Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Fashion's Most Wanted - Kim Bowen Interview

Photography by Mick Hurd

Kim Bowen
Stylist and Costume Designer

I've always wanted to interview Kim Bowen and we finally made time to do it.  Kim and I chatted  on our Macs the other night using iChat and I recorded it on my iPhone.  This isn't a plug for Apple but I love the fact we can talk for hours, it costs nothing and it sounds like we're in the same room.  Kim is clever, brilliant, wonderful, inspiring and very funny.


Kim Bowen was born in London.  A fashion student at Central St Martin's College of Art and one of the original Blitz Kids who single-handedly changed the face of London's clubland forever.  Kim became muse to legendary milliner Stephen Jones, Fashion Director at Harpers Bazaar and Blitz magazine, and is now stylist to a spectacular list of stars and a Costume Designer for feature films.

Kim lives in Los Angeles with her two children.

What are you up to now?
I'm in LA at home with my kids and my Au Pair.  It's ninety degrees here at the moment!

How lovely!  It's pissing down here!  Your new film has just come out, tell me about it?
I've just been the costume designer on a film with Kristen Stewart  called Welcome to the Rileys directed by my friend Jake Scott.

Jake and I have been asked to design a line of clothing by a company called Bebe.  It's taking forever and we had lunch today at the Soho House.  On the way back I forced Jake into the Beverly Centre to look at the Bebe shop.  Manny Mashouf who owns Bebe is also one of the main financiers of the film.  I got to know Manny through the lovely and fabulous Barbara Hulanicki who's also a friend.

Kristen Stewart in Welcome to the Rileys

That sounds great!  Kristen Stewart is so hot at the moment
Yes she is.  Jake and I were just talking about how the stupid distributors have SO dropped the ball.  They have only actually pushed the film in art house magazines and they haven't capitalised at all on the fact that all these young girls are nuts about her.  The film is a very serious film, not like the vampire film at all, but the fact is she's a huge star and all those little girls will go and see her in it just because of who she is, and then, by default would get to see a film a lot better than Twilight!

I'll definitely see the film when it comes out here.

Now let's start at the beginning with a quote our friend Christos Tolera gave me

Photography by Neil Williams

"Kim was like royalty at the Blitz.  As a sixteen year-old first catching sight of her, I became quickly enthralled and inspired by how exotic she seemed.  An apparition of life and death personified.

Her weekly entrances into the throng, adorned with Stephen Jones' latest creation, were met with admiration and trepidation.  She had a way of appearing untouchable, unnaproachable and aloof, which couldn't have been further from the truth.

Getting to know her at Warren Street, I found an inspirational, kind, intelligent and wonderful woman.  I was, as you can tell, a little in awe of her for a time, but not for long.  Even at that age, barely out of her teens, I would never have called Kim a girl, she exuded class.  Kim was and still is incredibly funny.

Underneath it all, I think what made her so special was that she made the transition from ordinary into extraordinary seem possible."

Christos Tolera

Photography by Derek Ridgers
Kim and Christos Tolera at the Blitz club, 1980


St Martin's, the Blitz club and Stephen Jones

Photography by David Bailey
Kim Bowen in Stephen Jones, 1979

Let's talk about your background, you went to St Martin's to study fashion.  Is that how you met Stephen Jones?
Yes, Stephen was a few years above me and I was a first year student when I met him.  I had this stupid idea that I would go to St Martin's and find a boyfriend!  I'd already gone through my first great love, Lee Sheldrick, who was a gay fashion student. The only straight male that did fashion in my year was a bank robber and the only other straight male thereafter was Jake Scott and he left as soon as he realised he didn't want to be a fashion designer.  He confided in me that his father (Ridley Scott) was completely nonplussed by his choice to study fashion.

Kim and Lee Sheldrick

That's funny!  You really would hard pressed to find many straight men at St Martin's
Exactly.  I don't know what I was thinking!

When I met Stephen I was wearing this preposterous outfit, I've told you about it before, this huge, huge headscarf thing that was about fifty feet long, that I twined and twined around until it was in this enormous knot like a Brontosaurus!  It had a giant Indian plume on the front of it.  It was so painful, I can't begin to tell you!  I used to have to wedge my finger or a pencil under there to try and loosen it a bit as it hurt so much, the pressure on my forehead was quite desperate - I really thought I might pass out.  Anyway, Stephen was very enamoured by this extraordinary piece of headgear and that's how we became friends.  He came upon me leaning weakly against the wall in the corridors of St Martin's.

Stephen asked me to help him to put together his final year show because seniors will always try and grab one of the first year students to work for them.  It was only in his flat in Lancaster Gate later that night that he realised that I couldn't sew a stitch!  All my clothes that I made for myself were absolutely horrifying on the inside even though they looked immaculate on the outside.  There was this awful, awful moment where Stephen threw his head in his hands and started weeping.  All I could do was make him cups of tea, it was really quite appalling.

Lee Sheldrick, Stephen Jones and Kim

When did Stephen start making hats for you and you became his muse?
He'd done a whole collection because that was how you had to do it then at St Martin's - they weren't going to pass him on a millinery collection.  He'd actually done clothes but he'd also made these incredible hats.  He had a capsule collection of probably six pieces, top-to-toe outfits, and he let me wear all of them, in fact he insisted!  I honestly don't know why he thought I was the one but I was so lucky that he thought I had style and grace and looked good in his hats.  It was so amazing!  He made everything I wore.  I was beyond fortunate.

Kim (centre) modeling for Stephen Jones

Shortly after Stephen graduated his family were trying to get him to work in the family business which he really didn't want to do.  He had to drive trucks and deliver orange juice.  He ended up having to go and live at his mum's house for a bit.  He had to let go of his lovely flat which was rather a tragedy.  Anyway, he used to turn up and pull these unbelievably beautiful hats, just incredible things that he'd made for me, out of the back of his car, it was really overwhelming.  I'd stand there, bathed in the red glow of the tail lights, Stephen tilting his latest creation this way and that, settling it at the right angle.  Fortunate is a woefully inadequate word here.

Around this time a whole bunch of us moved into Warren Street which was our squat and then Stephen moved in there with us.  Shortly after that he started his shop in Covent Garden.

Kim and Stephen Jones

How brilliant!  I love Stephen and I always thought you had the best outfits and the best hats back then
I sure as hell had the best hats!  There's no question about that.

Photography by Nick Knight

"The first thing I noticed about Kim back in 1978 at St Martin's were her black triangular earrings.  They had been made by John Sellers (the genius behind all those Chanel, Vuitton and Alaia textiles).  I sidled up to her in the student bar and summoning up all the courage I could muster, whispered 'I really like your earrings.'  Needless to say we have been firm friends ever since.  For better for worse, for richer for poorer.

Her sense of chic and the absurd was astounding and expressed itself not only in her personal appearance but in the fabulous fashion images that she later edited and her laser sharp writing, which would earn her a considerable reputation.

It was Kim who urged me to open my first shop and persuaded ex-boyfriend Lee Sheldrick to work with me.  It was Kim who did all the things I couldn't, and wore and loved my hats like no-one else.

I trust Kim's design aesthetic totally.  She has great foresight and a sense of frivolity that has guided me throughout the thirty years I've been working.  Even when she's not there in person I imagine what she would say, her enthusiasm and wry sense of humour bounding across the oceans.
Kim, I love you."

Stephen Jones

Photography by Mick Hurd
Kim Bowen, Jeremy Healy and Stephen Jones outside the Warren Street squat

Tell me about the infamous Warren Street squat where you lived?
It was an wonderful place.  We found it when David Holah, Stephen Linard and I sort of burgled it!  I felt like Howard Carter as he called back to Lord Carnarvon as they entered Tutankhamun's tomb, it was a great adventure, sneaking in there in the dark.

Who else lived there?
We had a great collection of people.  OK, let's start at the very top of the house; there was John Maybury and David Holah who were a couple, designer Melissa Caplan, then there was me, the make-up artist Lesley Chilkes, Jane Chilkes, her sister who was a bit round the bend and used to sit there channeling Oscar Wilde (so she believed, we all thought she was totally bonkers), Stephen Jones, Patrick Lilley, who used to drag Nigerian students he'd clawed from LSE home practically night and day.  (Princess) Julia Fodor, Jeremy Healy who was my boyfriend, he was later in Haysi Fantaysee and is a very famous DJ these days.  Lee Sheldrick who became a Tokyo based designer, which is where he died a few years ago, and someone else called Myra - a mad looking person who was around at the time.  Then there was this really practical guy called Wilf Rogers, who could fix anything, food, wiring and needy men or women, all simultaneously.

Photography by Derek Ridgers
Wilf Rogers and Jeremy Healy outside the Blitz, 1980

Kim and Melissa Caplan

Photography by Derek Ridgers
Stephen Linard

Didn't Wilf go out with (Boy) George?
He had a fling with George.  But then like I said Wilf had a fling with everyone, men and women, all were welcome!

