of London. It was exciting because it wasn't bothered with London Fashion Week. It only covered off-schedule shows so it was about the young designers, graduates and people still at university. I was with a PR company called Blow who still have quite a lot of young clients. The magazine went on to be called Super Super. I was involved with it right from the start. And because my friend who was the fashion editor moved to Dazed, I got to work for them and do a lot of good things.

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Styling start...
I had a little taste of styling and looked through a lot of magazines and looked for stylists that I really liked. The ones that stuck out for me were Andrew Davis, who was the fashion editor of Arena, and Thom Murphy who I knew nothing about but I would see him around. He was one of those people you'd always remember because he was about 7ft 5 and was always really nice. He was a friend of a friend so I got his email address and we met up for a cup of tea. He's a Scouser with really funny stories of growing up in Liverpool and getting into fashion. I started working for him and assisted him for a year and half. We'd do Dazed, AnOther Man, Arena Homme Plus and magazines that I thought were really great.

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As a result of the work I was doing, ID invited me to speak to them if I had any ideas for features. The first thing I did was a feature for the front section of ID and did something for Dazed around the same time. I continued working for Thom and then went freelance. I did a lot of work for ID until last summer, when they changed faces and we went our separate ways. Now I'm properly on my own. And drinking lots of tea. I contribute to a lot of different magazines, including a few foreign ones.
Childhood and such...
When I was younger I obviously wanted to be a professional footballer for Scunthorpe United. That didn't happen. I've still not ruled it out, to be honest. I used to play football in my garden by myself while commentating. Then I turned into a computer geek, just playing Football Manager. Football Manager or Championship Manager took over my life for a few years. My parents made me leave them at home when I went to university. I probably wouldn't have made any friends otherwise.

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Before I left home I didn't really go out. I wasn't like other sixteen-year-olds who were out trying to sneak into clubs. I was at home listening to Tim Westwood in my room, just being sad. So now I'm a little obsessed with nightclub culture and like going out a lot.

The only fashion related thing I did when I was younger was constantly designing football kits. I'd send them into the football clubs but nothing ever came of it. I once designed a football action man with interchangeable heads and kits. The product did come out but I don't know if that had anything to do with me. I did send that design to Manchester United so maybe Alex Ferguson thought it was a good idea.
Influential family...
My family's quite extravagant. They're all Irish. I spent all my holidays in Ireland and think that must have influenced me somehow. I can't pinpoint any specific influence. I've always been into clothes but not really into fashion. My sister was really into fashion and coincidentally I've kind of followed her around. She went to do a university course in Leeds when I was still at school. I asked her about it and it sounded interesting so I went and did exactly the same course. But she only went there because she couldn't get into LCF's Fashion Marketing course, which I ended up doing. She always used to wear labels like Red or Dead and 90s clubbing brands because she used to go out clubbing. So when we used to have to traipse to Manchester or Leeds or Sheffied or wherever to buy these specific things she wanted it seeped in somehow. I loved that era of clothing.

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My mum was always into sewing, getting patterns from Vogue and sewing things. My parents like clothes but they're not into fashion. They like seeing what I do. My mum works in a library and is always on the internet so she's always looking at what's happening. She cuts things out of newpapers and magazines.

I think there's also something about the area where I grew up. There are a lot of people from the same tiny village that I bump into down here. If I'd been into photography I think I'd have taken a lot of photos there. It's a beautiful place and everyone there is very normal. It's a mixture of a farming community, steelworks and shops. It's a bit of a consumerist community too and everyone wants to have nice things.
Parental guidance...
My dad gave me a lot of advice. He still gives me a lot of advice. He still thinks I should be getting a trade. I think it's very frustrating for my parents – they've sent me to university twice although not two full periods. I've always supported myself but I have gone to them cap in hand a couple of times. My dad doesn't really understand what I do and ID isn't in the local village shop. That's what I liked about Arena – my mum can get it from her local shop. My parents think it's idiotic and don't really understand why I do any work for free. When I say I'm working, they ask whether it's for good money. And sometimes there's no money at all. I think it is mad too so I understand why they often find it frustrating.

