The thing is…I’m not a film expert which, when you’re in a cinema full of movie fans at the BIFA Central Picturehouse watching Michael Sheen being interviewed for Time Out London can be a bit of a daunting realisation. BUT I have seen five Michael Sheen films, oh yes. Well, to be honest I’ve seen the excellent Far From The Madding Crowd and, well, all FOUR of the Twilight films which I could practically act in, but I definitely wouldn’t be winning an Oscar anytime soon. Here’s five not exactly movie or marketing related snippets I gleaned from the fabulous actor that is Michael Sheen.
1 – “For families who don’t have access, how are we going to get people from privileged background in?’
Exactly! Exactly! When talking about his own ‘pathway’ into acting, Michael points out that he had a supportive family BUT he was lucky enough to have a discretionary grant to get into drama school. These days, the grants no longer exist, the school is no longer there, making us realise that those without cash are at a distinct disadvantage. “We all lose out if we don’t have a diverse set of people and opinions in the mix,” Sheen notes. And no diversity makes the world pretty dull.
2 – “I take Aro in Twilight as seriously as I take Frost in Frost/Nixon.”
Can we talk about Aro since it is my main point of reference? LOLS. “People tend to look down on it as a genre,” he explains. “But taking your place in the pantheon of vampires on film is an honour.” I mean, totally right! Stephanie Meyer said that Aro, aka head vamp, ‘had a voice like feathers’ despite being EVIL so Sheen decided that this dude had been alive for centuries and was probs completely off his vampire rocker. “He’s like a sentimental grandmother who likes the children and then might eat them,” he reveals drawing inspiration from Blue Meanies in Yellow Submarine, Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Big Bad Wolf. Proving that no matter what the part is, or what the job is in life, you should always give it your all.
3 – “You don’t know what’s going to be the hook for your imagination”
High/low culture features prominently in Sheen’s world but he embraces it citing The Lobster as a favourite recent film which features a society where single people much find a mate within 45 days or be transformed into an animal of their choice (imagine – I’d be a bloody colourful bird by now). “Is that high brow or low brow? It’s unsettling? Your brain is trying to work out if it’s funny or is it poncy? It’s things your brain can’t pin down,” Sheen explains. So find a hook or a USP, work with it and don’t be snobby about it because you could be shutting off from great things.
4 – “For me really good acting is a balance between control and loss of control.”
And also life right? “Some actors just turn up and fly by seat of their pants and others do all the homework and don’t lose control,” Sheen says, careful to point out that his acting work which has been defined by roles including playing Tony Blair go beyond impersonation. “You want to take the audience with you, to go on the journey,” he explains and I agree. In life you don’t want to be ‘all the gear and no idea’ or like a bull in a China shop without thought for what you are doing…but you have to lose control sometimes.
5 – “It’s great to disappear into character, but its not great if you’re trying to build a career.“
In a business sense being memorable and recognisable are key to growing your career and marketing your latest venture. So it is in roles which are more recognisable that Sheen has enjoyed a flourishing career and he always focuses on what real person come alive. “We have the person that we want people to see on the outside, then the person that we’re scared we are,” he explains. “Then there’s the real person and I’m always looking for where they’re vulnerable.” And being vulnerable is a good thing sometimes because it makes us who we are, and can also make our best work.
Sometimes in London, it feels like you know ALL KINDS of things you really don’t need to. Like when a new hotdog joint is opening, how Pret Sandwiches are ranked from 1 to 50, or how big the waiting list is at a swanky restaurant you’re never likely …
St Paul’s Cathedral, where I’m sitting right now, is literally blowing my mind. The very famous London landmark was built by Christopher Wren and accessoried (shall we say) with intricate mosaics after Queen Victoria called it ‘dull, cold, dingy and dreary,’ crikey! Inside it is utterly astonishing in size and scale with the dome the epitome of beauty creating the centre of the cathedral and of course being one of the most recognisable features of the London skyline. The gilded architecture and beautiful artwork make this building rich in colour and in history.