Wilf Rogers and Boy George at the Blitz

George and Jeremy Healy at the Blitz

Photography by Derek Ridgers
Melissa Caplan and Myra, Blitz, 1980

Princess Julia and John Maybury

Photography by Derek Ridgers
Lesley Chilkes, Blitz, 1980

There was also this guy called Barry who was really sweet who was a drug dealer.  The house was divided into two sides; there was the Warren Street side and the Euston Road side.  All the druggy ones lived on that side and all of the fashiony ones lived on our side.  While the going was good it was great.  It was a wonderful, wonderful time and that house became notoriously fashionable; we'd have these really incredible parties, that giant house rammed with people, it was fantastic.

Photography by Derek Ridgers

"We took the tube to Warren Street to check out a four-storey house we'd been talking about in Great Titchfield Street, deliberately passing by the fashion squat.  Someone shouted from the window and I spun round.  It was Kim Bowen, smiling!  "Fancy a cuppa?"  I was half expecting to be drowned.  She threw down the key and we let ourselves in.  We sat in the kitchen chatting and drinking tea like a true pair of creeps.  I was surprised how nice and common Kim was, just like us.

Even in the daylight she was glamorous.  Her flame hair spun on top of her head, bare feet and a silky white shift dress that clung to her nipples.

Like all students she existed on a shoestring, but that didn't stop her.  Her room was like a Grecian boudoir.  White from floor to ceiling with ruched draping and gold cherubs everywhere.

Her voice was as polished as her toenails.  All the Warren Street lot had this put-on voice, stretching their vowels like Kenneth Williams.  Kim's motives were soon revealed, she was after my friend Jeremy.  I told her "He'll have sex with anyone."

Boy George  

George and Kim

Velvet hat by Stephen Jones

Photography by Derek Ridgers
George, Kim, Princess Julia and Lee Sheldrick at the Blitz

Warren Street sounds brilliant, I've heard lots of stories from friends, sadly I was slightly too young
Our house was a sort of hang.  All our good friends spent such a lot of time there - George O'Dowd, Andy Polaris, Fiona Dealy, Dylan Jones, Chris Sullivan, Christos Tolera, Bob Elms.  At the time there were quite a lot of empty houses in that area, so we'd help each other find houses to squat in.

Warren Street was a really elitist place to live.  We honestly thought we were so important and special.  I remember there was a McDonald's opening on the corner of Warren Street and Tottenham Court Road and we wrote them a letter asking them if they would like us to come and officially open the restaurant for them!  I mean come on!  There was obviously a great degree of irony.  Everyone was at St Martin's or the Royal College of Art so we were very sort of arch, but we were also quite serious about it!

Lee Sheldrick

Stephen Jones

You know what? It was about that house, because none of us came from very grand backgrounds - My family were very working class but I grew up with the benefit of spending an awful lot of time in Ireland so I was exposed to a different kind of beauty - Warren Street just seemed like this wonderful, giant old house and we had so much space for the first time in our lives and we were living right in the middle of the West End.  We festooned it with great bolts of fabric that we would find all around that area north of Oxford Street where all the clothing businesses are.  We would drag stuff in from off the street and we made it look kind of fabulous.  It had a sort of decaying grandeur.  We thought it was the most amazing place.

Luciana Martinez, Kim Bowen, Princess Julia, Anna Piaggi and Stephen Jones

It sounds it, and what a great crowd of people in one place!
We were all such party animals, we'd go mad.  We were all living in a house with all our best friends and everyone was so interesting and fun.  We all learnt so much about how we were later going to earn a living.

John Maybury used to make these brilliant films and we'd all participate and do stuff.  David Holah started Bodymap there.  We began by making these things that were called cowls.  I have to say, David and I would argue about it all day long but I had the drawing in my sketchbook first.  That was how Bodymap was born with him and Stevie Stewart.  We were all very resourceful and impatient to get out there and be creative people.

It sounds really pompous to say it, but our lives in a way were art projects.

David Holah and Stevie Stewart

We were constantly being photographed for magazines from all over the world - I expect it was rather useful for the photographers that so many oddly elegant types lived under one roof.  I hated being photographed, because I thought I was ugly.  I was a horrible pain in the arse to anyone who was kind enough to want to photograph me, always fidgeting and pouting; I talked with Derek Ridgers about this only recently, and he agreed.

Photography by Derek Ridgers
Barry and Princess Julia at the Blitz, 1980

"Kim has the most amazing kind of whirlwind energy and enthusiasm which is absolutely infectious.  Back in the days of the Warren Street squat I remember her being able to whip up a 'look' in a matter of moments.  She'd walk into a room and all heads would turn.  Part of it would be her style, the other part was her personality and humour.

Kim's stories were notorious, she'd end up in the most outrageous situations and then relay the tales over boozy evenings in the local pub.  We'd all crack up and make her tell us again and again."

Princess Julia

Portrait by Luciana Martinez de la Rosa
Eau De Lisque

Portrait by Luciana Martinez de la Rosa
Kim's portrait above and a portrait of Princess Julia below

The inspiration - La Grande Odalisque by Ingres

One day Vivienne Westwood called me out of nowhere and asked me if I would be her PR!  That is a testament to how adventurous and brilliant Vivienne is, that she would ask a totally inexperienced fashion student to perform such a service.  I remember I walking on air, it was the best day of my life.  Then she called me the next day and said "Look Kim, I'm really sorry but Lynne Franks has offered to do it for nothing and I'd be stupid if I didn't say yes."  I couldn't argue with her, but I'd been really excited about the prospect of that.

How fabulous to be asked.  And you know you would have done an amazing job
Of course.  But Lynne really helped her a lot internationally which was what she needed at the time.

Photography by Sheila Rock
Blitz club

So the Blitz started at the same time you all lived at Warren Street in 1979/80?
Yes it was really happening then, we all went there because it was the thing to do.  Personally, I have to say I never really liked it for a variety of reasons.  I hated the music (sorry Rusty but I did, I thought it was crap).  I thought the way that people danced was ludicrous.  I preferred soul music and reggae.

George, Vivienne Lynn, Chris Sullivan, Pinkie Tessa, Kim and Steve Strange at the Blitz

Stephen Jones at the Blitz

Tbc, Melissa Caplan, Kim and Bob Elms at the Blitz, 1980

Marilyn, Princess Julia and George, Blitz, 1979

Photography by Homer Sykes
Kim, Princess Julia, Jeremy Healy and Jeffrey Hinton at the Blitz, 1980

Recently, I became friends again via Facebook with Graham Smith and the other night I was out with Dylan Jones, both of them were briefly boyfriends, both lovely, attractive guys, both of whom I was horrible to because I was such a horrible cow then.  They both said I was a complete bitch, and I was.  I was a self conscious and unhappy creature in a lot of ways.

I remember at the time the Blitz was going on they both said they thought I was above them and I was way too stuck up.  I guess the general idea was I was considered to be "attractive but untouchably out of their league," which is how Graham put it!  [Laughing].  It's really terrible because I didn't feel like that at all, I just felt so alone and I thought "What's the point of going out because no one wants to talk to me anyway."

Photography by Derek Ridgers
Kim, Soho, 1980

I think at that age the impression you think you're giving off isn't how people are perceiving you at all, is it?
Not at all!  I love fashion and I love dressing up, and you do too.  You know that a big part of it is like a real bird of paradise display, obscuring the fact that you're just the same as everybody else.  Everything we do, the books we read, the lives we lead, they individualise us and fashion is just a very quick way of sending off very rapid signals very fast.  I desperately needed all that disguise because I had no confidence at all.  As I said, I believed myself to be very ugly so that's what a lot of that make-up was about.

Isn't it a shame! because you were fabulous.  You still are, but you probably have the confidence now
I do, but it was a long time coming.  I always remember an aunt saying to me "Youth is wasted on the young" and I had no idea what it meant at the time, of course I know now.

Photography by Derek Ridgers
Kim outside the Blitz


Kim Bowen interviewed for Over 21 Magazine, 1980

Kim Bowen went to the Paris pret-a-porter collections last year with some other fashion students from St. Martins and became the talk of the town.  The market people outside their hotel went wild for her.

At the Claude Montana show the world's photographer's lined up and took pictures of her.  Italian Vogue snapped her at the latest boite, Le Bains-Douches and when she walked in to the usually implacably elegant Café de Flore "It was really exciting.  Everyone just stood up and roared and clapped.  It was real queen for a day material.  It was bliss."  It was her hat - a gold lamé fez, made for her by a bright young designer called Stephen Jones, with a gold asp coiling down around her face.  "Everything I do is because of Stephen's hats.  We met at college and he decided I was going to be his mannequin de vie"  You can see why - she has every ounce of the considerable aplomb it takes to carry off such extravagant millinery.

"With some of the hats you have to have your hair in a very complex style, which can take ages to do, and some of them are a nightmare to wear.  Real pressure on the head.  But I love it.  One of my ideas about designing clothes was to make everything uncomfortable so that you're always aware of what you're wearing.  I suppose I'm a real woman - I want to be trussed up."

Kim is twenty one.  She comes from Basingstoke.  "I was really ugly when I was thirteen years old with spots and thin legs.  I weighed six and a half stone and had steel glasses.  I was really dreadful.  My mother would never buy me mad clothes so I went to jumble sales and bought things.  I got sent home from school for wearing hats`.  They hated it.  And I wore very red lipstick, Mandarin Red by Rimmel.  They were always taking me to the headmistresses office and telling me to take it off.  But I wouldn't."

