I've never been a 'girly girl', saying the phrase alone induces internal shudders and resurrects some problematic high school memories. Entering my most poignant teenagers years with a single father by my side, navigating the world of bra shopping and all things awkwardly feminine undeniably shaped me into the sartorial tomboy* I was and still am today. I was all trousers and trainers, not a dress in sight. Without a female role model, my dad was the person I looked up to and felt inspired by the most. He spent most of his working career in neatly pressed slacks, crisp white shirts (blue in his previous RAF days) and perfectly polished black lace-up oxfords. An outfit I've subconsciously channelled and continue you to do so.
One vivid memory I still carry with me as a young teenager is deciding what to wear to the 'popular girls' birthday disco. Having bagged an unofficial invite, the 'oh you can tag along with me' type invite from a friend of a friend who knew said girl's cousin (you know the score) I knew this was going to be THE party. After days of military planning, ensuring Dad had my killer outfit washed and ironed, come the big night I was confident and ready to go. But as I entered the village hall, wearing my favourite wide leg corduroy trousers, an infamous 'sk8er girl' emblazoned Tammy Girl long sleeve tee, complete with DC trainers. (Can you tell this was the era of Avril Lavigne?), my confidence vanished immediately. I'd missed the mini skirt and lip gloss memo. I was surrounded by my skimpily clad classmates, permeating the room with the smell of Charlie Red and faces full of mum's borrowed makeup scowling at my offbeat disco outfit. Safe to say, I was outta there pretty, prettyyyy swiftly.
We are all so much more than the clothes, but at that moment as a mortified 14-year-old girl, that is precisely all that mattered. Something that made me feel on top of the world as I left the house lead me to feel awful and isolated within hours.
Fast forward 17 years this memory still sits at the forefront of my mind; I let other peoples preconceptions win that night, I allowed a lack of self-confidence get the better of me, and I kicked myself for weeks after. From that moment forward I vowed to harness the 'God-I-look-good' feeling you get as you perform the last minute mirror check before departing the house because I never wanted to enter a room and not feel comfortable in the clothes I'm wearing ever again.
My personal style and how I choose to get dressed in the morning is heavily influenced by men, good pal Oliver Hooson being one of them. Dressing like a guy doesn't necessarily mean a literal translation of your boyfriend's wardrobe. (though that definitely does happen), it also doesn't involve the phrase 'boyfriend jeans', instead, I'm taking everything I can't find in womenswear, from menswear and making it work for me. With subtle styling twists, masculine designs feel classic and clean on me; dressing feels more comfortable and effortless.
Working with Oli and Paul Smith has been a long time coming, this project couldn't have felt more relevant to both of us. Paul Smith introduced his women's line in 1993 after discovering women were buying more men's tailoring to wear for themselves, 23 years later as the demand for gender neutrality in fashion rises; the designer scrapped his womenswear slot at London Fashion week last year in favour of showing both genders side by side in Paris. A move I'm entirely on board with. With this in mind, Oli and I explored gender neutrality and the similarities in our styles with the Autumn/Winter collection.
Sharing Pauls passion for the suit, and styling it for life outside of the office, I instantly picked this traditional tonal grey Puppy Tooth version. This fine-tuned two piece has all the attitudes and fabrics from menswear, with skilful design twists to flatter the female form. Complete with half zip layered underneath and chunky monk strap shoes, I left the house with utmost confidence that day.
*I use these two words together lightly to illustrate my style choices.
Photography & Video by Thomas O'Donoghue