Wonderland.

When Mr Woo Met Mrs Jones

With his East London Lecture opening at Shoreditch Town Hall tomorrow, performance legend Jonny Woo talks to Wonderland about his friendship with celebrity stylist Fee “Mrs Jones” Doran.

I found Fee pretty intimidating when I first met her. The truth is, during those early years I wouldn’t say we were close friends, but I always thought she was amazing and she’d always say hi and have a bit of a laugh. This was enough, it was generally all we were capable of at the time.

Let me clarify when this is. It’s 1995 and I was in London after my theatre degree in Birmingham and ended up working in ‘Racing Green’ a ‘casual’ wear shop on Regent Street. I was hardly what you’d call cool. I landed up living in Shoreditch purely by accident, in a flat above the Natwest Bank for £50 a week and spent my time going to the gay club The London Apprentice or the new shiny gay bars in Soho. Pretty soon a good friend of mine took me to this pub called The Bricklayers Arms. It had a vibe, an energy about it and I was immediately hooked. I worked there and ended up resigning from the shop, although I was lucky not to have been sacked, the times I turned up stinking of booze, and immersed myself totally in this new vibrant scene.

Fee was one of the many confident, up-for it people who had been drawn to the area. Loads of people from different club scenes with a big crowd of fashion school graduates so there was a definite fashion vibe although no scene as such. Giles Deacon, Lulu Kennedy, Katie Grand, Alistair Mackie and a good pal JJ aka Dr Noki who rocked a street hip-hop look way before the style mags caught onto it, all drank and drugged and danced here. But the scene was very much a mixture of people who were just into this DIY party lifestyle which was the antitheseis to 90’s slick Tom Ford Gucci-esque. I loved it, but I was really finding my identity in London, a drama kid, finding his way.

Fee stood out as totally doing things her way. 6ft something, part rock goddess, part 80’s power dresser, part punk. This look wasn’t being done in other parts of London. I have always thought that she was the first, or at least one of the first. Esepcially in Shoreditch she embodied everything that the area and that time was all about. But she wasn’t posh, an essex girl, she wasn’t stuck up, she’d be rolling around with the rest of us, leading the way musically and stylistically. I have always thought as the area developed over the years and new people arrived that they would always be quoting the look that Fee kicked off back then. But this is fine. Hers was about appropriating and using loads of styles and making them your own and who wouldn’t want to do that. It was the 90’s, the 70’s had come around and she was already quoting the pencil skirts and sillouhette of the 80’s.

It was years before I saw here again. I think the interview with her for the show was the longest conversation we’d ever had. I was pretty nervous meeting her even then, but we shared a common moment in time, and shared memories so that commonality really connected us. I didn’t do drag back then, I was going into dance so I had a new direction and obviously totally connected to her work as a stylist. I love seeing her now and she comes and Dj’s down The Glory with her mate Laura who she did parties with back then so it’s like it’s come full circle.

All photos be Peter Fingleton. Jonny Woo styled by Fee Doran in items from her personal archive, photographed onsite at Fee Doran’s home.

Words
Jonny Woo
When Mr Woo Met Mrs Jones

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