Round the table with Henry Holland and Gemma Cairney

As you well know, here at MFL we’re rather partial to a fashion TV series or two, and none more so than Frock Me with TK Maxx, back on TV screens in the UK for a second series to brighten up the bleakest Sunday mornings. Hosted by super-style icon Alexa Chung, London designer Henry Holland and Radio 1 style expert Gemma Cairney, Frock Me follows fashion through its rampant relationship with music as it highlights top trends for the season, chats to the very best in the business, gives DIY styling tips, and shows you how people on the street are working – and styling – the season’s best trends… in a nutshell. Naturally, we were obliged to catch up with Henry and Gemma when TK Maxx invited us to London’s Zetter hotel last week where, alongside a few other bloggers, we quizzed the pair on all things Frock Me and fashion.

We’ve seen three shows so far, can you tell us what we can expect from the rest of the series?

HH: There’s a show about romance, there’s a show about Americana, there’s a show about festivals; so there’s those theme-shows, and you can expect to see Sophie Ellis-Bextor, you can expect to see Gabriella Cilmi, we’ve had the Future Heads, Marina and the Diamonds, Paloma Faith – she was good, and everyone did live too. And then there’s some very ridiculous sketches…

GC: We’ve got prints in Bristol [just aired] which was fun, I actually put a couple up against each other for the Frock Off, and the girl really looks like Alexa so that was good. And then we’ve got in Birmingham Americana – we ended up with about 200 people surrounding us in the middle of town for the final section, so we were kind of lined up doing our piece to camera with about 200 spectators – no pressure at all. I suppose as well, seeing as well we’ve got the Alexa part, it’s got more extreme this time around, we’re having more and more fun. We’ve got Nottingham Romance this weekend, and then Liverpool and we’re going to do festivals.

Who has been your favourite guest on the show so far?

HH: Apart from Tinie Temper!? Sophie Ellis-Bextor was good, Paloma Faith was good, Marina was good actually… pretty much all of them.

Is there anyone you’d particularly like to have on the show?

GC: Jay Z.

HH: I’d be scared though… Jay Z and Beyonce together, Frock Off!

GC: Oh my god. And Rihanna as well.

HH: Yeah I love Rihanna. I know she has a woman who follows her around just to paint her nails. I want to be that woman. I don’t think she’s a diva though at all, I just think she likes nice nails.

Which celebrity would you most like to give a style makeover?

GC: Alesha Dixon. Obviously, everyone’s a really big Mis Teeq fan, she’s really good fun, you’re always going to laugh if you work with her. I just don’t think her outfits… she’s so beautiful and so hot that she could be the British equivalent, in terms of style, to some of the big US examples – they’re style icons, and she could be too.

HH: I’d second that. I bumped into her at a party the other week and she was wearing a handbag with my face on it. That was murder. It was the bag I did for Debenhams – the bagazine.

You’re focusing on key trends for the season each week – what are your top trends for spring/summer?

HH: I like print. I quite like military but I don’t do it – I think you can look a bit fancy dress unless you do it well. I quite like nautical, which we’ve not done on the show but I quite like that.

GC: Everyone has to be so aware of under as outerwear, even though I like a lot of the pieces on the high street, particularly when I was doing the Frock Off and I was walking around and really taking in the details of the trend, I kind of had a moment of fear – a lot of these pieces put together at once in a night club on a Saturday night could be seriously wrong.

HH: Like Lady Gaga look?

GC: Yeah, and if you’re not Lady Gaga, that is going to be bad. You’ve got to be careful. But I’m still heralding it, really do take note of how magazines are doing it and suggesting it.

HH: I do love the way that with the right stuff [it can look good] – like what was on the catwalks as well – all the panelling and underwear type shapes rather than actual bras.

GC: I just felt bad that it would be like, Gaga‘s fault.

HH: It does fall down to Gaga though, if you look at musicians, like, you can look at a massive percentage of female artists – look at them pre-Gaga and post-Gaga and there’s definitely a move towards the more extreme. Like look at Fergie from Black Eyed Peas – when did she want to be a robot? And Leona with that stupid eye thing on.

GC: Can anyone remember Ashanti? Her new video is identical [to Lady Gaga's]. There’s something about the veteran pop star which is becoming more appealing, even though, like, Christina Aguilera doesn’t necessarily come under veteran, she was around before.

HH: She’s definitely always been overtly sexual – I mean, she basically had sex in a boxing ring.

You’ve got a lot of music on the show, what’s your own personal music taste?

HH: I like hip-hop, and I like dance hall, and I like pop… I don’t really have a very sophisticated music taste – I like Miley Cyrus. I like Jay Z… I like all sorts, I have the radio on all the time so I have a really varied taste. I’ve just been around the world and every single place that I’ve been, the whole time all they play in Rihanna – Rude Boy. I just love it.