The nave is sweeping with arches and chandeliers adding to the grandeur. The choir and organs must be absolutely fantastic when it is in session which look onto a gilded alter and a intricate window. After you’ve marvelled about the inside – go up 259 steps to the Whispering Gallery, above the ground floor within the dome and have a go at whispering to a friend on the opposite side, you’ll be amazed that you can hear them. These steps are easy peasy, and then the second set of 376 stairs up (in total) to the Stone Gallery as a little bit trickier, a little steeper, but just take your time. This is on the outside and you can take photos from here and see a little of London’s skyline through the wall.
If you are not afraid of heights or tight spaces (I only say this as I nearly had a nervous breakdown on the way up) please please pop up the full 528 steps (all the way from the bottom) to the Golden Gallery and hang on to your hat. In fact hold onto everything as there’s only a railing in between you and the outside world. You can SEE everything from here, London Eye, Shard, Tate Modern, Gherkin, BT Tower, Oxo Tower, London buses, people, bars, gardens the works!!! It’s tight though, very tight so be patient. The crypt is dark and peaceful, which leads to the gift shop and cafe. There’s also a small garden surrounding it which is the perfect place for a picnic in nice weather. At £18 to get in, it’s total value for money and j can only (honestly) say that there is only the Tower of London which I enjoyed in equal measure. They would both be at the top of my must-see London list.
Fashion Editor & Stylist Nini Khatiblou has an infectious character, ten minutes in her presence and you’ll be smiling – promise! I’ve been working with Nini for, like, for-EVER, since she was at Good Housekeeping and I would send her jeans to shoot for her pages. For a while, it was an email only conversation and then one day we met – whoop – and she literally rocked my world. She stands out in the fashion world with her exotic name and down-to-earth friendly personality. She is the girl you can have a normal conversation with, most probably WITH wine, and most probably end the evening dancing on a table somewhere. She’s now moved to Phoenix magazine, much edgier than her previous role and she continues to be a fabulous freelance stylist with a great eye for detail. Bright, intriguing and deeper than you might think…shall we delve into the world of little Miss Nini Khatiblou? Come on then, let’s go!
NAKEDPRGIRL: Where are you from originally? How did you come to be in London and what do you like about the city?
Nini Khatiblou: I’m actually Middle Eastern, born to Persian parents who moved to London in the late 70s. I was born in London and feel a happy mix of the two. I love everything about London – the endless list of things to do and see, the diversity, the energy. And if I ever feel homesick, I have an endless selection of amazing Persian restaurants I can pop into!
NAKEDPRGIRL: When did you decide you wanted to work in fashion journalism? What did you study?
Nini Khatiblou: It all happened very organically. When I was 16, my mum – who had an insane back copy collection of HELLO! magazines – suggested I write to them to see if I could get some kind of summer holiday job. These were the days before email so I wrote them a letter and the next thing I knew I was interning on their Features desk. I loved it – there was a real buzz in the office and I couldn’t get over the fact that the staff were allowed to wear jeans and flip-flops to work! It felt very relaxed and casual but at the same very energetic and I knew instantly that I wanted to work for a magazine.
After that placement, I wrote to more magazines and eventually ended up in a Fashion cupboard. It always amazes me when I come into contact with precious interns who sigh every time you ask them to hang something up. Back then, there were no desks or chairs let alone any windows or natural light. We’d sit on the floor all day and write out endless dockets by hand – and we loved every second of it!
By the time I was 18, I had a few good work experience placements under my belt. I was then faced with the decision of where to study for my degree. Part of me wanted to pursue foreign languages (my other passion) but suddenly I had this fear that if I didn’t study a Fashion degree, no one would take me seriously in the fashion world. My teachers pushed me to go down the more academic route and so I studied French and Spanish at UCL. In my second year, I signed up for an intensive evening class course at LCF – so one minute, I was reading French poetry and the next I’d leg it down Oxford Street in time for a 3 hour class on styling!
NAKEDPRGIRL: What was your big break?
