Behind The Scenes at Brooklands Museum By Alison Jane Reid
I love to interview talented, fascinating, chameleons – the icons and role models that define our age. I also have another passion for directing beautiful, unashamedly, escapist fashion stories. During a meeting with the rather dashing new editor of The Lady Magazine, Matt Warren, I mention how I would love to revive the once celebrated fashion pages, and quick as a flash he says, ‘ okay, show us what you can do.’
I accept the challenge immediately, and I know at once who I want as my muse. Colin Morgan, the remarkable actor from Armagh in Northern Ireland, who has succeeded in redefining one of the great romantic characters in our history – Merlin. Interviewing him for the Lady’s arts pages has been the highlight of the year. When I met Colin, I was struck by how different he looked from his geeky, rather Hobbit-like persona in Merlin. His blue eyes glitter with intelligence and compassion, and a rare, lovely charisma; and better still he is so unexpectedly gorgeous!
Colin says ‘yes’, because he enjoyed our interview. (I didn’t once ask him about favourite pizza toppings or first dates), and his bewitching co-star, Katie McGrath soon follows suit. I race over to The Lady’s glorious HQ in Covent Garden in search of inspiration, and find it deep in the archives, (very much like Hogwarts), gazing at impossibly lovely flappers and their beau’s, with all manner of props from peacocks to castles. I know I want to recreate this revolutionary period in fashion and in society with a Roaring Twenties fashion adventure with a 21st Century twist. Colin will be my latterday Gatsby and Katie will be Daisy Buchanan and Wallace Simpson rolled into one! Now, all I need is the perfect backdrop.
Brooklands Museum, a hop and a skip down the motorway from London proves just perfect – an extraordinarily exciting place, steeped in history and daring. This is the place where beautiful racing machines, historic planes and unadulterated glamour come together in one, intoxicating, adrenalin-charged homage to a spirit of adventure!
Three weeks later the day of the fashion feature arrives. Colin is the first to arrive, and walks into the clubroom at Brooklands, which is now piled high with ravishing, handpainted dresses, twinkling jewels and rather dashing Savile Row suits. I love the idea of strong, bold colours, for my 21st Century Gatsby. And I have a hunch that Colin will look amazing in pillar-box red. So, we’ve selected a very cute, red cashmere cardigan for him to wear that will look striking against his Celtic skin tones and raven hair. My lovely students, Maria and Roisin completely, and rather sweetly, fail to recognise Colin from Merlin, and happily let him muck in and carry boxes and props for the shoot. Colin is a star, but he isn’t the least bit arrogant. He is warm-hearted and friendly to everyone. Even so, there were blushes all round when I stop trying to do a hundred and one things at once, and properly introduce him to everyone.
Colin surveys the rails of silk, satin and lace, and thanks me for my powers of organization and an overactive imagination! (Who wouldn’t want to take him home to meet your parents)? After promising him that he won’t go hungry at lunch, I’ve organized a delicious vegan picnic, he tells me that he usually brings his own sandwich to work to avoid complete starvation. What a terrible thought. By this stage everyone is hopelessly smitten with him. I hand out Naked chocolate and orange bars (Colin really loves dark Vegan chocolate) to keep everyone’s energy high and Colin tells me he is a big fan of Rainforest Creations – a company who are part of the amazing raw food revolution sweeping through London at the moment. They set up their wonderfully colourful stalls in Spitalfields, Hammersmith and Chelsea, and sell the most vibrant, living gourmet street food made from fruits, nuts, seeds and grains. Colin likes to hang out with friends and share delicious food that satisfies the heart, the soul and the brain. Soon it is time to introduce Col to Florence, our lovely film-schooled hair stylist who is going to mould his thick, luxuriant hair into a sleek, debonair crop, a la Jay Gatsby, using delicious smelling organic styling products which smell good enough to eat.
At this point Katie finally arrives, after her car took a slight detour, wearing jeans and not a scrap of makeup, and still managing to look like a young Princess Margaret, with eyes you could drown in and a force of nature personality to match – no wonder she is cast as Morgana Le Fey in Merlin.
After a fair amount of teasing and catching up (Col and Katie are good friends) Katie tries on her first outfit of the day – a ladylike, wonderfully feminine, tailored, suit by London Fashion week discovery, Hemyka. Oh my! No one can do imperious, regal and ravishingly beautiful all in a moment – it won’t be long before Katie McGrath comes to the attention of Karl Largerfeld at Chanel or bags herself a beauty campaign. As for Colin, I am sure you will all agree that I should introduce him to his hero, David Attenborough, and let the two of them get on with the very serious business of saving the planet together!
To be continued….
Writing, Art Direction & Styling Alison Jane Reid – Copyright April 2012
Photos Copyright Mike Owen Alison Jane Reid March 2012 To contact Mike go to – www.mikeowenphotography.com
Download PDF of this Fashion Piece for The Lady Magazine Published March 23rd 2012