People often say that you should never meet your heroes as, inevitably, that wonderful mental image you have of them will be shattered into a million tiny pieces when they appear to be less than perfect. The thing is though, it’s not them who I’m worried about being less than perfect. It’s me. I’ve met very few famous people in my life and those encounters have usually been somewhat awkward. I was hoisted over the shoulder of an ex-Blue Peter presenter once, while he was dressed as a viking, so the thought of meeting a celeb I really like just makes me worried that something that embarrassing is going to happen.
I once had a dream that I bumped into Simon Pegg in a pub. I spouted a daft line from Spaced, he laughed and bought me a pint. In real life, if I bumped into Simon Pegg and said “get off me you bummer!” I think he’d probably run away. Very quickly. A bit like Colin Baker did when my entire primary school class started speeding towards him shouting “LOOK! It’s Doctor Who!” (Yes, I am that old.) These days, celebrities are people I would usually go out of my way to avoid – just so that there’s no way I can accidentally ruin their day – but that all changed last month.
Back in the late 80s, I had a couple of must-see television programmes that I made a point of sitting down to watch every week. One was Top Of The Pops – with its cheese-tastic Radio1 DJ presenters and really-couldn’t-give-a-shit style of miming from the acts – and the other was The Clothes Show. With the glamour/camp duo of Selina Scott and Jeff Banks at the helm, this was appointment viewing for my fashion hungry younger self. Just hearing the theme tune makes me tingle, even now. Yes, I was that obsessed.
I watched the show, bought the magazine, and travelled to Birmingham to spend all my cash at The Clothes Show Live every December. I think that was the first time I got to see a professionally organised fashion show. Mind you, I was more excited about getting to touch a Vivienne Westwood corset. I still wish I’d had the money to buy one. To be honest, they might’ve made me buy it if I’d fondled it for much longer. If I’d had a mobile, I could have called my mum and asked her if I could have it for Christmas.
I digress. One of the reasons I was so completely obsessed with fashion back then, was because The Clothes Show proved that it wasn’t just for douchebags and airheads. And how did they do that? They got themselves another presenter, who was probably the single coolest person I’d ever seen on television (who wasn’t a pop star). Caryn Franklin had been the Fashion Editor and co-Editor of i-D Magazine, a publication at least 100 times more stylish than anything I’d ever spent my pocket money on. She was uh-may-zing.
Caryn showed me that fashion could be about individuality rather than following the herd into Topshop. She showed me where my clothes were made and how collections were designed. She gave me a more rounded view of the fashion industry and ensured I loved it for something more than the latest shiny twattish trends. That, and I was sure she’d probably beat Jeff Banks in a fight too. TV needed more of this kind of woman.
Fast forward to 2012, and I found myself in the audience for a debate about how fashion can be used as a force for good. I wanted to go anyway but the fact that Caryn Franklin was on the panel made it even more unmissable. After the discussion, we all got up to leave and then… I decided to go and say hello. For the first time in my life, I walked up to someone I only knew from a television screen and I said hi. And, do you know what? I didn’t ruin her day. Sometimes you meet your heroes and they really are as bloody brilliant as you thought they’d be. Caryn Franklin, I salute you!
(N.B. Although 100% written by me, this story was originally published elsewhere on the internet. If you’re at all interested in that gorgeous Vivienne Westwood corset top, check out the fantastic post on Fashion’s Most Wanted about it.)