We spoke to super stylist Katy England about her directorial debut for ‘Made in England’.
WONDERLAND: Hi Katy, so tell us when Vauxhall approached you for this how did you come up with the concept?
KATY ENGLAND: The starting point was the Vauxhall car itself and I immediately thought of a road trip which takes place over a 24 hour period. The brief was to create a film celebrating British style and design and I wanted to capture that through a journey from English countryside to city.
Where I began and where my film begins, is with the driver alone in his car driving through the dead of night. I think this can be such a liberating feeling, listening to your own music, playing it as loud as you want, time away from the rest of the world where nobody can reach you. It’s an empowering feeling.
The driver is the constant in the film and the 4 different scenes he moves through represent different British youth cultures … He is reflective and nostalgic, they each give him different glimpses of his own youth past and how precious and wonderful being young was as it’s so short lived. The film is a celebration of youth and the car a catalyst to see this beautiful ideal.
You cast a group of real people for the project, how did you find them and can you tell me abit about their characters?
For as long as I can remember I have been just as interested in working with real people as I have with models. I began my career at the Mail on Sunday and my editor said ‘Katy here are 3 pages fill them as you wish’ so I cast these amazing cool kids wearing great clothes. There is something intoxicating about working with real characters. Back then 20 years ago I chose those people because they had something to say and today I chose those these kids for all the same reasons. They really informed the film as I wanted to capture real British style and showcase the individuality that really influences that.
The Driver – Louis Elliot: I’ve known Louis for many years as we have mutual friends. His character matched that of my imaginary driver. He’s quite reserved, calm and has a melancholy aura. The age he is (mid ’40’s) worked in my story. It is a significant age as after racing through life with the energy, bravado and ignorance of youth that brings with it such confidence and freedom we question where we are in life and what the future holds. Life’s journey is hard whatever age you are.
Lonely Boy – Tom Erebout: Represents the teenage boy and how it feels if you don’t ‘fit in’. He’s running away from something and quite desperate since he’s planted himself in the middle of the road forcing the car to stop. The driver is compassionate towards him.
Sweet Provincial Girls – Lula Main and Jenny Green: They represent (from a personal point of view) 2 girls going in to the local town for their night out. I wanted to try to capture the excitement they feel breaking away from their parents, even just for a few hours… and feeling ‘grown-up’. Wherever they are going they have such anticipation for a great night ahead. They are fresh, un-jaded and everything is positive and fun.
BMX Boys – Joshua Jennings, Valentine Katz, Max Lester, Tom Moatii: This gang represents the desire when you’re young to belong to something, to a grou[. They have the group strength to gang up on the boy they are chasing but alone they probably wouldn’t do it. Their gang basically gives them individual strength.
Club Kids – Josh Quinton, Angel Rose, Reba Marybury, Molly O’Shea and Kurt Herbst: When I was researching club kids and I stumbled across Angel Rose on Facebook she embodied all that I was looking for, for this section. I asked her to bring her friends to the casting since I wanted the club gang to be united. She bought along her 3 friends. They were all dressed up and looked fantastic, like The New York Dolls. I knew they were perfect! I simply added to their existing style and hopefully bought the best out in them.
There seems to be a big push on street casting projects at the moment, why do you think this is and is this something that appeals to you?
It’s an antidote to the cookie cutter images we’ve been fed over the years. Individuality and differences are what make us unique and beautiful so I am all for street casting in this way, I really enjoy finding new faces and talent that are raw. Street casting also allows us to capture that personality of individuals, I feel British kids are not afraid to assert their individuality. Our street culture allows them to be who they want to be and be free to express that in the way they chose to dress.
How did you find your first directorial role, was it hugely different to your work as a stylist?
This project enabled me to have total autonomy over the final image, which was a really liberating experience. I have worked as a stylist for the past 20 years and when working on editorial, creating the look of the model is the main focus of my role. Although the idea, casting and location etc. are always things stylists like to get involved with, it’s often the photographer who ultimately makes these choices. As a director my remit was much broader and ultimately my opinion and point of view affected every spectrum of the process, from the narrative, the casting, the location choices, styling and film music.
Do you think that this film relates to the images you create as a stylist?
Made in England was inspired by current British youth culture and my styling is very much influenced by British cultures so yes in a way it does relate to the images I create. Shoots usually have a particular theme or concept I am working with and with Made in England I wanted to get under the skin of that British sense of style which I feel youth culture really brings to life and demonstrates. There are a multitude of influences combined to create a current look from punk to the 1950’s rock and roll explosion that have consistently seeped through to our style culture today.
Would this be something you want to do more of in the future?
I really enjoyed the process as it’s a different medium to get a concept across. I would like to do more in film though it really is an all-consuming process and trying to find the time can be a bit tricky but I would love to do more.
Do you think fashion films have a future?
Although I don’t think fashion films could ever replace runway shows I do think they have the ability to communicate a concept and bring to life the personality of a brand through characters. Fashion film is a way to reach a wider audience and can be a great showcase however presentations create a real sense of emotion and presence that can’t be matched.