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Collections...
I collect rubbish clothes. And recently I've just started collecting shaped clothes – I'm very interested in the architecture of clothing and how things stay up. I'm an eBay fanatic. I have a lot of 80s ad 90s hip hop clothes – a combination of Fresh Prince of Belair, Tribe Called Quest and Fido Dido stuff.
Favourite things...
I love photographers like Ma and Pa, realist photographer Walter Pfeiffer and David Sims' low-fi fashion photography. I spend a lot of time on BBC News – too much time but it gives me something to talk about. I listen to Five Live. And read a lot of blogs - The Interzine (a blog of blogs) – has quite a lot of London people's blogs on it. I spend a lot of time on Facebook, less and less though, Google Image search and eBay. I buy a lot of old adverts on eBay. And there's a geeky website called Fashionspot.
Right now...
At the moment I'm doing something with a Croatian photographer called Bruna Kazinoti. We're doing a shoot this month. At the moment, I've been drawn to reflective cycle wear that I'm turning into punky bondage. That's what I'm working on at the minute, making straps and things. I've had a lot of time off sewing but I'm getting back into it.

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I'm quite interested in the teenage fear phenomenon – why people are fearful of younger people. Every generation feels that they've invented youth and controversy. Every era has a clothing attached to that fear of youth. Denim was once feared. The leather jacket was another look that struck fear into America. Right now, it's the hoodie. I'm really interested in the idea of tribes and tribes within tribes.

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I'm interested in the war in Afghanistan because it's completely hidden. It seems quite surreal because it is a proper war but there's not really much of a fuss being made about it. The only reason I'm interested in it is because I know people from back home who are in the army. In London, I think we're very hidden from people in the army. We would never know anyone in the army down here, whereas back home it's a very strong career option.
If he could go back in time...
I would be a robber because there would be no CCTV. If I had the knowledge I have now, I'd be a great criminal. Before CCTV you could just walk into any shop and just steal things. I'd commit at least one petty crime. Definitely. I've never stolen anything because I'm just too scared. But I think if there was no scare element, I'd be a great criminal.

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If not this then...
I'd love to be a football coach in Africa because they've got these great football academies now. I'd probably go to Ghana or Cameroon. Or I'd like to be a millionaire. If I won the lottery, I'd take everyone I know to a holiday resort at Costa del Sol or something like that. It'd be hilarious. It would be such a brilliant experience – taking 400 or so people somewhere and just being drunk for a week. It'd be really funny.
Words of wisdom...
I'm always overwhelmed by how stylish kids today are. I remember going on a date when I was about 11 or 12, wearing a stars-and-stripes Mickey Mouse tracksuit from Marks & Spencers. I think my mum bought it for me. I don't think I owned a pair of jeans until I was about 12. I just wore tracky bottoms. But, now I see kids who are about eight or nine in skinny jeans and I just think 'you're so cool!' I was never that cool. There's so much information available now too. You can watch fashion shows online. There are kids like Tavi, who are are freakishly young and seemingly have an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion and lots of opinions about it.

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Getting into fashion isn't that interesting. Fashion is just people wearing clothes inspired by everything around them. The history of fashion is quite interesting though - the reason why people wear clothes is based on various factors in society. Learning about society is a lot more interesting than learning about fashion. I'd just tell people to go out nightclubbing and go to different places in the world or the country and take it all in. It's so interesting to see what people in different places wear.

Also, get work experience. People judge you on the experiences you've acquired. It's how you'll end up bonding with people you work with in the future. There are so many ways to get into fashion - the most obvious is that you could be a designer, a photographer or a stylist but there are so many other things you could do, so many offshoots and ways to get in.

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