“I’m not the star, and I shouldn’t be the star… I’m not into big stars at the shows because I think, ‘it’s not about you, I don’t care about you’… I don’t care who’s watching it, I don’t care who’s wearing it, I care about what they’re wearing.”
Alex, while filled with Fury on Twitter, sits next to me collectedly as caretakers pack away the remnants of the ‘Word Week’ talk hosted by AnOther magazine at the Design Museum last week. Despite this being his second interview of the day, he is still animated as he fervently talks fashion, sat with the energy a child told to keep still. With the same enthusiasm as a child perhaps, however, Alex is eloquent, his responses considered, and his knowledge unrivalled. What he knows goes beyond encyclopaedic, recalling the tiniest details and references as if his memory is photographic, quoting verbatim.
“I don’t want to be a fashion designer. I don’t mind directing and leading them, but I don’t want that job”.
It seems, with his success since graduating from Saint Martins, that England’s textile capital, West Yorkshire, can boast another famous export- along with Mel B. Alex recalls growing up outside Manchester, “it was me, in the countryside, the one person obsessed with fashion.” Being the solitary consumer of Vogue may seem bizarre now, but Alex admits to having felt isolated because of his interests. “You look at things like Twitter or Tumblr… I kind of wish it was there when I was growing up… you didn’t know that anyone else was obsessed with [fashion]” Challenging any possibility of someone labeling him an introvert, he quickly qualifies this with, “not in a kind of loner emo way”. All he asks is that you label him with a subculture that’s a little more fashion focused!
The obvious jump into the fashion world, one that’s overwhelming and vast, was to go into design. After realizing he didn’t want to just follow in the footsteps of designers he admired, making use of his sharp tongue and ability to touch-type, he segued into writing. “It is interesting having done design. When I talk to fashion designers, clever ones will be like ‘I can tell you know how to put a dress together.” Owing their success to his encyclopaedic knowledge, Alex’s view can be regarded as ‘make or break’ as that of Suzy Menkes, or his Independent predecessor, Susannah Frankel, both of which “heightened [his] understanding” of the field and role of the critic. Shunning any possibility of merely sitting back, enjoying fashion as if a spectator-sport, we can sit tightly knowing that our twitter feeds, broadsheets and magazines will still feature Fury’s infamous wit. “I don’t want to be a fashion designer. I don’t mind directing and leading them, but I don’t want that job”.
When asked if he would ever ‘wear out’ a covetable piece from his closet-come-archive, chuckling at the double meaning, he confesses to owning four of the same Prada jacket. One to flaunt, one to collect, in a choice of two colours. All of the Prada in the world, however, could not come close to anything by John Galliano, which Fury trawls international auction sites for, along with Lacroix. He adds that he’d just bagged a Galliano dress “which was ON SALE on an American auction site. I didn’t see it, I only found out yesterday but I am beside myself”.
John Galliano’s first Dior ready-to-wear show. As of ten minutes ago, I own this jacket. pic.twitter.com/xz9nYWe6JE
— Alexander Fury (@AlexanderFury) July 18, 2014
John Galliano, famed CSM alum, is the often the focus of Alex’s references. Describing the first show he’d seen in the Winter of 1995, Fury’s eyes gloss over with a potential tear, “You went through a wardrobe into Narnia and – sorry, I get really emotional talking about it- there was something really magical about it, because it was very different to those nineties images of fashion.” Galliano, then hotly tipped for the Givenchy Haute couture vacancy, was working against the grain, producing something contrary to much of the practical fashion of 1995.
“You look at things like Twitter or Tumblr… I kind of wish it was there when I was growing up… you didn’t know that anyone else was obsessed with [fashion]”
So, what, as a fashion critic, can you say that is just as capable of setting your apart from the fashion masses? Commenting on the proliferation of flat, 2-Dimensional images from the catwalk, Alex suggests that you have to build an understanding of a garment in motion. “Those kinds of things [online] ruin it. Experiencing a material garment is very different to looking at something ephemeral.” Alex is also fond of building an understanding of fashion’s history. Remembering his time on the Fashion History and Theory course at CSM really gets his tongue-tied, and he can’t get the words out fast enough, saying that “to see that the caricature wasn’t a caricature- they’re really that short, the collars are really that big- you feel the weight of things. It definitely is advantageous to analyse garments tangibly.” Changing stations from interviewee to interviewer, he asks me if I’ve ever worn a crinoline (the answer’s “no”). “It makes you think about clothes in an entirely different way. It’s really fucking heavy! Of course you’re going to move differently.” When asked if he’s worn one himself? “Of course… I’ve had experiences”.
A segway into the realms of the art world is made, welding it onto fashion with a slight trick of the tongue, we’ve found another topic for Fury to run away with. Old Galliano is the exception when waiving frivolity, “you’re released into this amazing fantasy, sat in the heart of it” – referring to his Marquise of Versailles collection. A sensory experience is described by way of “reading her love letters and breathing in her perfume”, a scent which clings to the roots of the clothes, like button back chairs stained with the familiar pub smells of stale beer and cigarette smoke.
“You went through a wardrobe into Narnia and – sorry, I get really emotional talking about it- there was something really magical about it, because it was very different to those nineties images of fashion.”
Reeling in an audience of stylists and journalists, “the clothes were mementos of this fantasy… it’s a very British way of tying up clothes into a narrative”. British style is advantageous in that respect; our depth of history rallies over America, who attach themselves onto our Royal family perhaps even more than patriotic Brits care for them. “This sounds so very protective, but I wonder if there’s that same yearning… we look to the historical British figure: Blake, Hogarth, allegorical art”, and France? “They’re happy with art just being a load of women and cherubs, we want something that actually tells a story”.
In the same way Blake and Hogarth made caricatures of celebrity, Alex believes it’s only fitting to shun the limelight. His work speaks volumes, pre-empting his person. Even a critically edited wardrobe won’t hinder his rebuttal, “I quite manage with my uniform. I have no time for things, just whatever is not that creased and doesn’t smell that bad”, going on to say, “as long as I have some really nice bags, and some good jackets, the rest of it doesn’t really matter”. Balancing Prada with Fred Perry and Cheap Monday seems to be his perfect equilibrium, harmony is restored, leaving the circus to itself.
Words by Eleanor Kirby
Photo by Jon Emmony for 1 Granary