"I really don't have day clothes and evening clothes.  I wear everything at whatever time.  I have a fave rave which I wear for two weeks solid, then I throw it away and wear something else."

Kim lives off the Tottenham Court Road with about ten other people and they are always the best dressed at the Blitz, St Moritz and other places for avant-garde young Londoners. "It's really incestuous with clothes in this house - everyone just rushes in a borrows everyone elses things"

Their squat is pretty squalid but Kim's room is almost Japanese in it's sparse formality.  Beautifully arranged flowers, music from Radio Three, John Donne poems by the single bed, a clothes rail and the hats lined up on a shelf.

Her future plans include making an EP with an all girl-group called The Love Handles.  "I'm such a vile poseur," she says in an endearing mixture of seriousness and camp, "I expect I'll have my comeuppance one day."

By Miles Chapman for Over 21 Magazine, 1980


You appeared in quite a lot of films your friends were making then didn't you?
Yes, I went to college with Virginia Hodge who is one of my closest friends, we went to St Martin's together, she now has a very influential textile company that does things for Alaia and Louis Vuitton.  One of her best friends who also became one of my best friends is the documentary director Molly Dineen.

Yes I know her, she's amazing.
I love Molly.  She used to scoot round on her moped and come and see us.  We made some mad films with her up and down the tunnels at Heathrow and at the airport with David Claridge with me dressed as Elizabeth I.  We'd rented all these mad clothes.  I had risen very early and transformed myself into Elizabeth I, ready to do some filming.

Kim and Stephen Linard backstage at Jasper Conran and John Galliano's costume ball

Jake Dodds and Stephen Jones

Luciana Martinez and Stephen Jones as the ghost of Diana Vreeland

I remember David had to go off and do something so we had to film the rest later.  While I was waiting I decided to go shopping in Oxford Street with (Boy) George still dressed as Elizabeth I.  In a way that afternoon perfectly embodied the whole 'New Romantic' experience.  I looked absolutely bizarre but perfectly presented.  There I was striding about, daring people to look at me in any way other than if I was in a twinset and pearls.   People would look at me wondering what the hell was going on and I would give them the most withering looks.  George would say the rudest things to people, he was so brilliant.  He would start berating fat secretaries saying "Look at you, look at your horrible American tan tights!  You suburban bitch!  How dare you look at my friend."  It was hilarious at the time.

Photography by Derek Ridgers

"A lot of the way we looked was escapism, but for me it wasn't just dressing up for the night.  By day I was now working in PX and these were my work clothes.  We all loved the attention.

Kim Bowen used to work behind the checkout desk at Virgin Megastore in Oxford Street while she was living in the Warren Street squat.  One day she turned up for work dressed as Queen Elizabeth I in full, flowing robes.  She strutted around the shop and enjoyed the looks that she was getting so much that she continued to walk up and down Tottenham Court Road just for the fun of it."

Steve Strange

Steve Strange said that you went to work at the Virgin Megastore dressed as Elizabeth I
I don't think I actually went to work dressed as Elizabeth but I certainly used to go very dressed up.  Unless something's an out and out ridiculous evening dress I would always wear my best clothes every day.  I don't buy beautiful clothes to sit in my cupboard and I'm no different now.  I would wear whatever I went out in the night before and if it was some fabulous thing I would wear it again.

Photography by Derek Ridgers
Kim at Club For Heroes, 1981

Photography by Derek Ridgers
Kim at White Trash, 1981

What made you leave Warren Street?
We'd all been living at Warren Street for a while when a girl called Mitsou died of a heroin overdose.  It was a terrible, terrible moment.  Mitsou was the girl that Iggy Pop apparently wrote China Girl about.  She was really beautiful with jet black hair, a stunning looking girl who had tons and tons of money and used to wear the most amazing Mugler creations.  Mitsou was hanging with all the druggy people on the other side of the house and one night she overdosed and died.  After that, it was over for me.  I remember walking back through the house after all the emergency services had been and thinking "I don't want to die in this house."  It was a really big turning point.

Photography by Mick Hurd
Kim and Jeremy Healy

My boyfriend at the time was Jeremy Healy who had this unbelievable gothic splendour.  I thought he was the best thing on earth.  We were very in love, and very young.  After Mitsou died we all moved and got council flats which were revolting but it was a useful thing to do because my flat was like rocket fuel for me.  It was something that I never ever wanted to see the likes of again once I'd left it.

Jeremy and I broke up a while after that.  I'd met Kate Garner (who went on to form Haysi with Jeremy Healy).  I will have it known here that for the record, that between us we worked out how to make the fake dreadlocks which I stitched into their hair.  Kate was a photographer and the other member of Haysi Paul Caplin was in a band called Animal Magnet.

Haysi Fantayzee - Kate Garner, Jeremy Healy and Paul Caplin

Jeremy Healy and Kate Garner

Animal Magnet had this really cretinous Australian drummer who I went to Australia with.  That was how I could get away.  He was my boyfriend for a short while, and at the time it seemed rather sensible to go and live in Sydney, none of my friends thought it was a good idea.  I remember Julia Fodor thought I'd lost my mind.  It turned out to be the best thing I could have done with my life as I was suddenly thrown into a new place where I didn't know anyone.

On her career

In Australia I started working with this really great English photographer called Stevie Hughes, who's now dead, he died of AIDS sadly.  He'd been a very successful make-up artist and then a photographer.  He used to shoot for Harpers Bazaar all the time and he got me the job as Fashion Director.  He basically said to them "If you don't give her the job, I'm not shooting for you anymore!"  I was so fortunate to have my dream job in my early twenties.

Photography by Stevie Hughes
Yasmin Le Bon

Stevie was fabulous to me.  He was this really dramatic queen.  He'd won Andrew Logan's Miss World a few years prior to that, he was Miss Linda Kerridge.

I'd also been a make-up artist for about five minutes.  I was OK at it,  I did quite well but I hated it and more than that I hated watching stylists do a bad job.  It was all to do with confidence and anxiety, I wanted to be a stylist but I thought I couldn't do it, it was ridiculous.  Stevie Hughes quickly kicked me around Sydney and made me realise who I was, so he was massively instrumental in that.  I worked at Harpers Bazaar for a while but the Editor that I loved and that had employed me got sacked, so I stuck it for about another month after her dismissal but couldn't take it anymore so I left.

Then I worked for a magazine called [adopts Australian accent] Dolly.  Dolly was a young fashion magazine but  it was still quite creative and a lot of fun.  After that I decided to come back to England because there was a job going at Harpers & Queen and I wanted to see if I could secure it.

Photography by Fergus Greer
Leigh Bowery

How was it coming back?
It was the time when Leigh Bowery was just emerging and becoming well known and his club night Taboo had just started.  When I got back to London it was absolutely horrible because every single person I knew - with the exception of Kate Garner and Paul Caplin - was taking heroin.

Leigh Bowery and George

George and Leigh Bowery at Taboo

Taboo club by i-D magazine.  Leigh Bowery, front, Trojan, second from right

Of course, they all were then
It was really distressing for me.  I was in shock.  I mean George O'Dowd?!  I couldn't believe it because when we were kids hanging out we were disgusted by people who took heroin.  But there it was.  Everyone I knew was doing it and it was dreadful.

Photography by David Gwinnutt
Trojan and Leigh Bowery

It was a very strange period.  Then a while later Trojan died, then John Maybury nearly died.  All those people around George died.  I didn't get the job at Harper's and the next thing I knew I was being enticed back to Australia again.

During that time I met Pat McGrath (now make-up artist for Dior and named by Vogue as the most influential make-up artist in the world) at the Wag Club.  I remember her as this cute girl with rags tied in her hair wearing a pair of frilly knickers.  She was so cute and fabulous looking!  It's funny to think of Pat like that as she's always so covered up these days, but she was a real sex pot.  Like a baby Naomi Campbell, very hot and sexy.  We became friends then and what an incredible career she's had!  I'm so proud of her.

Photography by Rene Habermacher
From LOVE magazine's favourite fashion legends
Pat McGrath

Yes, amazing!  I read that Pat credits you with starting her career as a make-up artist, have you seen that?
She's very generous, Pat.  Whenever she's interviewed about her great ascent she always cites our initial meeting.  I've always been like that with anyone I meet because there's no secret.  If you want to do it, it's all about a little bit of confidence and some contacts.  And obviously some talent, which Pat definitely has.

I thought I wanted to go to back to Australia and I was being enticed with a very serious job offer on a glossy magazine which was great.  I think had I been older I would have gone for it but at that time I couldn't stand the fact that Australia was running six months behind everything else and it drove me mad, so I didn't go.  I had a great time in Australia, it's such a wonderful place, I loved it, despite being with the cretinous drummer.  I was bent double laughing most of the time as Australians are some of the funniest people on earth.

Jeremy Healy and Kate Garner

So you stayed in London?
Yes I stayed with Kate (Garner) for six months then I started doing freelance styling.  I was really, really, nervous when I first started going on Go-Sees because I'd done all this work in Australia I thought my book might be seen as really suburban.  I remember the feedback was just brilliant.  I know I'm good at what I do but I didn't really realise it then.  Every reaction I had was incredibly positive, people were like "Wow!  This is amazing!  This is a whole different interpretation, it's really fresh."  I guess I was just trundling on alone in the Antipodes and I'd managed to express something beautifully.  I had a really enjoyable career straight away, I never went hungry.