Nini Khatiblou: Once I graduated from UCL, I did two more magazine placements – one at InStyle and one at Easy Living. It was then that I was faced with the slightly awkward reality of the magazine industry. You can have 200 placements on your CV but it doesn’t guarantee you a job. I was happy to carry on interning but my dad was pretty keen to see his graduate daughter with a full-time job so I applied to Yellow Door PR (now known as Portas) and got my first job as a Junior PR. It was the toughest year of my life, I don’t think a week went by when I didn’t ball my eyes out.
Looking back, I’m grateful I did it – it made me a lot more resilient and quite honestly, everything I’ve done since then hasn’t been even a quarter as challenging. It’s why I have so much respect for people who pursue PR as a career – it’s so tough. A year into my PR job, I had a call from InStyle – the team remembered me and wanted to know if I was interested in applying for the year-long Fashion Assistant role. Obviously leaving a full-time job for something temporary (and half the salary!) was a risk but I knew I had to take it. It was an amazing year and I loved the team – I didn’t want it to end!
NAKEDPRGIRL: You’ve worked for Good Housekeeping and now Phoenix magazine, any memorable shoots or career highlights?
Nini Khatiblou: I think being made Fashion Editor at 26 will always be one of my biggest career highlights. I got to do some amazing shoots – even the ones which didn’t go quite to plan like the time we did a trip to Cyprus and ended up getting robbed, still make me smile. I’m very excited about this new chapter in my career – alongside working at PHOENIX, I do a lot of brand consultancy and have just finished a series of presentations up and down the country for a huge high-street brand. The last one was to 300 people – absolutely terrifying but a fantastic experience. It’s made me realise how important it is to constantly push yourself outside your comfort zone.
NAKEDPRGIRL: How can styling build an image and how does that impact on our work and personal life?
Nini Khatiblou: I’m totally obsessed with the link between fashion and psychology – specifically how it can change how people see us, and more importantly how we see ourselves. You might have a bad day where you feel old, tired, fat, unattractive – then you put an outfit on that makes YOU happy and suddenly it’s a different story. The confidence that clothes can give you is insane. I think people who don’t work in fashion often misjudge us for being vacuous and snobby – I can’t count the number of times someone has asked me if it’s like The Devil Wears Prada. What they miss is the power that clothes have in transforming absolutely everything – how we feel, how we’re seen and what we’re projecting to the outside world. It’s not about dressing for anyone else, it’s just about seeing fashion as something much friendlier and more approachable – absolutely everyone has it in them to wear an outfit which not only suits them but which makes them feel good. And when you feel good, good things happen.
NAKEDPRGIRL: What’s your personal style? What’s your USP? Have you had to look at marketing yourself as a brand?
Nini Khatiblou: I find it so tricky to answer this because I genuinely don’t know. I tend to feel more comfortable in casual wear – I hate dressing up and I hate dress codes. Apart from that, as cliched as this sounds, I’ve always been inspired by how the French dress. I spent several months living in Paris as part of my uni course and I was blown away by how amazing everyone looked. I don’t think I do it deliberately but whenever I’m in a fashion pickle about what to wear, I always end up gravitating towards the most ‘French’ items in my wardrobe – a black tux over a grey tee, or a black oversized knit with black skinny leather trousers and a pair of white trainers.
It’s when I feel my best. I don’t think I have a USP – I’m probably one of the last magazine stylists without a blog. I was tempted to start one several times but I couldn’t think of anything someone else wasn’t already doing. I prefer to share my style on Instagram and make my money working for brands on a styling and consulting capacity. Maybe it’s the PR in me but I’m much more passionate about talking strategies than taking endless photos of myself.
NAKEDPRGIRL: In your career what changes have you seen between print and digital media?
Nini Khatiblou: When I first started at InStyle nearly 10 years ago, I was so naive to what was going on. I just assumed magazines were stronger than ever and it never occurred to me to think about the wider picture. I suppose you could say I joined the print industry at the worst possible time! Funnily enough, when I joined GH I didn’t realise that one of the biggest blessings in disguise were how loyal our readers were to buying actual magazines. On the whole, they weren’t as sold on the online revolution so while other magazines were hit really hard by the inevitable shift, we were pretty lucky on the whole. That said, GH still had to adapt to the climate and very soon, it launched its UK website and became more present on social media. It was no longer about the Editorial staff just ‘doing print’ – it became a 360 work ethic where we were covering both the magazine content and online.
