I became interested in People Tree because I became disillusioned by fashion. The problem is that a lot of women’s media is financed by advertising so they’re not telling the whole story when it comes to fashion. I tend to be very vocal about that. Women’s magazines are not on the side of women in garment factories, they are on the side of the advertiser.
Women in the West are seduced by fashion to very different degrees, but a lot of women are vulnerable, they don’t have the luxury of being self-confident and happy with who they are. People who work in fashion are very, very good at their jobs, so they make it very easy to think, “well I really want that skirt” or “I really wish I looked like that”, because they want you to buy stuff.
I was brainwashed too. I found it very disappointing to find out it’s all nonsense and it is all to do with money. I’m now trying to tell people, actually if you buy this or do this to yourself, it won’t make you happy, it won’t get you a lovely husband: you won’t have a lovely life because of fashion. I think my main mission at the Daily Mail is telling women how in league all these industry people are with each other.
Because I’ve been in love with fashion since I was little, I’ve tried it all! I know the reality of it. I know that if you buy eyelash extensions, they get all criss-crossed and they come off in two weeks. If I hadn’t had a jewelled manicure on my feet, I wouldn’t know that they have to scalpel it off! If you’re not involved in that world, you can’t know what its like.
If I didn’t experience what fashion does to women, I couldn’t write about it! Yes I do try facelifts and botox and fillers, but really it’s to say to women “it doesn’t work, it doesn’t make you happy”. I’ve written many articles about how I am seduced by fashion because it’s a very clever industry, very powerful – the second biggest employer of women in this country.
I’ve been backstage on shoots, seen the airbrushing, and the sellotape, I know what its actually like. When I was editor at Marie Claire, I would meet other editors of women’s magazines, and sometimes it felt like all they are interested in is their freebies and the power. It’s all to do with money. The first Christmas at Marie Claire I got 22 hand bags, I got a Louis Vuitton traveller worth £1700, do you think after receiving something like that you could put anything negative about Louis Vuitton in the magazine? Of course not!
I found out that when you edit a magazine, you don’t get to choose what you put in it, and when you read a magazine you never find anything negative. It’s always glowing isn’t it? And the reason why its always glowing is because the advertisers are so powerful. I remember one major label wrote to me saying, “You haven’t had a cover of anyone wearing our brand, you must have a cover of someone wearing our brand before the end of the year or we are going to reduce our advertising spend”.
As a fashion writer, I used to get very upset when I was thrown out of a Jonathan Saunders fashion show or wasn’t allowed into Victoria Beckham’s, I would cry. In fact I wrote a piece for the Daily Mail confessing that if they had let me into the show, I would have given them a good review. I would’ve been like, “ooh they let me in!” and I’m in the front row. It’s so easy to get caught up in it all and believe in the gifts and the flowers and the limousines and the front rows. It’s better to be on the outside because then you’re more honest about it.
I’ve since discovered quite a few niche brands that do good things, but the problem is that they get to a certain level and can’t get beyond that. I wish that some of the bigger brands would invest more in some of these smaller innovative brands who are working with women’s collectives, supporting women who have been abused for example. It’s also about educating the public so they ask more questions.
Everyone criticises the high street brands but the luxury brands are worse for not caring about the models, or using fur, or provenance… a lot of Italian brands say their products are made in Italy. Shoes for example: they buy the leather from India, where the leather industry is very polluting and there is a lot of illness because of all the chemicals. Clothes too: they’ll just finish the garment in Italy and put on a label in Italy.
We all have problems but really what I found is that you have to take responsibility. What I found with Dolly [a garment worker in Bangladesh that Liz is financing through school] is, rather than women in the West being obsessed with their own rights we need to share our problems with each other. We might think about our right to a year’s maternity leave, our the right to have IVF on the NHS, but we also need to think of the wider rights of women around the world. We need to see ourselves as a family. Not just our own tiny nuclear family, but a family like People Tree.