Yes you have really good eye naturally, I don't think you would have dressed the way you did if you hadn't.  What happened next?
[Laughs]  After that I got a job at Blitz magazine and I stayed there for a few years.  That was really fun, I absolutely loved it; that was where I first started writing.  Later I was Fashion Editor of the Sunday Correspondent.

Jasper  Conran

I loved your writing at Blitz.  I want to post your coverage of Fashion Week as it's so funny and honest.  I'll post an excerpt for now
I was talking about this with someone the other day.  Obviously times have changed drastically, but when I was writing like that for Blitz I really, really wanted to convey the bitchy brilliance of the fashion world, which no other form of fashion journalism at that time did.  Every single criticism was done by omission.  I thought that was so absurd and I hated it.  I loved the fashion business because it was so funny and crazy and I wanted to communicate that.  It backfired on me in the end.  I had this real cult following at Blitz magazine and people really liked what I did because I spoke the truth and it was vicious and funny and evil.


Fashion's a disease but what's the cure?
An excerpt from British Fashion Week coverage
by Kim Bowen for Blitz magazine, 1990

Rifat Ozbek

With dazzling flair Rifat Ozbek opened British Fashion Week with a modern, economical collection, entirely in white, dedicated to the late Ray Petri and shown in the Westway Studios, which were equipped with security staff courtesy of the Guardian Angels.  Neneh Cherry (accompanied by both children), Liza Minelli, John Taylor, Manolo and Evangeline Blahnik sat comfortably while others squabbled, notably a clutch of Italian fashion editors whose seats had been occupied by a group of imposters.  Surrounded by a cloud of sweet perfume, the Italians raucously shrieked and hissed while the imposters - friends of Rifat's, as it turned out - more or less ignored them. 

Right from the splendid opening, with Naomi Campbell as Space Nurse extraordinaire in a forbidding white tunic, the audience was treated to possibly the only British collection with a clear idea of what it was on about.  Thickly made-up terracotta-faced models glided up and down, causing one watcher to comment that they looked "as if they belonged in Birmingham Ice rink."  Apart from that, everyone was enchanted.  Jackets sparkled with new age slogans - NIRVANA, SUPERNATURE, ZEN - spelled out in embroidery and studs or in blinding mirror letters.  The accessories were luxurious but functional - glimmering body belts swinging with tassels, a sparkling rucksack, a pair of trainers covered in rhinestones.  The most amusing and undoubtedly the cheapest accessories were the flattering clear perspex spectacles which bore a glistening 'third eye' in the centre. Terry Doktor, New York buyer, called it "Krishna Couture".  Rifat's good friend, photographer Stevie Hughes, assures me that the mens' collection was specifically designed for him and Rifat to wear to discos. The rest of you can just make the best of it.

The dazed crowd who ambled out from the Ozbek show into the biting air were practically flattened beneath the hooves of the gaggle of enormous drag queens hurtling off to star in the Bodymap show, which took place in the wretched Duke of York Barracks.  Andy Bell of Erasure and various members of Duran Duran were present for Bodymap and free miniature bottles of vodka were dispensed, presumably to keep the gaze blurred and the breath fresh for all those hideous fashion kisses that lie ahead.

Stevie Stewart and David Holah of Bodymap

Fresh-faced voguer Billy Beyond opened the show with a sinuous rendition of 'Cabaret'.  This was Stevie and David's first show for a year or so, and the usual gang of friends raced about.  One poor girl modelling a shawl skirt slung loosely around her hips was unfortunate enough to tread on the hem, thus removing it.  She ended up stalking the catwalk without realizing she was baring a thick swirl of pubic hair squashed beneath a pair of beige tights.  Now I know why men hate pantyhose.

Barry and Nick Kamen were rather enticing in tight training pants, always terribly flattering with an in-built groinal cod lifter.  For men who are certifiably mad and exceptionally beautiful, there was also a pair of tiny knickers equipped with one leg and a sarong.  The finale was up to Bodymap's usual standard, featuring all the regulars from the Kinky Gerlinky drag club, including Stevie Hughes (the most convincing girl of all and one-time winner of Andrew Logan's Alternative Miss World), Stephen Linard as Theda Bara, Baillie Walsh (Babs) as a terrifying wasp-waisted giantess, the ravishingly slinky John Maybury and Eric and David Holah.

Backstage directly afterwards, the hairy arms elbow-deep in tubs of Nivea were the only way of sorting out the boys from the girls. Most curious sight was a bucketful of wobbling fake tits.

By Kim Bowen for Blitz Magazine, January 1990


John Galliano

You always knew what you were talking about and your criticism was constructive and funny
Yes that's true.  I did know what I was talking about for sure.  I'd been thinking about moving to Los Angeles.  I'd been travelling and doing freelance jobs and realised that Los Angeles might be somewhere I'd like to live.  It sort of reminded me of Sydney geographically.  I loved the feel of it, the geography and the openness and the warmth.

You attracted the attention of the broadsheets with your writing
Yes, Louise Chunn asked me to cover the London collections for the Guardian.  I just wrote it in my normal style.  My heart still really longed to go somewhere with that kind of journalism, it really entertained me and I was really happy to be writing in my own acidic way for a proper newspaper again.  The day it was published she called me and said "Kim, there's a lot of flack coming in about this piece so get ready because you're going to have to fight back."

About a week before I wrote the Guardian piece I was in Lynne Franks office.  Lynne was in a frenzy saying "YOU are just the BEST fashion journalist there is on the planet!  You tell it like it is, it's funny, it's entertaining, it's brilliant!"  She was  really lovely to me, she'd always very been supportive and encouraging.  Then she said "I'm going to phone Liz Tilberis (ex Editor of British Vogue and Harpers Bazaar).  You need to go and see her NOW!  She needs to recognise that you're the voice of the future."  I got very shy and English and told her not to call.

When the Guardian piece came out Lynne told me there were all  these problems over what I'd written.  There were two things that had caused all the trouble - the first was that one of the designers I was obliged to cover was Arabella Pollen.  I had to go to that show, which was not my flavour at all, and I didn't like it.  So I said that I didn't understand why this person is a designer and it must be that she had friends in high places because what she does is rubbish.  That was pretty much the gist of it.

I feel like that about a lot of designers so I totally agree with you.  Some of them are just bloody dull
Yes, it's awful!  The second thing was that I'd also had a go at Sir Ralph Halpern who at that time was Chairman of the British Fashion Council. In the year prior to that he'd been involved in this big sex scandal.  In the front row of every show I attended there he was with his wife and daughter.  So I had a go at "Bonking Sir Ralph" saying "What?  Is he running for senate?  Why is he there with his family presenting a unified front?  We don't need it at a fashion show!  There's far more valid people that could be sitting in those seats."

Both Arabella and Ralph were Lynne's clients, Arabella Pollen was Liz Tilberis's friend.  The fall-out was incredible!  The most vicious letters were sent into the paper and I was accused of gutter journalism!  Gutter journalism to me implies that somebody is paid to write bad, or perhaps salutory pieces.  Whatever they thought, it was a horrible thing and a nasty experience to go through.

After that I proceeded with my plans to go and live in America.  I remember the night before I left London I was having dinner at 192 in Notting Hill and I saw Lynne across the restaurant having dinner with Janet Street-Porter and Ruby Wax.   She got up to say hello to me.  I always liked Lynne and I said to her "I guess I should thank you because I'm about to go off and have a whole new life."  You see Lynne was one of the people who'd written a really acidic and filthy letter to the Guardian, but I understand, and I'm a grown up - she had to look after herself and keep her clients happy.  I think what really upset me, because I'm a very straightforward person, was that during that month or six week period it took me to get going and pack my bags, I remember bumping into Lynne a couple of times and she was so freaked out by the whole thing she could barely be civil.

Oh!  It annoys me when people can't be constant with you
Well she and I had always got on very well so it's a shame, but she had to protect her business.

What happened when you got to America?
I got plenty of work but it was awful because for the first year I didn't like the jobs I was doing.  I did lots of crap for magazines like Vogue and Vanity Fair, mostly shooting stupid, moronic celebrities [Both laughing].

Someone once said of Hollywood "Isn't that the place where people from Idaho mistake one another for movie stars?"  I think you can actually add something to that and say "Isn't that the place where publicists from Idaho mistake each other for movie stars?"  That's about the most soul destroying thing in the world if you're a talented stylist to deal with people whose lives are run by these manipulative, vile publicists.  I couldn't bear it.  Some of the actors and actresses were alright, it was just the publicists!

I spent the first year working with a pig of a man called Wayne Mazer.  He was an awful, awful man and it was miserable.  I kept thinking I've got quite good instincts and I've messed this up, I shouldn't have moved to LA, I should have moved to New York.  I like New York but I didn't want to live there, it's never appealed to me.  I spent some time there and there were lots of English fashion editors that had all secured decent jobs, so I thought maybe I could fish around and see if I could get one.