The show focuses on the relationship between fashion and music – do you think that relationship is particularly important; that each plays a part in the other industry?

HH: Massive. I mean, the Gaga effect again – even on the catwalk, there’s a Gaga effect on the catwalk.

CG: Yeah, absolutely. One of the questions that I’ve been asking people when I do the street style section [is where their inspiration comes from], especially out of London as well because it’s nice to go other places where they’re genuinely getting their inspiration from blogs and from music, especially. It’s interesting who their style icons are, especially boys, because they’re not going to say – well, they usually say music basically, like Orlando from the Maccabees, Jimi Hendrix or… very music-orientated. And I think it’s so important to have that, and you know, can you tell what people listen to just from the way the dress in a particular place? Absolutely. Everyone wearing skinny jeans and is coming out of American Apparel is listening to this and…

HH: What am I listening to then? I always go in American Apparel and wear skinny jeans!

GC: Rihanna! So you can guess peoples’ opinions in that way, and people feel like they can identify what they’re into as a whole from what they wear.

What about fashion houses? Which would you love to wear?

HH: I’d love a bit of Givenchy, I love Givenchy menswear at the moment. Prada, always… not that I can afford either of those.

GC: For me… literally whatever’s clean, in terms of how I get ready in the morning.

HH: You’re quite adventurous though, you definitely try stuff out.

GC: Oh my god, yeah, it doesn’t always equal success, but… I think that’s quite a youthful aspect of the fashion industry. I think as well like, because you’ve got your fingers in so many different pies, that’s quite representative of how young people are at the moment. If you go to old school fashion houses it’s quite different, but it’s how we read magazines, it’s how we consume fashion, including experimentation in the way that I like to dress – ‘let’s try this, no, that didn’t work, oh but this is cool’, you know.

HH: I think because I started my career as a fashion journalist I’ve got a much better idea of how to communicate stuff.

GC: Going to your show was quite an eye opener in terms of using multi-platforms – I wasn’t in front row but they all got free blackberrys, ahem. But that ‘act’, some people just can’t get that right.

HH: A lot of people go on about me and new digital era and all that stuff but I think it’s just because it’s natural. Like, I use Twitter because my generation uses Twitter, that’s how we communicate, that’s how we see what our friends are up to. And when you get a company, like a big fashion house, that sit round a board meeting like this and go, ‘we should get a Twitter!’, but then they don’t know how to do it – all they ever do is post a link to their website which is the most boring thing I’ve ever read, then you un-follow them. They don’t understand the point of it is to get an insight into what you’re thinking and what you’re doing. And I do use mine every now and again [to promote HOH], I’ll be like ‘oh we’ve got some new tights’ or ‘we’ve got this’ and put a link but, y’know, that works if you’re using Twitter in the correct sense and I think that for our generation that’s a natural thing. Like, I live on my Blackberry – not literally, I’m not that small – so when we developed a website to have a Blackberry application to buy our stuff through, I was thinking as I consumer that’s what I’d want, it’s just much easier. I think our generation like you say consumes fashion in a different way, and the whole object of blogs is that it’s putting fashion out there and doesn’t dictate what is fashion and what you should get – it’s about giving your opinions and telling a story and your side of fashion and your thoughts and your feelings. But never read the comments, unless you want to kill yourself.

GC: What fascinates me is you’re doing what you guys think. Sometimes we have a blogger judging each Frock Off, and they’re always so open and less stuffy unlike a lot of the fashion industry, speak really eloquently about trends and have genuine expertise but with that extra accessibility.

Between the three of you on the show you’ve visited lot of different cities – where have you found to be the most stylish?

HH: For the programme I’ve only been to New York, and I think London is my favourite city – New York style is London style six months ago. Like a year ago all you saw in New York was Pete Doherty clones. But obviously there’s a massive difference between Upper town and Lower town, Upper town has that sort of preppy style. But I think London is the best.

GC: I went to New York for the first time last year with my friend called Gemma who I met on the first series – she’s a designer called Gemma Slack – and we went out there to stay with a friend and people were staring at us in the street like ‘woah, far out’, and I was like, ‘oh my god, I thought this was how it was supposed to be!’ like so on the edge, but it definitely made me realise that London, like Henry said, is more crazy and colourful.

Speaking of outrageous fashion choices, when you have bands on the show you ask them what their most embarrassing item of clothing is – what’s yours?

HH: I always say my matching shellsuit, which is a bit of a cop out. There’s probably a whole year of Nu-Rave that I could probably forget. I had a pair of bright yellow chinos that I used to wear with a leopard print shirt and a fluorescent pink tie.