NAKEDPRGIRL: What helps you to be creative? Is it magazines, books, art, a favourite cafe?
Nini Khatiblou: It definitely used to be magazines. At Good Housekeeping, we were regularly sent international magazines and I loved flicking through French Vogue – there was always an idea I wanted to steal! These days, ideas can come from anywhere – Instagram, blogs, pinterest, street style… Weirdly I don’t go looking for them, I just tend to see something and then subconsciously store it away for when I’m planning my next shoot.
NAKEDPRGIRL: I love how fun and normal you are on social media – do you have a strategy?
Nini Khatiblou: Thank you, that’s really nice to hear! It’s very odd social media – you post photos but you have no idea what people are thinking or how you’re coming across. Unfortunately I’m super self-critical so if a certain photo doesn’t get as many likes, I agonise over what I did wrong, was the outfit not good enough, was my expression too cheesy?! It gets to a point where you have to let go otherwise you drive yourself crazy and it stops becoming fun. I definitely don’t have a strategy – everything on my Instagram is real and accurate to how I live my life day to day. Obviously I don’t post the photos of me wearing leopard print leggings and a fleece dressing gown with scraped back wet hair – there’s got to be some smoke and mirrors!
NAKEDPRGIRL: What is your favourite social channel?
Nini Khatiblou: Without a doubt, Instagram. Facebook will always have a special place in my heart – I have so many memories attached to it. But generally speaking, I keep Facebook for close friends, Instagram is more work-led and Twitter I seem to have a love/hate relationship with. Perhaps I’m more attracted to the visual side of things but Twitter struggles to keep me interested.
NAKEDPRGIRL: How important is networking for you? Do you have a gang you love working with and socialising with?
Nini Khatiblou: I’ve never been good at networking. I’ve literally lost count of how many times I’ve been told I need to network more. Who knows what would have happened if I was better at going out and mingling with the right people. I think in all honesty, I’m just too selfish with my down-time. If I’m going out, I want to see the people I love who make me fall off my chair with laughter. I do have a close group of friends in the industry and I love them to pieces – they’re mostly PRs. My nights out with them are epic – none of us take anything too seriously and I think that’s why we get on as well as we do.
NAKEDPRGIRL: What photography tips would you have for others?
Nini Khatiblou: I don’t have any of the fancy gadgets most social media connoisseurs do. My biggest tip is to get yourself a photographer friend – mine is David Nyanzi (www.nyanzi.com), I met him about 6 years ago on Carnaby Street and my favourite photos of me are the ones he takes. He’s incredibly talented and so much fun – I feel totally comfortable in front of the camera when he’s taking the picture. I like to think of him as my personal Paparazzi photographer – I’ve been known to text him and say ‘I’m wearing an amazing coat, can you come and take my photo’. God knows how he’s put up with me for so long.
NAKEDPRGIRL: What advice would you give to others just starting out in the industry?
Nini Khatiblou: Please, please don’t be precious. No one has any time for it. Keep your head down, work hard and leave the sassiness at home.
NAKEDPRGIRL: You must have a jam packed diary for Fashion Week – which show do you most look forward to and what’s your failsafe fashion tips for the week?
Nini Khatiblou: It really varies each season. I love the buzz that comes with up and coming designers and their shows – there’s something quite exciting about not having a preconception of what you’re about to see. Tip-wise, I always stress about what to wear. I love the people-watching but each season, it seems to get more and more ridiculous – people literally show up in fancy dress costumes. I try and plan ahead as much as possible firstly so I don’t stress about not having anything to wear and secondly so I don’t panic-buy an outfit at the last minute and then bump into someone wearing the exact same thing. My other tip is to not go out on day one – it’s a mistake I make every season which means I spend the rest of the time hungover and emotional.
NAKEDPRGIRL: What would be your dream brand/people to work with?
Nini Khatiblou: I’m not especially fickle when it comes to brands I dream of working with. Every brand offers its own exciting opportunities and on a personal level, I find it really satisfying to be a part of a process – like a rebranding or the actual launch of a new brand – which then involves styling a lookbook or campaign later down the line.