Jake Scott

It didn't happen in the end, I went on a job to New York and then came back to LA and immediately started working with Jake Scott.  It was such fun to work with him and that's when I started doing commercials.

Photography by Michael Evanet
Tony Kaye

I also worked a lot with another English director called Tony Kaye who was just completely brilliant and round the bend.  He was mad and fabulous and I loved him.

Then life just fell into place and I totally understood what I wanted to do.  Subconsciously I'd been trying to get away from the fashion business because I wanted more of a normal life and I really loved working in film.  I was very happy and settled in LA.  I'd found my métier at last, so to speak.

Here's a link to a perfume ad that I did with Tony Kaye, it's old but it's beautiful

That's great that you found what you really wanted to do
I've been very fortunate  I've been doing television commercials and high end music videos for years now.

Tell me about some of your clients
I've worked with Janet Jackson for a long time.  I could argue with Janet all day long about how I think she ought to look, but the bottom line is that she's always voted in the top ten sexiest women in America, so she knows what she's doing, and it works.  She doesn't need anyone to tell her how to be anything other than what she is.  She's an amazing person and a superb human being.  I love her.

"Kim Bowen - Her talent is endless; she can do anything.  Kim's creativity exemplifies innovation.  She possesses a cutting-edge vision, blending couture with the 'street' whilst always looking to what will become the next direction in fashion"

Janet Jackson

George Michael

I've worked with Pink a lot.  She's very, very funny and individual and crazy.

George Michael I love.  He is literally the nicest person that ever lived on the planet.  He's just lovely.  He's a very genuine, brilliant person and I adore him.

Ahhh!  OK, who else?
Right I'll start with old actors - Faye Dunaway, Ann Margret - that woman is exquisite, an amazingly nice person, Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson - I liked Mel Gibson he was such fun to work with, the Rolling Stones - they were interesting and really great guys, the Smashing Pumpkins, Marilyn Manson, Eminem, Kylie Minogue, INXS, Jennifer Lopez, Lauryn Hill, En Vogue, Pharrell, Prince, Usher, Aerosmith, Marilyn Manson, that's off the top of my head.

Photography by Helmut Newton
Michael Hutchence, Hollywood, 1993

INXS were great.  I did a fabulous shoot with them and Helmut Newton.  I was great friends with Michael Hutchence, he was a lovely, lovely person, it was such a terrible shame that whole thing.

On men

Michael Hutchence

Talking of Michael Hutchence, I ended up having my 21st birthday with him as we're born on the same day
Oh wow!  Did you go to bed with him?

I didn't, but we chatted for a while and I thought he was really hot.  We were in a private room at a club and everyone was taking too many drugs to be thinking about actually having sex with anyone!
He was so sexy wasn't he?  You know the interesting thing about Michael was that he never thought he was good looking.  When I was with him in the Chateau Marmont doing that shoot with Helmut Newton, we were in the garden getting ready and having some tea and the waitress walked past and pressed her phone number into Michael's hand.  As she walked off I said "Michael don't you ever get sick of this?" and he said "Sick of what?"  I said "Fucking strangers?" he answered, laughing, "No.  You must be kidding!  I fucking love it!"

Michael Hutchence

He had so much charisma and he was gorgeous
Women just went nuts for him!  Every single person I knew had slept with Michael.  I knew him from when I lived in Sydney, I was really good friends with him and he was a wonderful person.

Did you never sleep with him?
No I didn't, because his girlfriend at the time was one of my best friends and that's not my style.  Although all her other best friends did!  ALL of them!!  It was pretty rough.

What's that line?  Never shag your mates boyfriends or your boyfriends mates.  Always a good one to remember!
Yes it is!

It was so incestous in the Blitz days with all those boys!
Oh God!  Yes!

Photography by Neil Williams
Christos Tolera

Christos Tolera used to sleep on my bedroom floor at Warren Street.  He was this handsome creature that everyone fancied.  It was like something out of a zombie film, literally!  All the gay men in the house would be standing outside my bedroom door, slowly shuffling from foot to foot and breathing heavily, trying to get their hands on Christos!  I thought Christos was the most gorgeous person in the world and I felt it was my God given duty to protect him from any sexual advances, including my own!  He was very innocent when he was under my care!

Christos Tolera, Philip Sallon and George

Oh bless him!
Seriously, he was in severe danger.  I hate to think what would have happened if George O'Dowd had actually got his hands on him, if he'd ever got the chance!

Everyone loves Christos
Yes, he was a beautiful man.  He's a beautiful man still, but God!  When he was nineteen!!  He was so absurdly good looking.  He was like the best looking person I'd ever seen in my life - he just gleamed.

We'll have to get a hacksaw to get his head out of the door when he reads this!
Oh he knows.  I've told him before.  He's a great beauty.

Photography by Derek Ridgers
Christos Tolera, Soho, 1980

He is.  I saw him last night he told me to tell you he loves you
He's such a fabulous person.  I love him too.

Robert De Niro

Have you ever had a crush on anyone famous?
Robert De Niro in Heat was sexy.  Robert De Niro in anything really.

Al Pacino in The Godfather - what a sexy bastard he was!  Steve McQueen, Jesus!  but I can't have a crush on him because it would be awful to be married to him.  Paul Newman was stunningly beautiful, and someone who's not quite so beautiful but I always had the biggest crush on is Donald Sutherland.

Ah!  You know who's my biggest crush ever, and if I hadn't met the lovely Michael Ray, and of course if he was available - Dustin Hoffman.

Dustin Hoffman

You're the right height for him!  I look like a giant next to him, he used to live next door to a good friend of mine
I've worked with him, Dustin is the funniest, most generous, brilliant guy.  I love him and his wife, and they seem to have such a happy marriage.

I have to say I'd probably fancy someone like Steve Jobs or Richard Branson rather than a movie star.  I know you go out with an actor but I could never do it.  I couldn't take it, it would do my head in.  Maybe strike the actors!  I do love Michael Caine, though!!

I did once exchange some longing looks with Sean Penn in a restaurant.  He was so sexy I nearly hyperventilated and passed out!  Oh My God!  That man is SO ridiculously sexy in real life!  In the flesh he is beyond sexy.  He's an impressive man and his work in Haiti and everything.  But, he's a bit dysfunctional and crazy, not very good relationship material.

Sean Penn

What qualities do you look for in a man?
In no order of importance.  Highly intelligent.  A great sense of humour.  Filthy in bed.

That's all you need,  isn't it?
[Laughing]  Yes, pretty much!.  OK a few more... They can't be right wing, that's a passion killer for me.  Sane.  Well travelled.  They must be able to pay for their own dinner.  I suppose if someone's really drastically inelegant that would be a problem but most men are happy to be tweaked.

Regardless of what I look for in a man, or think I look for, I would have to agree with Cher's dire statement.

"What I know about men
you could write across the top of a dressmaker's pin
and still have room"

(b. 1946)

Who are you going out with now?
I'm very lucky to be dating this incredibly sexy, fabulous man called Michael Ray who lives in a place called Laguna Beach which is in Orange County.

Kim with boyfriend Michael Ray

What does he do?
He's a property developer.

Is he a similar age?
No he's older than me.  He's my silver fox, baby!  He's a sexy beast.  I love him.  I met him online.  He and I can't believe our luck and we have such a great time together.  He's highly, highly intelligent, extremely, extremely funny and just filthy!  I'm very happy with him.  Michael is my main beauty product!

On style

Styling by Kim Bowen for Blitz Magazine, 1980's

How do you describe your style
This will make you laugh, I can tell you what I sound like!  I was having dinner with Dylan Jones in LA the other night, and he said "Don't you ever stop talking?"  He said it was like having the radio on!!  [Cracking up laughing].  That's part of my style, to rattle on a bit.

That's hilarious!  I can't believe he said that!
I know!

Right, clothing.  How do I describe my style?  Well, I've always been very flamboyant and I love fashion.  My own style is quite over the top.  I dress a bit like an old slag!  [Laughing].  I'm hanging onto having quite good legs so I wear shamelessly short skirts most of the time and usually high heels.  It's hot here so you can have your legs out.  I'll wear something like a micro mini but then I'll have about five thousand layers of cashmere cardigans.  And I mean five thousand!  Cashmere shawls, cardigans, scarves, long drooping waistcoats, so I'm like a fuzz ball with a pair of legs coming out of the bottom!

I'm impractical.  I do own jeans but I hardly ever wear them.  You'll never see me in a t-shirt.  I'm just not that sort of person.  I'm absolutely impractical and I dress up at every opportunity.

You're perfect for me!  I don't own any jeans and I've NEVER owned a t-shirt.  When boys used to come and stay they'd ask if I had a t-shirt to lend them in the morning I used to say "I've got a small backless sequined top or something?" and they'd just look at me like I was mad!
[Cracks up laughing]  Very Russell Brand!

Who are your style icons?
I think Kate Moss is fabulous.  I remember working with her several times, years ago when she was a very young thing.  And I have to say Kristen Stewart's very like her.  Both of them, whatever you put on them they look fabulous.  They totally understand fashion.  I mean Kate Moss is extraordinary!   She just has style dripping off her fingertips, she always has had.

