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Influential Fashion Educators:
‘The Force That Moves Fashion’ – Louise Wilson

“I’m worried she might be arrested if we put it in print.” Well, ‘it’ was put in print, ‘it’ being the acerbic wit (some may say ‘abuse’, or put diplomatically, ‘constructive criticism’) of the late Professor Louise Wilson. Had the press, staff and students eschewed honesty, we’d have likely a) been piss-poor students, afraid to put a foot wrong through fear of a kick-in; and b) not learnt that Louise is among the most quotable people to inhabited this planet, second only to Oscar Wilde (or, Geri Halliwell’s Twitter). We’ll incite her words before you read any further, and ask “are you comfy?”, because we’ve compiled a list of her most memorable quotations- and that list is long…

“Students sometimes turn up at my course and they look a bit like they’re going to Bali with only Wellingtons and a map, and they never leave their hotel room because they didn’t think to bring a bikini. I’m full of bizarre analogies like that.”

Hintmag, Hinterview with Louise Wilson

 “Many students don’t really like it (fashion). If they don’t like it, they won’t be able to tell you who the stylists are or the photographers. If they say they can’t remember the names but they recognize the work, I’ll say that’s bullshit because if you were selling mobile phones, you’d know all about the phones’ features and tariffs.”

 “You can’t subvert knowledge until you have knowledge… At the same time, I respect a student coming at it from a totally different position and trying to move it forward, and not falling into the rattrap of work that came before.”

 “It’s not about the mark; it’s about the work. Once you’ve entered the industry, no one cares what marks you got. They care about whether you can do the work or bring something new to it.”

Hintmag, Hinterview with Louise Wilson

 “I think the problem is that fashion has become too fashionable. For years, fashion wasn’t fashionable. Today fashion is so fashionable that it’s almost embarrassing to say you’re part of fashion. All the parodies of it. All the dreadful magazines. That has destroyed it as well, because everybody thinks fashion is attainable.”

New York Times, Louise Wilson – Listen Up

 “I was going to do business studies in Newcastle because there were a lot of nightclubs. My father said if I went that route he’d never speak to me again… credit where credit’s due.”

Vogue, Louise Wilson’s Vogue Interview

“I’ve always believed that you have to have the skills before you destroy the skills. If you want to be crude, be crude, but don’t be crude because you don’t know how to do it, because you’re not perfect at drawing and pattern-cutting.”

Another Mag, Remembering Louise Wilson OBE

 “They have less skills now though, and I don’t care who hears that – they outsource more. When you talk about people like Lee McQueen or Christopher Kane, they did everything themselves – with no money, they could generate whatever they needed to. But the pressure on the students is greater now. What is expected of a student is beyond human- the MA fashion show is shown during London Fashion Week and is on It’s viewed in a professional arena we [back then] never had. We were allowed to fail, and to make mistakes.”

 Dazed Digital, 20 Q&As: Louise Wilson

 “‘I’ve never met a person like Louise,’ says Christopher Kane, with a wry laugh, of his tutor and friend. ‘Incomparable,’ adds the straight-talking fashion writer Sarah Mower. ‘She is incredibly involved, incredibly thorough,’ recalls Simone Rocha, who graduated in 2010. ‘When you’re in there it’s the most intense experience you will ever have, it’s like hell,’ she grimaces, shuddering at the memory of the build-up to the February catwalk show. ‘But at the end you see what you’ve achieved and realise you couldn’t do it without her.'”

Vogue, Louise Wilson’s Vogue Interview

 On fashion shows and fashion designers- “You know, sometimes they get greatly lauded and reviews are written about them as if they’re the second coming of Christ, when it’s all shite. But no one ever says so because of the wrath of the ‘super-people’. That’s an industry supporting itself, isn’t it?”

Acne Paper, Issue 11

 “When she tells me she will hunt me down and shoot me if I report anything of her rant against the shortcomings of the fancy new building in King’s Cross into which the college moved last year, I feel like part of an elite gang.”