NAKEDPRGIRL: When things go wrong on shoots, what do you do?
Nini Khatiblou: Go home, have a large glass of wine, and cry my eyes out. Unfortunately, it has been known to happen – the key is to not take it personally, have some perspective and get a grip (obviously much easier to say in hindsight!)
NAKEDPRGIRL: Do you have a motto or a mantra that you live by?
Nini Khatiblou: I can’t remember who said it but one that I really like is ‘don’t compare your inside to somebody else’s outside’. I think everyone is guilty of looking at pics on social media and thinking that a particular person has the most perfect life – the best clothes, the best career, and seems to be in a permanently good mood! But the reality is that everything is so edited these days that what we think we know about someone is vary rarely what’s really going on. The most important thing is to not compare and to be grateful for what you have yourself – I’m always trying to remember to thank the universe more!
NAKEDPRGIRL: You style menswear and womenswear – what can we expect for AW16?
Nini Khatiblou: A lot of velvet, animal prints, gothic vibes to name a few for womenswear. And the men have got utilitarian, cardigans of all shapes and sizes and plenty of shearling to dip into.
NAKEDPRGIRL: What’s next?
Nini Khatiblou: At the moment, I’m loving life at PHOENIX towers as well as the variety of work I’m doing on the freelance side of things. If things can carry on like this, I’ll be happy!
If you had to pick one fashion designer for a cracking night out, can I suggest Henry Holland? First of all, from what I have gleaned while he is in conversation with Kinvara Balfour at the V&A, he is exceedingly charismatic, funny, honest and I’m absolutely positive you’d be dancing on the tables into the early hours of the morning. Secondly, if you’re interested in fashion, you might be in with a shot of uber networking, as you’d no doubt be introduced to his famous inner circle which includes Alexa Chung, Pixie Geldof and Agyness Deyn.
Early Days – Smash Hits & Bliss
The 33 year old, Manchester born designer had, what he calls, an ‘unconventional route’ into fashion where he originally studied journalism (he tried to move to a fashion course but it was full so he just got on with it) before landing a job in a newsroom.
“I fell into the world of teen magazines by accident,” Henry confesses recalling his days at Smash Hits magazine. “I remember my first day and I couldn’t believe I had so much fun at work. We all got called into a conference room to watch Blue’s new video. I’m like, what? This is what I do with my mates when I get drunk.”
But fate had a different plan and as he moved to Bliss magazine to edit the style page where, he ‘wasn’t allowed to put in anything that cost more than £30, retail’ even ‘used to write the horoscopes’ (he apologises for destroying the myth) where he started designing.
Getting Started – Get Yer Freak On Giles Deacon
“I started making t-shirts. I made four t shirts; Uhu Gareth Pugh, Get Yer Freak On Giles Deacon, Do Me Daily Christopher Bailey and Cause Me Pain Hedi Slimane. I called them fashion groupie t shirts,” Henry explains. “Kind of overnight it went insane. One of my friends Gareth Pugh wore the Giles Deacon T-shirt and a few days later Giles wore the Gareth Pugh one…and then American Vogue called.”
So far so unassuming, and Henry continued to work at Bliss magazine despite the early success. “I was still selling Juicy Tubes to 13 year olds,” he recalls. “I stayed there for a bit and doing my international shipping from the post room. My editor was like, ‘we’re going through a lot of jiffy bags.” But before long the move was inevitable, his second collection of tees featured supermodel slogans (I’ll tell you who’s boss Kate Moss) plus House of Holland launched and collaborations started to roll in where his moto is; ‘I collaborate a lot, if I can’t do something, I find someone who can.’
The Night Shift
Collaborations cooked up in nightclubs over cocktails in a club called Boom Box included one with his good friend Katie Hillier and years later the deal for Habitat was struck at a friend’s wedding where Henry was introduced to the Head of PR on the dance floor and decided they should ‘make some cushions’. It wasn’t all plain sailing and Henry had to prove himself with the fashion establishment. “It was a tricky to build wholesale after ready to wear,” he says. “It was three years to build the contacts and networking and prove it was not just funny T-shirts.”
