I grew up in an artists’ colony near Barcelona with Salvador DalÍ and the Surrealists, so my dress sense is very coloured by my youth. Everybody knew that DalÍ was the most crazy; you’d go to his house and he would have lobsters in his pool. Anything went, clothes-wise. You could wear whatever you wanted any time of day, so people would wear evening clothes at breakfast time, simple Catalan shoes and hats, lots of brightly coloured hippy kaftans, and a lot of French, tailored outfits.
My weird obsession with armour might have come from the Surrealists. I have been making a metal arm as part of a four-year project. It’s jewellery but more a work of art. It’s made out of silver chain mail with a piece over the hand – perhaps I will wear it to the V&A gala! I’ve been trying to make a pair of robot legs-style leggings for years, so when I saw the gold metal-look trousers by Balen-ciaga I thought they were so extraordinary that I really wanted them. Usually, however, I hate the concept of “must-haves”. Once something is a must-have, I want to put it in the bin. I know that sounds grand and horrid, but I don’t want anyone to tell me I need to have anything. I’m not very good at “It” bags, either. I’ve had the same bag for about five years and I can’t be bothered to get another one. So many bags are really heavy – especially those Chloé Paddington things.
The thing about haute couture, unlike prêt-à-porter clothing, is that you actually have to engage with the process and repeatedly go for fittings. Couture clothes last so much longer because so much work goes into them. Having said that, some of the dresses that will be at the V&A exhibition are so delicate that they have had to be kept at room temperature and carefully restored or preserved.
I still buy couture, but very little and very carefully, because it’s so expensive. The last piece was a small coat-dress from Chanel, which I’ve worn about 50 times already. It was a model and I can’t remember how much it was – it’s funny some of the things that you would think are really expensive are really much cheaper, and then you’ll see the price skyrocket for clothes that are essentially little pieces of fabric stuck together. It’s a very mathematical, artistic, ancient tradition. I would never dispose of anything that I’ve had made, it has my personal stamp on it.
Whose style do I admire? We are all inspired by the people we grew up around, and my mother and my grandmother both dressed extremely elegantly. One of the problems with modern fashion is that people change all the time. There are very few people who keep their look through thick and thin – the Duchess of Windsor did. Years ago women had to make things last and clothes weren’t disposable – they couldn’t just go out and buy another thing.
When you walk about in Paris, you just see a lot of people who are incredibly well-dressed – for example, Loulou de la Falaise dresses beautifully. I think you do have a more fun life if you wear beautiful clothes. There is a certain joy in it; dressing well is an art and it shows respect to be neatly turned out.
I miss darling Izzy(Isabella Blow) so, so much. She had a strong idea of the historical context of clothes, she had a sort of joy as well and enthusiasm, and humour about fashion. You know a lot of people just thought “it’s Izzy in a hat”, but she was more than that. She was highly educated and an incredible perfectionist. She was just an extraordinary human being.
[Timesonline.co.uk, August 22 2007]