The Telegraph, I’m not rude: I’m just honest

 “We’ve already waded through the portfolios. You know, with some seriously mentally deranged people sending in a drawing of a twig.”

The Telegraph, Louise Wilson: Style Dictator

 “At school, it’s all about jumping through hoops, not necessarily learning how to think in a different way. If your work is shit, who cares if you get 76 per cent? Marc Jacobs doesn’t. It’s about the work in hand.”

Vogue, Louise Wilson’s Vogue Interview

 “It is the anomaly of the world to me because grants not only enabled people from different backgrounds to come, but it also enabled the art teachers to encourage the bright kid to go to art colleges. But you’d be hard-pushed to do that now when they’ve got to lay out 30 grand. And because you were on a grant you could take risks and have a bit of fun, which to me is a big part of it, and you weren’t poverty-stricken and working in Starbucks all the time so you could mess up. But now it’s almost that you can’t mess up because you’ve paid all this money or you’ve got a loan, so you’re desperate to find out what you have to “do”. As I keep saying, there is nothing you have to do.”

The Telegraph, I’m not rude: I’m just honest

— “When I arrived in America, I remember it vividly, they were all sitting at their desks every morning reading Women’s Wear Daily. I read i-D and Dazed and just thought, ‘Why on earth would you want to do that?’. It just left my jaw on the table.”

The Independent, Louise Wilson: ‘a privilege to be among youth’

 “Wilson leaps up for some sweet raspberry and cream canapés, ‘It’s OK,’ she tells the catering staff, gesturing in my direction. ‘She’s Scottish, she understands.’… ‘I’m just going to get fatter and fatter. It’s like laying out lines of coke in front of an addict.'”

Scotsman, Professor Louise Wilson, Style Queen

 “‘Masturbating in front of lesbian porn on your computer,’ she jokes (she loves a weird analogy) to one girl during the discussion of a lace project.”

Vogue, Louise Wilson’s Vogue Interview

 “Yes, a concern is that you have a group of
 students that think they’re coming to be taught by me, which is wrong 
as they’re coming to be taught by a great course team. It shouldn’t matter whether I’m there or not. They’re coming here to do 
their own work. It’s only when they do their own work that I can even give them a critique.”

200%, Louise Wilson

 “She mentions a journalist she’s just met who, in like spirit, asked what the secret of becoming a designer was. ‘Like how to make a muffin or how to make the perfect tart. Well, that’s a secret society,’ she says. ‘Why has everyone got to know how to do it? We’re always fighting against that.'”

The Telegraph, I’m not rude: I’m just honest

 “Fashion is very fashionable. I’m longing for it to be become unfashionable. Maybe they could do architecture and product design in reality shows and find ‘The Next Top Kettle’. Those subjects are allowed much more time to incubate. People revere Marc Newson and people like him. They have much longer incubation periods, and there is maybe less pressure on them. But fashion is quite naff because fashion is fashionable. It’s debatable what is fashionable because Nokia phones are fashionable, but they are not classified as fashion even now fashion people may well be designing them, and coming up with colours for them. But it’s not related as fashion, because fashion is only allowed to be clothes on models, but fashion is a much wider spectrum than that.”

200%, Louise Wilson

 “I never really liked Italy. ‘Lots of cement’ is my long-standing quote.”

Vogue, Louise Wilson’s Vogue Interview

 “I’m very passionate about the subject, but thank God my OBE was for fashion industry and education, because my job is being an educator. There’s lots of bad things about teaching, but the really good thing is that you get to be around young people – irritating as they are.”

The Telegraph, Louise Wilson: Style Dictator

 On what you hear of Louise’s reputation- “It’s sort of true and not true,” [Peter] Jensen says, laughing. “She will hate me for telling you this but there was one time when she was screaming so much at the students that I literally thought she was going to have a heart attack and die right there on the cutting table. I had to tell them all to leave to make it stop, but then she just started screaming at me.”