GC: I bought this pair of shoes from a charity shop, I think they were like £3 but they were really vintage looking – they were like brown PVC with gold lace on them and I went to Soho with a hippie friend in tow and I think we bought a little bottle of vodka and just tried to find places to hang out… and then my shoes broke whilst I was out. Yeah, that was pretty bad.

Have you been impressed with peoples’ styling abilities when you’ve been doing the Frock Off?

GC: Yeah. I mean people were obviously nervous, you can love fashion and love to talk about clothes but it’s hard isn’t it – they’ve got an hour this time to pull a look together which is really short, so people surprise me all the time. I’m not actually that creative in terms of making things, and I’m an assistant stylist, people ask me to show them but I just like putting things together and steaming. But when people have technical skills to back up the talk it’s always impressive.

You had a hair tip on the first show, are there any make-up DIY’s going on?

HH: There is, there’s how to do an eye flick, and there’s nails.

GC: Print nails – it’s possible.

A smug flash of our DIY leopard print nails soon clarified that, much to their delight.

In terms of fashion, are hair and make-up as much a part of the look at the clothes?

HH: I don’t feel like I’m dressed until I’ve got my quiff – I’ve had it since I was about 16!

GC: I didn’t have a make-up person really until I got TV work. I find it quite hard actually, especially as I’m not a really girly girl, I really admire, like, really well-groomed people, but I’m getting more into it. Obviously it’s important, everybody judges you, don’t they really?

HH: From my point of view when I’m putting together a fashion show the hair and make-up is just as important – it’s about creating a fantasy and creating a look and a woman for that collection. It gets very stressful, I’ve had like 11 hour hair sittings before.

GC: Obviously my other job is just on mic and in the studio but then you have to take pictures for web and you just regret everything – constantly trial and error with the whole beauty thing!

HH: I think I did guyliner for a few months. Yeah, Topman have sent meggings to all stores. I was like, they’re going to have to take some responsibility for the kind of people that are going to get beaten up.

GC: It’s the same as the underwear as outwear thing though, you have to be careful!

HH: No, because like, it’s different for girls, but a boy in Bradford in a megging – I’m sorry, security! It’s not fair. I got spat at once for wearing pink Converse, and that was in Soho – like, come on!

What other cities in the world do you love?

HH: Tokyo. Tokyo’s amazing. There’s just this sort of built in sense of style that you can’t replicate – just the way they put things together and create their mixed styles and prints and shapes, it’s so inherent in their culture. But then that sounds weird because you’d think everyone looks the same but they don’t, they really go for it, boys and girls are just really – I can’t even explain.

What about a spring/summer playlist?

GC: Florence [and the Machine] again because I love her.

HH: I was in America for two weeks and I saw Florence three times. Every time you see her you never get bored.

GC: The amount she gives in a performance is almost exhausting, it’s just like ‘how, you’re a little skinny thing, how?!’ I worked on one of the first photo shoots she ever did before she was signed for an online magazine and I styled her. I remember her just turning up in flat brogues and a little cardigan and she was like, ‘I don’t really like to get my body out or..’ and I was like, ‘you are!’ and then before long she nearly had her boobs out and had high-waisted Swarovski-covered pants on, massive hair and Terry de Havilland heels. And then ever since, after that, I saw her naked in IQ and on stage in her pants and seven inch heels and I’m like, ‘you did good!’ I think she’s brilliant.

Which festivals are you going to?

GC: I’m working on Glastonbury again, which is cool.

HH: I can only handle Glastonbury. Oh and I’m going to Bestival this year. They get quite close to my shows so I can’t really go to some of them. But I can’t not do Glastonbury and Coachella now that I’ve done them. You go and it looks like the grass has been cut with nail scissors and the food is like vegan falafels, and everyone puts their rubbish in the right recycling section of the bin, and you can wear flip flops and not like, break your toe or stand in mud, and then you go home every night to a mansion with your own pool. There’s fountains in Coachella in flower gardens, but if that was in England, that fountain would be covered in piss, there’d be one flower still planted, it’s like we just have no respect.

GC: What other festivals? Oh, Evolution! It’s in Newcastle and I’m going to do a live Frock Off! It’s going to be amazing, and we’re going to have all sorts of TK Maxx goodies and fun. And when I say live Frock Off I literally mean with people live on stage. If you go on the Frock Me Facebook, that’s probably one of the best places [to find out more], it’s quite easy to navigate and there’s all the behind the scenes videos and you can enter the competition.

And on that note, Frock Me with TK Maxx airs Sundays on Channel 4. Check  www.facebook.com/tkmaxx for more information.

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