Henry concedes and as like fellow designers Mary Katrantzou, Patrick Cox and Zac Posen, he cites clubbing as significant in his career and mentions the importance in tapping into the network that you already know. “If I had any advice for students it would be, rip u your assignments and go out, never go home,” he jokes (and make no doubt he doesn’t take himself too seriously. “It’s an awful way of saying it but clubbing is basically networking. As long as you do it in a nice way and don’t just run around giving business cards to everyone. I’m so amazing helped by these people and it was all about the night shift.”
“I always describe my route as back to front. I started with the most commercial thing you can do and still the only thing I make profit on,” Henry reveals and it is this down to earth, practical and pragmatic side that is endearing and like many designers, he has finally mastered the business side of fashion too.
“It’s really important to have two pillars from the beginning – creative and business,” he admits. “I wish I’d found someone with business side. That’s what I’d have done different. No more making friends with supermodels; they age. Accountants last longer! If you find anyone who gets excited by a excel spreadsheet, that’s who you want.”
It is with refreshing honesty he reveals; “The creative side can’t exist without business side. You can only become as big as you can finance.” As he didn’t train to be a designer or study business, it was a steep learning curve. “You’ve got to have enough balls to do it, to not want sleep and to work hard.” But he would do it all again, well apart from building his website in Flash which cost him dearly, although Ecommerce disasters are more common than the industry likes to admit.
TV has also been a business avenue even though Henry asserts he is a ‘one season wonder’ that has never been recommissioned. “Being paid money to talk rubbish in front of the camera is absolutely fine by me,” he jokes. “And yes it has kept my company afloat at certain times. TV appearances keeps the press coverage coming in and generates money.”
The Future of Digital
For now Henry Holland is happy living in East London. “You don’t have to go anywhere to ‘be’ in London,” Henry reveals. You just step out of the door and it’s a melting pot. I love when you see someone wearing a bat shit crazy outfit and you think you’ve got an amazing story to tell.” However BREXIT has ruffled him saying; ‘the sentiment of wanting to be closed off from an open world’ makes him feel ‘sad’.
Politics aside, he’s witnessed the explosion of social media and digital change in the industries he started in so he’s well placed to assess the future. “Fashion is in transition as all the old rules of press have changed,” Henry muses. “People used to create one campaign a season and put it in the September issue. People’s appetite for content has exploded and you have to be constantly generating content. I once said women are going to much more cocktail parties than squat parties. That’s part of the content, make sure it evolves with you.”
But he is resolute on the future of fashion, even if it looks differently to how it used to with the transition from curated collections by buyers and media to the here and now of digital. “If people are shown something they expect to buy it,” he says. “Clothes still have the same lifespan as its still six months until the next show. It just exists on the woman who’s wearing it instead of existing in the pages of a magazine.”
And just when you feel completely immersed in Henry Holland world he snaps you out of your fashion trance. “People treat fashion designers like rock stars. You get into this bubble where you think that’s what everyone is like. But not everybody is like that, some are just like; ‘am I cold enough, am I warm enough, am I naked?’
And on that note he still has plenty of dreams to tick off and aspires to a Ralph Lauren model where he works across many product categories creating House of Holland world. “Yes world domination,” he surmises. And you know he is more than capable.
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“Claire was my PR and Marketing Manager for four years at Donna Ida so we worked closely together to build a marketing strategy for the Ultimate Denim Destination. Claire’s PR experience led to an increase in press coverage 30% year-on-year with a focus on luxury titles and targeting key editors"Read The Full Testimonial
Claire was very well liked by the press and they felt very happy and comfortable with her, so much so that they were just as happy going to Claire as they were coming to me. We developed a press strategy of one-to-one appointments and special evening press dinners to encourage exclusivity with exceptional results.
She worked closely with our in-house creative team to build the brand and my personal profile within the fashion and business sectors, managing photo shoots and Look Books. Claire is loyal, entrepreneurial and strategic so when presented with a challenge she sees it as an opportunity.
DONNA IDA THORNTON, www.donnaida.com