The Independent, Louise Wilson: ‘a privilege to be among youth’

 “‘When we say four projects, that means four projects. Not two, not one!’ Though, she doesn’t call being a fashion design student ‘hard work’ as it is mostly ‘holding a pencil.’”

1 Granary, Vogue Festival

 “Of course, there’s some you think, well I wouldn’t let them in the door, but there’s not many. It’s very important to know that it’s a mutual thing, that there is respect and a form of teamwork. With quite a few of them it can be traumatic, but there are moments in here when they do extraordinary things with their designs. There are things of beauty I get to see in this office.”

The Telegraph, Louise Wilson: Style Dictator

 “I had an argument with my students on why they want to present their work in an iBook, it’s like your sister who has no design training, put on some outfits in the bedroom, took some pictures, sent them to Apple and after paying 40 quid, you have a portfolio! I can’t believe it.”

Joyce, Louise Wilson, The Educationist with the Glamorous Tag of “Fashion”

 “You are absolutely fucking tragic. These drawings are repulsive… And you. Yes, you. You look like you’re looking down on me. You might think I’m a fat twat, but go around with body language like that and you’ll never get a job… What’s this? Jane Birkin is your muse? And she’d wear a velvet babygro with a fucking teddy bear on it, would she?… Why are you drawing bad legs? Why is everybody doing Stefano Pilati’s black wig collection? What do you mean it’s supposed to be Uma fucking Thurman in Pulp Fiction?…Where’s my Diet Coke? Has somebody spat in it yet? Who the hell is going to wear a 1950s silk-organza jacket? Yes, I know Prada did it, but that was all about sexual tension. Nobody’s going to want to fuck you in this, are they?”

WordPress, Louise Wilson

— “Don’t crave fame, do what you do and just apply. I don’t think many of them here today are that interested in fashion. Perhaps it’s because there’s not much going on. No punk, no reaction to something. I think we are in a waiting period.”

Joyce, Louise Wilson, The Educationist with the Glamorous Tag of “fashion”

 “There aren’t 10 easy fucking rules, OK?  You wouldn’t ask Freud: ‘Can you show me how to make a painting?’, would you? You wouldn’t dream of asking an F1 driver to show you quickly how to build a car.  How does it work? How do you lick a cock!  Listen, it’s a life experience.  It’s about skills, education. Sorry, mate, not everyone can be in the club.”

The Guardian, The Forces That Move Fashion

 On the very first things Louise tells the MA students-Learn to read, because if you can’t read, we’re not going to answer your questions after today. Also to stop following the mark, stop jumping through boxes, which is basically what education has become. That is completely to opposite of how we want them to think because if we knew exactly about what we wanted them to do, they’d do the same thing every year… I suppose it’s de-programming; I always tell them not to look at each other’s work, not to do peer-group learning, not to think that the person on the left knows what they’re doing because you’re insecure. Technically they’re all insecure because they’re all creative people, and all creative people are insecure no matter what they may say on the outside. but, of course, it all goes in one ear, and out the other fucking ear and before you know it, they’re all doing exactly the fucking same work!”

Acne Paper, Issue 11

 “‘At the top of the industry everybody is talented and kind, and that is how they got there,’ she informed. I asked her about the misconceptions of people in fashion being nasty…”

i-D, Louise Wilson, a Tribute to a Legend

 “I’m just in it. It shouldn’t matter if we never produce a successful person again because that is not our remit, it’s the remit of everything that surrounds us today – blogs, VOGUE.COM, press, whatever. At the end of the day I’m a very boring academic, bogged down with academia and structure and delivering an education.”

Vogue, Louise Wilson biography

 “I absolutely loathe and hate the work… But I love youth. I realise how lucky it is being with youth, and what an honour that is. Nowhere else could a fat 47-year-old speak to people as young as this. They’d think you were a paedophile.”

The Guardian, The Fashion Stars of Central Saint Martins

 “She pauses, for a moment uncharacteristically reflective. ‘Towards the end that is. My eyes bleed up until that point.'”

The Telegraph, Louise Wilson: Style Dictator

More quotes here.