UTTERLY BRITISH FASHION STYLIST HATES FASHION

Interview by James Anderson

Simon Foxton is a wonderful guy. As a veteran of the 80s club scene in London, he was among the very first of a new breed of stylists splashing club and street-based trends across the pages of international fashion glossies. Simon’s sense of humor and dislike of trendy trends has developed into a style that is characterised by “multicultural Englishness”, whatever that is supposed to mean. He has confronted racial barriers still prevalent in fashion, putting black models in traditional tweed suits, for example, or garish red bondage trousers. In the late 90s, a time when everybody else was still obsessed with sportswear, Simon was largely responsible for the return of elegance in men’s clothing. He lives in deepest suburbia with his partner Donald, who just so happens to be a tailor.

Ever since a mutual friend described Simon’s garden shed to me, I’ve desperately wanted to see it with my own eyes. Part studio, part den, part pub; carpeted throughout and painted pale green — it is here that Simon dreams up his fantastic fashion shoots, has occasional meetings with his collaborators, and enjoys an evening drink or two. Only a few people are ever invited to the shed — which is probably just as well, because Simon lives fucking miles away in the thick of outer-London suburbia. I arranged to interview Simon in the shed, as an excuse to get a first-hand look. Unfortunately, that never happened because I got lost on the way to his house and — after two and half hours of searching — had to phone him and feebly admit defeat. It turned out I was about 30 miles away from his house, and in a totally different part of London. Simon just laughed at my poor sense of direction and said we should instead meet in central London the following day. His unfazed reaction to me wasting half his day was generous and refreshing; any lesser talent would have pitched a huge hissy fit. Then again, in a profession as competitive and bitchy as styling, and in an industry as ruthless and harsh as fashion, I have only ever heard people utter nice things about Mr Foxton.

James: So let’s talk about your shed first.
Simon: I bought it about five years ago. I’d got some money from some job or other, so I thought I’d buy something substantial rather than fritter it all away. I ordered a shed, and they delivered it and constructed it on site. It’s fantastic. I wanted somewhere that would be a studio or workshop, like a little den; my own hidey hole that I could escape to. I’m an avid collector of junk, and quite a lot of it goes in there. I spend most weekends at car boot sales, so it’s full of bits and pieces.
Did you go to a car boot sale today?
Yes I did actually, in Uxbridge. I was up at six o’clock this morning for it.
Did you buy anything interesting?
Just a large serving plate and some faded butterflies in frames. My partner Donald didn’t come with me today — normally we go together. Somehow it’s not the same when you’re on your own. You need someone with you to discuss things with.
Does the interior of your house resemble a car boot sale? Is it full of clutter?
No, it’s more orderly than that. It has the slight feel of one of those props houses that lend stuff out for films and television programmes. For instance, I have forty toast racks…and I don’t even like toast. I just like the way they look so I collect them. And I collect Rooster ties, those American, square-ended ones from the 60s and 70s, with nice prints.
Do you work in the shed everyday?
I use it almost every day, especially when I’m laying out pictures or if I’ve got writing to do. I use it mostly for drinking in, actually. I usually go down there with a bottle of wine and a puzzle book.
Sheds seem to have nothing to do with fashion…
I suppose they don’t, no. But, then, I’m not very “to do with” fashion either!
But sheds seem very English, and you seem very English…
I suppose I am very English, yes. I don’t set out to be, but a number of people have brought that to my attention over the years, so I must be. I’m not really sure what that means.
I think it means you are very polite and, perhaps, a bit quaint…
That might be true. I do believe in good manners. Politeness is important to me.
So is the shed like your Fashion Nerve Centre?
It’s where I assemble things like my scrapbooks, and that gives me inspiration. I don’t save magazines, I just tear out the images I like and save those. I amass a lot of little scraps and things.
Where else do you get inspiration from?
Men on the street. Sitting around, having coffee, and just looking at men.
Do you distinguish between looking at them in a purely lusty sort of way, and an “I like his socks” sort of way?
Yes. But it’s really good if the two go together. Like, if the man is sexy and he has something stylistically different or special about him. I saw a very nice looking workman in Soho last week, and he had on about four different colours of green all at once — overalls, a sweatshirt and so on. I assume it was completely not thought-about, and quite accidental. But I thought, “That’s rather nice.” I like colours — they excite me.
What about this long-held belief that gay people are extremely stylish and true fashion leaders?
I think that “gay style” has petrified, almost. It stopped around the late 80s, in the same way that something like Heavy Metal stopped at a certain point. It felt more creative when it was underground — not that I think everything should go back to being closeted or whatever. But I think the myth still persists that we’re all very creative and super stylish and well dressed.
Who are the trendsetters nowadays, then?
For the last three or four decades it has been the streets, and maybe now it’s gone back to the designers again and they’re the ones who are coming up with the goods and setting the trends.
What did you think about being called a “dinge queen” in i-D

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