WWP has chosen to interrupt radio silence (I’ve somehow incurred a real job writing for a real magazine) to lament the death of Louise Wilson, professor of fashion at Central Saint Martins and infamous personality.
I didn’t know her, never met her and had only ever come across her name in a brief mention in Vogue On…Alexander McQueen. But after reading through the obituaries and Emily Sheffield’s brilliant interview with her for Vogue, I’m saddened that I was not more aware of her unashamedly personable character. Her early death at the age of 52 is infinitely more saddening.
A mentor to many of the ‘modern greats’ in fashion (Christopher Kane, Jonathon Saunders and Mary Katrantzou to name but a few), some have accredited her with shaping the UK fashion scene into what it is today. But what also needs to be celebrated, and revived in the wake of her legacy, is her ability to speak her mind – a trait which is horrifically lacking in the fashion industry.
She was first and foremost an academic, which perhaps explains her relatively low-profile and absence at after-show parties. This retreat into scholarship and dedication to her students was both a blessing and a curse to the fashion world: if only she had written a column slating shows she didn’t like, or a book on the real workings of the industry that glossed over the glossy. God knows she would have been the woman for the job.
What struck me the most from Sheffield’s interview was the observation of a postcard on her office wall, which read: “Same shit, different year; we have nothing to say and we’re still saying it.” Has any quote ever summed up the fashion world better than that? It shows she had a wry sense of humour, an acute awareness and a huge understanding of reality beyond the world of fabrics and flashbulbs.
The industry, and the world, is crying out for more people like that. Which makes the fact that she left it too early all the more tragic.