Interview is a harsh word.
It implies that you are there to test somebody against a benchmark in the form of questions. Despite masquerading as a person who is interested to know more about their interviewee, I fear that interview just seems the wrong term for me. So I what I did with stylist and visual merchandiser, Mark Andrew Kelly, was have a chat. And it was a lovely one at that.
Mark Andrew is making a name for himself in the fashion industry through his involvement with the L’Oreal Colour Trophy, Nokia Young Fashion Designer Award (where he was spotted by Yvan Rodik of Facehunter for just being so gosh-damn stylish), styling for shoots that have been published by renowned publications like the Irish Times, merchandising for House of Fraser, and his recent appointment to the Dundrum Town Centre, Style Counsel. In person, Mark Andrew is an uber stylish and intelligent force to be reckoned with and sitting over a couple of lattes in the Metro Café last Tuesday evening, I found myself making a new friend in fashion. Like me, Mark Andrew is departing from Dublin for the bright lights of London for fashion week, commencing this week, to work behind the scenes for the multitude of designers who will be showing their wares on the prestigious temporary runways of Somerset House. Mark Andrew volunteered last year at LFW Vauxhall Fashion Scout and has been invited back to work alongside the masterminds of the greatest week on Earth (well it is in my eyes, OK?).
Starting his career in Art, Mark Andrew found himself drawn to the world of fashion and has worked in retail, personal shopping and styling. “Inspiration can strike all the time”, explains Mark Andrew, it can be an image, an ad campaign or even a person walking down the street”. Given his penchant for high fashion, his style brings an edge to any shoot or show. Mark Andrew has been building his repertoire through test shoots which he says allow him “to be creative with the photographer and fully explore ideas or a theme. I like to have artistic licence, its important to have some element of fantasy or a story to tell in a shoot), and each experience brings a whole new set of feedback to take on and work from”. When I was working on the L’Oreal Colour Trophy Awards, it took three months working together with a costume designer”, implying that none of this is for fun. It was easy for me to see that Mark Andrew is passionate about what he does and the contribution he can make to Irish fashion. Which leads me to ask him about his take on our State in fashion. “Ireland is more commercial, than France or other European countries, say. We take influences from trends and celebrities, but we sometimes lack a high fashion edge. We have a good bit to go in terms of fashion it seems we feel a little bit intimidated by something different or new, but we’re getting there. I get so excited when I see a really well dressed person, does that make me sad or what? We need to get a better understanding of ourselves, body shape, colouring; we lack that sense of ourselves somewhat”, Mark Andrew says. “We need more focus on these issues before we tackle anything else, our accessories for example (or how much “bling” an outfit requires) should be the last thing on our minds. The easiest way to look fashionable and current is to get the basics right. If you can master these then you can master anything! Our younger generation are amazing. I see a lot of influences coming from London and street style is on the up!” Mark Andrew informs me by hanging out in bars like Pygmalion, on South William Street, for example, the fashion forward of Ireland is on display. So in other words, you will have major fashion envy if you hang out with the South William Street crowd. “Its all about looking like you’ve just thrown something on, when in theory you may have spent hours deliberating how much or how little eyeliner it takes to get that morning after the night before look”.
His favourites are Zara and Topman which have thriving stores in the city and suburbs.“I like to “invest” in expensive pieces and I don’t believe you have to spend a fortune to look good… especially now as people are always looking for a bargain”.
Another recent phenomenon we chat about is the re-establishment of the tailor. Customising is making a come back. “Get it altered and make it your own” is Mark Andrew’s philosophy when it comes to changing a piece either to make it a better fit or to just add your personality. “I alter pretty much any suit trouser or jacket I buy. I’m a small fit, but I am also tall and I don’t always fit what’s on the racks. So, I make what’s on the racks fit me instead!”
Mark Andrew thinks that appearance is something of utmost importance and presence is a necessity. “If you want people to believe in what you’re talking about then you must least look as if you know what you’re talking about?” We concur on how Tom Ford has contributed to this theory. “He puts thought into it [style]”, Valentino and Armani for example, not as much. They presume to know what a man should look like, but with Mr. Ford it’s innate. He thinks about every little detail. He may wear just as much make up, do just as many sun beds or spend the same amount of time getting ready for a red carpet appearance but, the difference is that he knows how much or how little of what goes into the mix to looking great, and most importantly still looking like a man!! To look at him you might not necessarily know what he has done to enhance his looks, like a true style icon he believes you should do everything in moderation”. Tom Ford has effortless style and continues to destroy the competition with everything he touches whether it be sunglasses, clothes or film, his latest offering (just in case you don’t know, Tom Ford directed the Oscar nominated A Single Man last year). Mark Andrew thinks that Tom “plays on the weakness (we all have) for luxury”. And this is why we love him.
As for Mark Andrew’s individual style, he says he is “ a coats, bags and shoes” man. “I love autumn winter. I like nothing more than loads of layers and an oversized chunky scarf and today is no different as I sit with admiration for his stars and stripes print converse sneakers and the most amazing leather bag which he tells me was a gift from his parents. Mark Andrew is a tee and jeans kind of guy but he likes to indulge every so often, and has made “a few purchases or what I like to think of investments – a Burberry trench coat and a Louis Vuitton soft leather brief case”.
With a growing portfolio that is gaining recognition, Mark Andrew is heading towards becoming our next great talent in fashion. It goes to show that with the right attitude, determination and working hard to achieve what you want, and taking a little feedback along the way, will get you further up the food chain. And in an industry that is known for being tough on the newbies, these characteristics are a must. I have met so many people on the journey to building styleisle and with every interview or chat; I take a little something away with me. From this…..a new buddy in fashion.