Only one major alteration was necessary. The crimped skirts were too long. Five inches had to go. ‘There was a wave of protest from the dancers. They didn‘t want to show their legs — the whole tutu thing. But I whisked them away and chopped them all off.‘ Touche. Hamnett did not get her way however with hats. Too difficult to rig up for this fast-moving piece.
The rest — black boxer shorts. swimsuits. two-piece suits and mini-skirts moved from store to stage with ease. It was the ultimate test for Hamnett‘s guarantee of wearability. ‘You have to look diamond sharp right now but you still have to be able to jump over a hedge}
That motto has become a Hamnett trade mark which she still subscribes to. ‘The fitness revolution and women‘s lib have got to the point where you don‘t always have to wear high heels. This is a real achievement. Once you‘ve had that liberty you‘re never going to surrender it, so even ifyou‘re going into really smart stuff you‘ve got to be able to do any movement.‘ She. in black from top to toe, looked ready.
An interruption changes the subject. Hamnett has passions for causes but in the next few minutes
her passion for business seeps out neither reserved nor checked. A new shop, planned to open in Glasgow in
March next year (opened by Royals — she smiles broadly) is her new baby. ‘The nice thing about your own shop is you can put together the
look exactly as you see it. It comes over stronger than if they‘re mixed in and they just become odd garments.‘ Nigel Coates. the London artist/architect part of the NATO group. has already drawn designs for the interior. They will undoubtedly be different. Hamnett loathes the ‘illiterate‘ post-modern architecture.
That loathing. emitted in growling terms also extends to ‘the high-tech thing. It just died.‘ Time for a revamp in her London shops then. by the sound of it.
Keeping her end up at Sunday lunches with her Welsh grandfather kindled the interest in politics about which Hamnett is equally direct. Educated at Cheltenham Ladies College her roots are solid right-wing. Her mother saw her on television in 1984 collecting her British Designer of the Year Award from Margaret Thatcher and
thought that the PM actually liked the T-shirt she was wearing. It read 58% Don‘t Want Pershing.
Her politics are purely personal. ‘I like to be a maverick and would hate to join a party. But once you‘ve had kids you realise there has to be some
kind of plan for the future. You don‘t want them to be. ‘there‘s a dramatic Hamnett pause and then a whisper. ‘dead.‘ Amongst other things she feels this country has been ruined by nuclear power. hideous architecture. a decline into a kind of barbarism. ‘So what are we going to do about it‘?‘ she addresses her audience. ‘I feel I don‘t do enough about it.‘ But she has done something.
‘You‘re driven to do it yourself. The T-shirts were not really to do with fashion but about abusing the media. At 11 o‘clock one night I was trying to work out slogans for them and the sycophants had gone. Out clubbing. I felt utterly alone. But that‘s not the end ofit.‘
Hamnett suffers no conﬂict between the expansion of her company (for which she sees limitless possibilities in line with the Next/Bennetton formula) and her ideals for the future. You have to run your big company well. Use natural fabrics — she sticks to cotton. silk and wool. Bleach your jeans using a non-polluting method and your copiers will do the same. Though Hamnett hates the copiers of her fashion to which there is no legal copyright (another of her great campaigns). she is all for the ones who pick up good environmental habits at the same time. Revolution is out. She enjoys the fight from the
Revolution is out.
inside track and is not beyond a little hijacking ofideas herself. ‘Big firms knock you off so you go in there and find out who they‘re selling to and steal their market research.‘ Working on a variation of the Robin Hood principle. she enjoys proving doubters wrong. ‘I like being able to see the crack that nobody else can see.‘
There is a distinct ‘I don‘t give a damn‘ gleam in her eye when she talks business. She‘s too creative to be a politician and her ego would not be satisfied with the thankless demands ofthe Greenpeace troubleshooter. Though she is passionate about her causes. she is quite aware she needs to be big and public and named.
Design does and says it all for her. Through the rag-trade she has become rich and famous. has a nanny and a chauffeur. an old farm in Spain and can shout out her beliefs to a huge audience. ‘1 love my job.l love my kids. I like to have everything.‘ No messing. And her
attitude to the clothes which reap her ,3
such a rich life?
‘You shouldn‘t buy clothes unless you can‘t live without them. There‘s so many other things to spend your money on — books and travel.‘ She looks hard at me. Her eyes say ‘believe it‘. ‘You weren‘t born in a jumper. You can survive with pretty little on.‘ (she wouldn‘t say that ifshe lived in Scotland).
Hamnett began by saying that clothes are not the most important thing in life but the inevitable contradiction is that she believes in their potency as an indicator of what‘s going on in society.
‘It‘s a fact of life that you can win
dressed in one way and lose dressed
in another in the same situation.‘ ! And in gentler situations. the trick is to make the person not the clothes stand out. ‘When you see your friend you say. God. they‘re in love. You don‘t notice the coat.‘
‘We had this sweep into suits about two years ago. That‘s gone off now particularly in the last two weeks. Men in suits suddenly started to look like commuters again. With all that yuppie crash they suddenly all look like cockroaches - dull and rigid.
People are wanting to look
successful and they‘re not expressing individuality so much because ' they‘re scared. They want to look as ifthey have a job.‘ That greater consciousness is something Hamnett finds creeping into her own work too. ‘I started drawing up for next winter and all sorts of things I didn‘t like started emerging. like the Eton Bully and Hitler Youth. I thought. why am 1 drawing this‘." (iood question. Hamnett looks to the dadaist artist Duchamp for the answer and suspects that all creation is what she calls mediumesque. A mime of her hand being guided by greater forces than her own is enacted. V
Despite her own rise. Hamnett . feels it is still difficult for students to j make it in the fickle fashion world. Sponsorship and competitions in the u guise of ‘opportunities‘ exploit the ‘ young and inexperienced. ‘This sponsorship thing is being very
mishandled by people like Daniel Hechter. It‘s outrageous. A whole year submits drawings. patterns. finished garments and there‘s one prize worth about £300. Meanwhile these guys have access to all this good stuff. It‘s typically stupid ofthe way Britain is run on every level.‘
Had she helped the aspiring in any way? — a project set for students in Newcastle and a future design competition to hunt out a much-needed design team (she does all the drawing herself right now). ‘I don‘t know what happens to students when they leave places like Glasgow. I saw some textiles from Glasgow a couple of years ago and they were better than anything I‘d seen full stop. Send them down here. Where are they?‘ Now there‘s an invitation.
Someone had just come in with a handful ofbeads for Katharine to look at. She was ecstactic and rushed off. What about the picture'.’ The photographer set up and we waited on our rocks.
Returning after pouring over the booty Katharine agrees to take up a pose in shades. along with a member of her staff. Linda Green. wearing one ofthe outfits from Strong Language. ‘What about the hat‘." suggests Hamnett. A flouncy Stephen Jones number is placed on Linda‘s head and looks great. Just what Katharine wanted. The camera clicks and the session is over. We get the picture. As ever. a strong one.
Rambert Dance appear a! the Theatre Royal. Glasgow. 1 7-2] Nov. Sec Dance L is‘lin gs.
The List 13 — 26 November 1987 5