Thursday, 5 January 2017

Focus on Bev Malik

I have known Bev Malik almost as long as I have have shot streetstyle. Photographing her outside both the men's and women's shows. Always stylish, always friendly. When asked recently what she did I had to confess I didn't exactly know. But that I did know it was a mix of Art and Fashion. So as you will see this was the perfect opportunity to learn more. One more thing I also learnt, Bevs' instagram feed is called Bev and Saturday and didn't know why. When I met her at her home the answer became clear very quickly. Saturday is her wonderful cockerpoo.

D: Tell me a bit about yourself and the journey that brought you to the world of fashion and the arts.

B: I was born in Nairobi but have lived in England since I was 8. I was a tomboy in some sense, and have been deeply bookish throughout my life. I adored art and dressing up, it's all I can remember in my childhood. That and climbing trees, or, reading books rather quickly. I would spend my lunchtimes in the art school but had little confidence in my abilities to follow arts as a career path. I stumbled into fashion when I spoke about Jean Paul Gaultier, Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld for my French A Level exam. It unlocked a whole rich vibrant world for me. As a Francophile, fashion seemed integral to me and to culture as a whole. I didn't consider it superficial. 

I worked as a Saturday girl in Harvey Nichols to put myself through university which developed my relationship with clothes, with dressing women and with how they feel, how they connect to their social circles or even express the signs of their times. This became my central thought process. 
It was here that it became obvious to me that I wanted to become a fashion buyer. It was the best career choice for me as I loved connecting art and commerce and fashion creativity with real women, who could then take that world with them in their own unique way. I know fashion is not necessarily art. But I do believe that art imitates life and that life is reflected consistently and powerfully through fashion. Art and it's relationship with fashion has increasingly become of interest to me. I think it's a powerful time of change in fashion and we have a lot to learn about how things are developing in the art world.

D: You have a multi faceted approach to work. Tell us what you do.

B: My background and my core has always been retail. I also get involved in design brand consulting and other areas of the business but my strengths are fundamentally in retail. However even in this sphere I have never sought to become a specialist in any single fashion category. 

Starting in menswear, I then embraced lingerie, denim, resort wear and swimwear as well as designer fashion. I never allowed it to become about just my personal tastes either, though good taste helps a great deal. 
I also know that for instance women or consumers do not follow trends, or what our industry tells them to. They follow different rhythms and ideas, so success to me in this industry can never come from a singular approach. 
We need to listen to numbers and data but not be ruled by them, we need to offer points of view as retailers, stylists and editors, even bloggers - but we should be humble enough to know not dictate to a consumer. I think we all need a balanced approach to life, work, and disciplines. Retail can be disruptive at its best, but never without loosing sight of what people want. This is what makes for good retail. It's what brought about brilliant pop up stores and concept stores around the world. I hope it will bring about more eco-conscious ways of shopping and designing in the future.

D: What is your favourite part of your job?

B: I adore styling real women or men, and creating a store, an environment or visual language that relates to their lives. I enjoy also delving deeply into the worlds of the designers whose creative approaches never fail to inspire and delight me. If it's their story telling or if it's their attention to detail. I am constantly inspired by them.

D: Who or what inspires you?

B: Genuine creativity inspires me. Whether it's from a stylist or editor such as Franca Sozanni whose untimely death leaves us all awed and inspired by her guts and creativity, or perhaps it's a young or forgotten artist or designer who just thinks out of the box.

My deepest inspiration has always been my mother who was able to exceptionally mix and match from different cultures and eras of fashion so effortlessly. I think ultimately she left me with a deep sense that nothing was off bounds for me, that I could wear anything, be anyone I wanted, and freedom from not being in a clique or a fashion set was more interesting than being bound by their codes. She also gave me a sense there was and is more in common with our ideas than differences, so she would encourage me to connect the recycling of car tires in Nairobi with the sculptures displayed in the louvre. The idea that one culture is alien from another simply didn't influence me.

D: Describe your own personal style.

B: I have colours (such as navy and white) and ideas or categories (like shirts or baggy jeans) that I have always always loved but I am now 38 and I've grown in and out of so many things. The freedom to change is more important than fixing an identity in fashion. However, my main influence is nineties style. I love menswear and androgyny, I think the most interesting and tricky style trick is being sexy in an intelligent way. I love avant garde fashion but it ceases to be interesting to me when it denies the person within. My style is me wearing the clothes in that moment, I hope not the other way around.

D: Tell me something surprising about yourself. 

B: Two things: I collect playing cards (and have 38 packs now).  Also, I learnt how to speed read when I was 17 so I can devour novels and books.

Bev is wearing 
Image 1 - Dodo Bar Or dress. Book Patti Smith M Train, Candles Cire Trudon (Sacre Santi and Ottoman)
Image 2 & 5 - Saint Laurent suit with Gianvito Rossi shoes. On the table sit books, Sketchbooks by Derek Jarman, Linder by Linder Sterling, Gucci floral notebook and the Guide to Spiritual Management by Guram Gavsalia (founder of Vetements).
Image 3 - Joseph dress with Gucci shoes
Image 4 - Levi's shirt with Frame jeans
Image 6 - The Row dress with Celine shoes

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