parental guidance from james long's mum, ann
The parents of fashion designers are often the greatest collaborators of all... Mums and dads of fashion, we salute you!
Ann and James Long
Collaboration is second nature to many of London's new wave of designers: whether interacting with a stylist to bring a fresh perspective to a new collection and show, or hooking up with a high street store, resulting in more affordable ranges for a wider public. But behind the scenes comes a much less publicised, though no less meaningful collaboration - from the parents of the designers. Far removed from the sentiments portrayed in Philip Larkin's 1971 poem, This Be The Verse - 'They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do' - the mums and dads you meet below are the ever-supportive long-term champions of their talented offspring. From day one, James Long's mum has witnessed, nurtured and encouraged her son's commitment to design, from tentative school projects, to accomplished graduation collections, prior to professional success and its accompanying media acclaim. Such enduring loyalty has ensured that 21st century fashion is a better-dressed place! Mums and Dads of fashion, we salute you!
When did James first show an interest in fashion?
When he was nine he asked me if he could have a sheet to make Charlotte (James' sister, who now works with him) a costume for her school play. A few days later I came home from work to find Charlotte wearing a tunic and a pair of trousers. I was amazed. I asked him how he had made the trousers and he said he had used a pair of her trousers as a pattern. He always loved dressing Charlotte up. They both used to dress up in my clothes.
Did you question any of his outfits as a teenager?
No, not at all. We lived in the family hotel during James' teens and I loved to see James, Charlotte and their friends dressing up to go out clubbing. They put a great deal of time into getting their outfits right and really they didn't seem out of place amongst all the various hotel guests, many of whom were actors and musicians. In fact, around Christmas we normally had the whole cast of the pantomime staying at the hotel and most of the partying took place in the hotel. I was always really impressed by the effort that James and all the actors put into their outfits. They may have seemed a bit outlandish to some of the business guests, but to me they were wonderful. They really enjoyed themselves.
Have you ever proudly shown one of the neighbours any of James' press coverage?
All the time! I also Tweet his press coverage and share it on Facebook.
Is James a bit of local celebrity in your neighbourhood?
James was a local celebrity long before he was known for his fashion career! In his teens there was often a queue of people waiting for James to dye, cut or style their hair, style their clothes, or advise them on home décor. I have been in that queue myself!
Do you always go to James' shows?
Yes, I felt tremendously proud when I attended his first MAN show. I was actually quite tearful and a bit overwhelmed by all the attention he received. I still feel the same nowadays and it is really rewarding to see Charlotte, my daughter working with him.
Have you ever seen anyone in the street, or on TV, wearing one of James' designs?
The first time I saw one of James' designs in a magazine being worn by the wonderful Lulu Kennedy. She is a fantastic lady and we have become firm friends over the years. I know that James was really pleased when the Pet Shop Boys wore one of his designs for the Brit Awards. It doesn't really matter how often you see it, you always feel proud that someone has chosen to wear his designs.
What advice would you give a young person thinking of becoming a fashion designer?
Talent is not enough! You need to be absolutely focused and committed because it is very hard work and it is not at all glamorous sitting at a sewing machine finishing something at 2am in the morning!
Text James Anderson