Photograph © Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Kate Moss

Keith Richards, he has a beautiful sense of style.  I loved the way Michael Jackson dressed.   Steve McQueen was gorgeous, he and Ali MacGraw were totally incredible looking together.

Photography by Jacques Henri Lartigue
Renée Perle

I loved Henri Lartique's girlfriend Renée Perle - with her long arms and sweeping black hair - I think she's the most stunning looking thing that ever lived.  All that brown skin and the sexiness of it.

I love old, really polished glamour, I love it, love it, love it!  My initial exposure to fashion was through old movies.  I love Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express.

Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express, 1932

Me too, absolutely
You know who is my number one - Barbara Hulanicki.  She was a huge influence on me.  When I  was a kid her clothes were earth shattering and astonishing.  I got to meet Barbara when I interviewed her for the magazine Frank about ten years ago - and now we're friends.  I love that woman, she's such a great person.  You should interview her, she's magnificent! I'll ask her if you want?  She's a funny, clever, nice, talented, beautiful woman.  She's stunning looking.

Photography by Richard Saker
Barbara Hulanicki

Which person's wardrobe would you most like to own?
Oh, Kate Moss's.  Come on!

What are your current favourite clothes
When I go out with Michael I love to dress up.  Where he lives in Orange County I'd say it's much more glamorous than here in LA, people really make an effort.  So I go to loads of things with him where it's all about putting on a fabulous dress and heels and trotting about.  I have tons of dresses.  I'm very fortunate that every single weekend I get a chance to put on some prostitute-like, fabulous little something, an Alaia dress or whatever.  I'm not stuck on a particular designer, I'll wear anything.  As long as it's short and sexy.

My sister gave me this mini dress by River Island which is one the cutest things I own.  I couldn't believe it came from there, it's amazing and I have quite a few sexy dresses by Michelle Mason.

I have a few Hérve Legér dresses that I love, they're not so short.  Michael and I go to quite a few political functions.  Then I dress up as super bitch in full-on, hardcore, knee length, body con.  It's really funny going to political things as I am absolutely the bimbo prostitute in the room!  It's so funny!

I have the most beautiful cream Celine coat which is just the most sumptuous thing in the world.  I like luxury that's for sure and I love costume jewellery.  Tons of it.

Kim's Camilla Skovgaard shoes

What are your favourite shoes?
About a year ago I bought these Camilla Skovgaard ankle boots and they are the best shoes I've ever owned in my life hands down.  I knew I had to get more pairs so I scoured the earth, I looked everywhere for them.  I narrowly missed a pair on Ebay.  They have a jagged sole and I've worn them so much I've literally worn them down to a nub.  I'm so pissed off I didn't buy five pairs.  I have more in the same style in suede.  That is my greatest fashion tragedy!  That I didn't buy more pairs straight away.

Nicholas Kirkwood AW10

I love Nicholas Kirkwood's shoes.  I've turned on so many people to his shoes.  Janet Jackson in particular, she wears them all the time.

Who's your favourite designer?
I love Thierry Mugler.  I can't think of a better designer, I love his clothes.  He used to give me lots of stuff and I have some pieces of his that are just gorgeous.  I don't wear them anymore really, but I love them.

Weren't his shows just the most amazing thing ever?
Oh my God!  Yes!  I was so lucky because I was part of that whole tidal wave of Thierry Mugler and it was just so much fun.  He always included me, gave me things and took me on mad trips everywhere.  He put me in the front row of all his fashion shows and treated me amazingly well.

Valerie Jean Gardino in Thierry Mugler

Claudia Mason in Thierry Mugler

There's this wonderful photographer called Alix Malka, he was basically Thierry's right hand guy.  Alix was really instrumental in me being looked after.  He's incredible.

One of my favourite designers would have to be the wonderful Stephen Jones.  What a marvellously talented, gifted man and the nicest person you could ever meet.

Stephen Jones and Sybille de St Phalle wearing Stephen Jones

There's a designer in LA that I mentioned, Michelle Mason, she's not high fashion but makes gorgeous, wearable, sexy stuff.  She has the most brilliant sample sales.

What's the oldest thing in your wardrobe
I have lots of old things.  I have beaded dresses dating back to 1915.  I've got Thirties evening dresses, not necessarily stuff I wear but they're so beautiful I just can't part with them.

What's your favourite vintage piece that you own?
It's THE most beautiful thing you've ever seen in your life!  I only have very old photos of myself in it, but it's a jacket that Thierry Mugler gave me when I was a fashion editor.  I nearly passed out when he gave it to me.  It's like a super hero jacket.  It's made of electric blue suede with giant blown up lizard skin patches.  It's the most beautiful thing in the world.  I remember when it came down the runway and I thought "I don't care how much it costs I'm going to HAVE to get it!"

Kim in Paris wearing her Thierry Mugler jacket

And then he gave it to you, how brilliant!
I nearly died!  I've got other fabulous things he gave me, everything he gave me is earth shattering, but there's nothing like this.

I bought an amazing John Galliano coat.  It was around the time I was trying to adopt my son and I was really nervous about the adoption.  I remember it was eight thousand dollars and the woman in the shop told me it was going in the sale the following week.  I don't know what I was thinking spending money like that.  I called Stephen Jones and described the coat to him and he said "Kim, you're only panicking about the adoption, you don't really want this coat."  And he was right.  Of course I bought it.  It ended up costing me nearly six thousand dollars.  I realised later I only did it because I could.  That there was a certainty in its purchase that there wasn't in the impending adoption.  It's a giant furry thing.  You can imagine how useful that is in southern California!!  I don't get much chance to wear it!

Kim's Galliano coat

You've got a giant scarf on with it too, just to big it up a bit more!
Yes!  A fourteen foot cashmere scarf, just what it needs!

I wore it in New York when it was snowing.  I walked from the Sherry Netherland hotel to Bergdorf Goodman, which is all of ten steps!  I nearly passed out I was so bloody hot in it!  When Jake took his movie to Sundance I went with him, and I asked Joe Pytka, one of my favourite directors with whom I was working what he thought of it when I wore it to set one day, and he said [adopts American accent] "I think it's a bit of a fucking over reaction!!"

Very funny!  What's your favourite watch?
I have two faves and both of them were gifts.  One is a very beautiful white gold Cartier watch that George Michael gave me, it's the prettiest watch you've ever seen, like a perfect 1930's timepiece.  And the other is one of those gorgeous Chanel white enamel ones that Michael gave me for Christmas.

What are your favourite sunglasses?
My gorgeous assistant David, who's this giant, gay, Iraqi queen gave me the most exquisite Tom Fords, which I lost, just like I lost the amazing Gucci ones he lent me.

Which products do you use?
I love this foundation with a brush by Terry.  Kérastase hair products changed my life.  Biologica is great.  I use whatever free moisturisers Barney's give me for Christmas.  I'm always very grateful and they're always horribly expensive.  I'll use any old thing really.  My biggest beauty product, you don't get in England, is a scrub - a giant tub of salt with oil and lavender in from Trader Joe's.

Make-up artist friends of mine tell me that some of these fabulous new products really work and maybe they do but I've got quite good skin so I don't need to do a lot to it.  Because I used to be a make-up artist I'm quite adept at doing a bit of slap if I need to.  You can use anything if you know what you're doing

Who does your hair?
Oh, my hairdresser Maranda Widlund also changed my life, she's really talented.  I wore a pony tail for my entire life - literally from when I was born until maybe two years ago when Maranda, who's an English hairdresser over here said to me "Why do you wear your hair like that?  It's disgusting!"  So I let her chop it off and it changed my life.  I actually became an attractive woman as opposed to Olive Oyl!

Who do you think is good for their age?
I'll tell you who's really beautiful in the flesh!  Sharon Stone.  She looks great for her age.  I've spent time with her and that woman is astonishingly beautiful!  Whatever she might have had done, and I'm sure she's had a judicious something done here and there, it might just be as simple as a bit of botox, but whatever it is, she really is astonishing looking.

Photography by Mario Testino
Sharon Stone

She was jaw-dropping in Basic Instinct and I loved her in Casino
You should see her now!  I went to her house last year with George Michael and she came down the stairs, she's got this giant movie star staircase, and she had a red Halston dress on, that was open to the waist.  I'm telling you that woman is a real old fashioned movie star. She was so stunning.  Very, very nice too, I liked her a lot.

I love to hear when people are lovely but I also like to hear when they are hideous!
Oh me too!  I like a bit of hideousness.

What would you save if your house was on fire?
After my kids and my dogs.  I have to say I'm a total fashion victim and I would hate to lose my clothes but it would be anything to do with photographs of my family.  It would be awful not to have a photograph of my dad.

Photography by David Youkhannah

 Q and A

Do you have any health tips?
A big health tip because in I live in America is, please do not eat like you live in Idaho and shop at Walmart.  That's a health tip!  I think the connection between food and health is never to be underestimated.

Don't smoke.  YOU shouldn't smoke!  Remember what I told you about the smoking!  That's my single biggest beauty tip for the skin.

I'd say that assuming you've got a decent look in the first place, as long as you don't eat gross, vile, filthy food and don't drink yourself into a stupor every night, which I tend to do!  If you control it a bit,  you can look great for a lot longer than you would ever have imagined.

