Freelance designer Andrew Holden, right, was once told by teachers at Hreod Parkway School in the late 1980s to forget art and fashion and take a computer course. Luckily he ignored their advice and is now the US based contributing fashion editor for Grazia magazine and has launched his own range of menswear.
Looking back, he says it is a miracle that he managed to get into the prestigious Goldsmith’s College in London, where he studied Costume and Scenic Design. Having dropped out of his A level art course, he won his place at art college with two A levels and what he describes as a lot of attitude.
As a teenager living in Haydon Wick, Andrew would devour magazines like Blitz and The Face and make secret journeys to London to soak up the atmosphere. “I used to save all my money and take sneaky train trips to go shopping in Camden and Covent Garden. I used to only buy vintage clothes because they were cheaper and more unique.”
At Goldsmith’s he worked part-time in a vintage clothing store in Greenwich. “I met a lot of people that way: that’s how I ended up working with photographers and doing shoots for the magazines I used to read back in Swindon ten years earlier.”
These contacts were invaluable and over several years Andrew became well established as an independent stylist for a range of magazines, advertising campaigns and major brands such as Hugo Boss, Nike, Adidas and Dr Martens.
Andrew took his talents to New York in 2000 and was approached in 2006 by Grazia to become their US based contributing fashion editor. “It was an exciting project – Britain’s first weekly fashion magazine,” he said.
In 2008 Andrew debuted his Conference of Birds range of menswear. His brand name is taken from a 12th Century Persian poem about a master leading his pupils to enlightenment. He describes his style as nostalgically modern to reflect his long standing love of vintage clothes.
Although he doesn’t rule out a move back to England, for the time being, life in New York is good. “I love and miss London but it can be very draining. New York, however, can be very energizing. There have been a lot of opportunities for me here; the hurdles are higher but achievable. In London, it often feels like you’re working really hard and never getting anywhere.”
While shooting fashion editorials for Grazia and preparing for fashion shows in New York, London, Paris and Milan, Andrew is already working on his Conference of Birds range for Spring/ Summer 2010.
Over the last few years Andrew has styled Edward Norton, Matt Dillon, Benicio Dell Toro and Jack Black.
Recently he was seen out on the town with Goldsmith’s college mate Jamie Hince of The Kills, and his girlfriend Kate Moss.
Andrew’s career may all sound like the plot from a TV series or film, but Andrew insists that it’s nothing like Ugly Betty or The Devil Wears Prada, although he does come across some larger than life characters.
“Trust me when I say it is not as glamorous as everyone seems to think or how it is portrayed in the media,” said Andrew. “I’ve been lucky enough to meet, work with and become friends with a lot of celebrities but they are just regular people like you and me.”
And for those who want to follow in his footsteps, Andrew’s advice is straightforward: “Take risks and leaps of faith: no guts, no glory. Oh, and work hard!”
See more of Andrew’s designs at www.conferenceofbirds.net
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