It's true, it is all about what you put in
It is true!  Especially here.  People really do eat garbage, dreadful processed stuff.  I look at people when I'm in the supermarket, if I'm in a normal supermarket the kind of place where I need to buy washing stuff or bleach or something.  I look at people with kids and what's in their baskets, some of the things that people eat is shocking!

What are your eating habits like?
I don't eat meat.  I eat quite healthily and drink lots of red wine which is marvellous for the cholesterol.

Do you exercise?
I do [Laughs].  I used to run which was my downfall.  I used to go running in the Hollywood Hills and I loved it but my knees are powder as a result of running down all those hills.

I just do a normal workout.  I hate gyms, you'll never catch me in a gym.  I put on some scabrous television show, pornography even if I'm really desperate [laughing].  Anything to take my mind off it.  I go kayaking with my boyfriend sometimes off of Laguna which is about an hour south of LA,  where he lives.

I like doing things which are functional.  When I lived in London I used to cycle all the time and I was really, really fit but you just can't cycle here as the distances are too extreme.

Is there anything about your body you dislike?
Nah, it's served me well.

Who or what has been the greatest influence on your life?
Stevie Hughes certainly influenced my life and changed my direction.  Stephen Jones most definitely.  A  journalist called Miles Chapman who was very encouraging to me, he used to say "Of course you can write, you speak very well so you therefore you'll be able to write" and he was quite right about that.  Tony Kaye was a great inspiration.  Jake Scott as a friend is very inspiring, he has this wonderful, open outlook that is great to be around.  A serious source of inspiration is one of my former assistants Delphine Tandonnet.  She was the person who made me stop being terrified of failure and stop my knees quaking and get on the horse and go out so I could make it happen, so that I could adopt my children and be a mother.  I can never underestimate her influence - she changed my life.

How did your childhood affect the person you are today?
Hugely.  I came from a rather dysfunctional background and my mother was a bit bonkers, but also sort of brilliant and creative.  I used to look at old Hollywood movies, and the sheer beauty of them was very enticing and comforting to me.  I think if my mother hadn't been so difficult I would have gone for something more cerebral as a career.   I'm obviously quite a high achiever so I would have probably gone to Oxford and studied English or something.

Fashion and the immediate make-over it offered when I was young, really appealed to me.  I think Oscar Wilde said "Nothing, not even religion can impart such a sense of well being as being perfectly dressed."  I still agree with that because you feel great when you're perfectly dressed - when I was a lot younger that transformation was vital to me.

What's your philosophy?
Innocent until proved guilty.  I always welcome people open-heartedly.

What are your favourite books?
My favourite ever book is called Eye Witness to History, it's a ringside seat to historical events, told by the individuals who experienced it.  I like the metaphysical poets.  I read so much I have towers of books around my bed.

Kim's bedside table

I'm really enjoying Keith Richards' book at the moment.  I read books on everything from economics to science to pure trash, autobiography, novels, mystery books, love stories, linguistics, child care.  My aunt said to me when I was a child that I'd read the side of a cereal packet and I would.  I'll read anything and everything.

What music are you listening to at the moment?
I bought something today that I love by Andreya Triana.  I love reggae that's my first great love. I've got very eclectic taste and I really enjoy almost everything apart from heavy metal.  Listen to Andreya Triana  HERE

Andreya Triana

What are your favourite TV shows?
I watch very rarely but at the moment I like Boardwalk Empire.  I confess I haven't watched Mad Men yet.

Me neither.  What were the last good films you watched?
Welcome to the Rileys!  It's a very good film.  I watched The Godfather recently and I love films about that era.  Some of my favourite films are Once Upon a Time in America, Blade Runner and Casablanca.  I saw Where the Wild Things Are and I thought it was fucking awful, literally a  case of The Emperors New Clothes.  I watched the second Queen Elizabeth I film the other day and I thought it was beautifully done and the costumes were amazing but I found the film leaden.  The costume designer Alexandra Byrne did a phenomenal job.

James Gandolfini and Kristen Stewart in Welcome to the Rileys

Who are your favourite photographers?
There's so many I love.  I love Lartigue.  I think my all time favourite documentary photographer is Roy DeCarava.  Jake Scott is a mother fucking bastard as he has tons of his prints, he was kind enough to buy me the book - The Sound I Saw.

Jacques Henri Lartigue

Roy DeCarava

I love Bill Claxton, how could you not?  Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin, how could you not?   I really like reportage.  Fashion photography used to really move me in my younger days.   I love Peter Lindbergh, his work is astonishing and beautiful.

Photography by William Claxton
Peggy Moffitt and Steve McQueen

I loved Corinne Day, I loved the way she saw things.  She really challenged me because my natural inclination is to go towards perfect glamour so she really educated me.  I remember going shopping with Corinne here in LA and she wanted to go to thrift stores, she said "Kim, I want to go to the kind of thrift stores that you would be repulsed by,"  she didn't mean it horribly.  She said she wanted naff, horrible, ugly clothes that no one wants and she was going to make them look beautiful.  I loved her, she changed the way I see things and I'm forever grateful for that.

Photography by Corinne Day

Who are your favourite models?
I have to say Kate Moss again.  I love Lara Stone, I think she's divine.

Lara Stone in a still from a Prada commercial

I thought Leslie Winer was amazing in the Eighties.  At various different points I loved Naomi Campbell, she has a great body.  I know it ages me a bit but I loved the supermodels, that individuality is coming back a bit now.  There's been a lot of faceless models for a long time, I don't mean to diminish them in any way but I prefer it when they're more starry.

Photography by Paolo Roversi
Lara Stone

Leslie Winer

Me too.  What irritates you?
Ignorant people I can't abide and anyone who votes for the Republicans.

Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Reg Varney from On The Buses would be good.

What has been your proudest moment so far?
I'm a mum so it has to do with the great moments with my kids.  I've been very fortunate in my career that I've many moments of joy, pride and achievement but I think becoming a mother was the best because I was so completely desperate to have children.

Who would you have at your dream dinner party? (living or dead)
Ooh!  That's a good one.  I'd have Winston Churchill, Cecil Beaton would be hilarious, Salvador Dali and Gala his wife, Pamela Harriman, she'd be tremendous, JFK would be amazing,  Sammy Davis Jr would be a fabulous cat, Bob Marley as he'd be such an interesting man and Molly Dineen would be rather good in there too.

Photography by Narique Meneses
Salvador and Gala Dali, 1964

If you won £100 million dollars what would you do?
I would like to open a really great arts school in South Central, because creativity is the liberation of so much hurt.  I can't believe all these rich people haven't thought of it already.

If you could be anywhere on earth right now, where would it be and who would be with you?
I'd be in Laguna Beach with my children, Michael's children and Michael, I would be jumping around with happiness!

Thanks so much for doing the interview, I know you don't really do them.  Stephen Jones told me that when you were interviewed at the MTV Awards after winning best video for En Vogue you said straight to camera "They were an absolute nightmare to work with!" which cracked me up.  I've asked a few of your friends to write a little something about you too
Oooh!  How exciting!  It's an honour to be featured on my most favourite ever fashion blog.

With very special thanks to the following people for their contributions
Christos Tolera
Boy George
Janet Jackson
Kim Bowen
Miles Chapman
Princess Julia
Stephen Jones
Steve Strange

Huge thanks to Derek Ridgers whose amazing archive was invaluable for this post

Very special thanks to the following for the use of their photographs
Corinne Day
Danilo Monzillo @ Blitz Kids
David Bailey
David Gwinnutt
David Youhannah
Derek Ridgers
Helmut Newton
Homer Sykes
Jacques Henri Lartigue
Mario Testino
Michael Evanet
Mick Hurd
Narique Meneses
Neil Williams
Nick Knight
Paolo Roversi
Rene Habermacher
Richard Saker
Roy DeCarava
Sheila Rock
William Claxton

Interview © Christina Lindsay

Thank you Kim, you're amazing xxx

Further Reading

Photography by Johnny Rozsa


Kim Bowen said...

My first comment is for any would be commentors. It's easy, you DON'T HAVE TO LOG IN you just comment!

Click 'Name' or 'Anonymous' and that's it.

Wildernesschic said...

Ok I have just clicked on for my usual "Christina Fix" and I see you have excelled your self again, what an amazing interview, I have to admit to not having time ..So I have skim read it and loved all the photos... that one of Christos getting out of the pool has made a middle aged lady come over all funny , it always does LOL xx
I will be back later with my coffee to give this wonderful interview the attention it deserves..Missed you yesterday but I totally understand why
Love Ruth xx

Mrs P said...

Absolutely fabulous! The interview, the answers, the photos, the eighties! Thank you x

Northern Snippet said...

Really enjoyed reading that and the fabulous 80's photos.
Unfortunately I'm now way behind!

Heather said...

Didn't realise it took so ong to read when I just looked at the time - must have been engrossed - so many people I knew and worked with in my Lynne Franks days.......what memories, and glad you are so happy now xx

Christos Tolera said...

Iconic is a word that is bandied about but rarely merited. However in Kim's case it is a worthy description. I absolutely loved it and found myself laughing out loud more than once...it was such an accurate and evocative description of the time and charts a fascinating trajectory into the present day...young and old should read it and be inspired...a marvellous celebration of individuality and of a fabulous woman...love her...oh and i almost blushed...x

Vintage Vixen said...

Dear Christina, I was going to read part of your interview now and the rest over a glass of wine later but I was totally transfixed and read the whole lot in one go. You are brilliant, you always get the best from your interviewees. You wouldn't believe how mant of those Blitz pictures adorned my bedroom wall as a teenager. It was like a trip back in time. I remember Kim Bowen's image so well but knew nothing about her.
You rock. Vix xxxxxxxxxx
PS I'd forgotten how much I fancied Jeremy Healy, I'm going to have to dig my Haysi Fantaysee album out.

Young at Heart said...

brilliant....work shmerk..have just spent way tooooo long reading but couldn't stop .... inspring and adding to my nostalgia fest with America...... the oh so lovely Pat McGrath used to come into the make up place I worked in NY and bring me English sweets!!

Wildernesschic said...

Love love love it .. Such a great post.. I really enjoyed learning more about her, I love all the photos from theBlitz club days.. oh how I wish I had known you and been a London babe.. instead I packed my bag and hung out at the Port ( a Banus) .. that had its own 80's fun :)
O love her Galliano coat .. to die for.. Just so much to comment on I cannot ... if you get my meaning love all of it. mo doubt I will be back to read again just like the Fee interview xx

Penny Dreadful said...

Thank you so much Christina, I always love your in depth interviews, especially for the fact they are so personal. I feel terrible saying I hadn't heard of Kim before now.

It did make me laugh at some points - I used to read Dolly as an Aussie teen! And Thierry Mugler is one of my favourite designers too, I just bought a black dress with sculpted neckline a few months ago. It is supposed to be for the shop but I don't think I can bear to sell.

Thanks again for the fantastic read, you are a wonder xx

Alex said...

Well I didn't have a pot of tea with it but my coffee went cold whilst I was avidly reading through it. How I adore your interviews - always so wonderfully written and with such amazing characters. This one was fascinating. Kim has done SO many interesting things. It could have been twice as long and I'd still have devoured it all.

I must go back and read the Christos one again as I enjoyed it so much first time round.

Dash said...

Wow Christina, I won't bang on you know what I think about your interviews. I saw this come up on my sidebar this morning, I thought 'Oh no, Christina has done it again' this time I wanted to be prepared so this afternoon I have had a pot of tea on hand whilst reading this, it's now stone cold! Kim is an incredible woman who has lived an amazing life, wonderful! I also think she has very good taste in photographers!

Sarcastic Bastard said...

What a great interview, Christina. I found it fascinating. I'm also glad to hear that George Michael is such a nice guy. I just adore him.

Kim has led a really interesting life. I'm glad that she is so happy.

Love you,


indoorkitty said...

Wowowwowowwowow! Amazing story. I love Kim Bowen and Stephen Jones. Thanks so much for posting.

Christina @ Fashion's Most Wanted said...

Dear Ruth, Mrs P, Heather, Christos, Vix, Jo, Margaret, Alex, Dash, SB and Indoorkitty, thanks so much for your comments. It was a joy to do. All my interviews end up as epics as I'm lucky to have such great people to do.

As Kim said, all our friends please leave a comment on here rather than writing on Facebook.

I'm delighted you've enjoyed reading it, Love Christina xxx

Make Do Style said...

OMG Kim was my hero when I was a small youth. My friend and I managed to get into the Wag club so we could glmpse her...that is sooooo long ago.

they all seemed so mad and glamorous and it turns out they were! Nothing has ever touched me in that way again.

I love this interview and the images so much. I've read every word and am so delighted.

WONDERFUL does not capture it!! xxx

Christina @ Fashion's Most Wanted said...

Dear Kate, oh that's amazing! Isn't she brilliant? I thought of you today when I posted it. I knew you'd love it xx

MyStyle said...

Hi Christina-what a totally amazing and stunning interview, you really capture the heart, soul and life of all the people you interview and to read about Kims life, especially during the Blitz era is such a wonderful treat!! Very well done indeed, its a truly great insight into such an awesome person!! xx

Anonymous said...

What an amazing interview with a fascinating lady - candid, funny and revealing. You certainly know how to get the best out of your interviewees. I felt like I was eavesdropping on a private conversation - extraordinary.. x Josephine

Smashingbird said...

Fabulous from the first word to the last. I've really enjoyed reading about this era as I've mentioned before it's a scene I really don't know too much about. Now I'm going to reread some of your other posts! x

Fashionistable said...

Dear Christina, This is a truly amazing post, it was well worth the wait. What a wonderful woman. She has achieved a lot which I love. It is inspirational. Thank You Xxxx

Gwendoline Christie said...

Darling, this is such a great interview and Kim is a real inspiration!

Every time I read one of your pieces I feel like I've ben eves dropping on a conversation.

Much love xxx

Jessica Mejia said...

I always knew Kim was amazing, but this just brought to light how incredibly awe-inspiring and AH-MAZING she is. She has definitely been one of my main role models since I was a kid and reading this interview has definitely solidified her as the most bad ass woman I know.

Thanks so much for this interview!

Kim Bowen said...

Christina, I would love to publicly thank you, here, before your readers for doing such a stellar job on me. You didn't ask me about my face-lift, my ass-lift, my hair transplant or any of the other really dodgy parts of my life; and for this I am eternally grateful. Thank you, too, to my wonderfully supportive friends for writing such deliciously sweet comments, I shall wallow in them for a long time! I am deeply honoured that you chose yo write about me. NOW. Could you please get on with that book!!!!

Splenderosa said...

Do you simply know EVERYONE on the planet? I am completely blown away, again. This piece should be a full article in Vanity Fair. I wish I knew this woman & I love the comment from Janet. Have you listened to Michael's new song yet?

Kim Bowen said...

When I say book, by the way, I certainly don't mean one about me. I mean any number of books that this talented woman could write/edit. Every one here who loves her blog must start harassing her into it. All together now...

Anonymous said...

Anyone that was around at the time will agree that Kim was a magnificent force of nature and what's more important, absolutely hilarious, which is something you've captured.Well done ! best wishes , Chris Sullivan
PS - I was the other straight bloke on the St.Martins' Fashion Course .. the year below Kim and the gang..

Em said...

Christina, yet again, absolutely riviting! Now I'm late for work...I LOVE reading your interviews and Kim is an amazing woman. Now when are you going to put this all in a book????

YvonneSedition said...

I'm not surprised this has received so many comments. As a teenager back in Cork I was hugely inspired by Kim Bowen, mainly because I had memories of seeing her and Boy George and Jeremy Healy running around London when I was younger (we left for Ireland when I was 12, I ran back to London as soon as I could at 18) and I had to find out as much as I could about these exotic looking creatures that I'd found so fascinating. Amazing.

fachtna O Ceallaigh said...

i dont know why kim has not written a book; it would be as fabulous as she is, was, always has been. she probably doesnt know, or cant bring herself to acknowledge, exactly how great an impact she has had on all her multiple friends from all sorts of areas over many many years it may well be that she was terrified underneath all the clothes and hats and hair and shoes etc. but the reality is that she helped all of the rest of us get over our own terror, whether for a minute or for the rest of our lives. long live the queen boweena!

leslie w. said...


♕ ♛ ♔ ♚

♡ kim bowen

♕ ♛ ♔ ♚

Anonymous said...

I never normally post anything but I absolutely adored this interview. I used to want to have been around in the 60s and 70s but now I will never look at Warren Street the same and my heart belongs to the 80s. Thank you so much, I have sent this interview to so many people xxxxx Alex xxxxx

miles siggins said...

kim gave me my start as a stylist when i first moved to LA,and we rented a fabulously run down house in hollywood. but most importantly she gave me the courage to think i could be a stylist...
long live queen kim..(.bugger that rachel zoe chick, kim has more talent in her little toe!)
miles X

Laguna boyfriend said...

This is the boyfriend, Michael, the guy who lives in Laguna Beach, Calif. Kim and I did not meet on an internet dating site; we met at an S&M bar in downtown L.A. She was dressed appropriately: black leather chaps and a see-thru top. It was love at first lust.

I force her to drive to Laguna to see me, which she does because she has learned to be a good little slave.

Denise @ Swelle said...

Now Christina, you really must be more ambitious in your interviews, get people to open up!

Wow, what an incredible read. Here I am with an endless list of urgent To Dos and yet I couldn't stop. It was worth the scrambling and anxious sweating I am about to do for the next three hours.

Kim is amazing, Judith has mentioned her but now I feel as if I know her myself! Lovely to see she hasn't lost any of her wonderful Britishness. Really riveting piece and photos. Brilliant! xxx

Anonymous said...

Funny.. my dad lived in a squat, right by Warren Street .... but in 1984

Anonymous said...

Have you seen Paul Caplin looks like he's still on the heroine....

Alice Shaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alice Shaw said...

Totally unnecessary, and hurtful comment about Jayne Chilkes being 'round the bend' and 'bonkers'.
Perhaps next time, you would consider a person's feelings before making such comments. I can assure you she is alive and well, both physically an mentally. I think an apology to her is in order.

21 September 2014 14:09