‘ I thought I was go­ing to die’

Jodie Kidd feels the fash­ion in­dus­try has shifted in the Kar­dashian- ob­sessed world of 2018, writes Anna Joyce

The Irish Times Magazine - - FASHION -

‘ As they say a lot in Ire­land you throw your heart over first and the horse comes later. And that’s very much kind of my phi­los­o­phy in life.”

Jodie Kidd does noth­ing by halves. As a model, she opened shows for John Gal­liano, Alexan­der McQueen, and Chanel, she has raced at Sil­ver­stone, played polo for Eng­land, opened a gas­tro pub The Half Moon and ap­peared on ev­ery­thing from Strictly Come Danc­ing to her own US TV show Fash­ion Av­enue.

Kidd, fa­mous for her stat­uesque ap­pear­ance and golden locks, is the face of TK Maxx’s cloth­ing drive “Give Up Clothes For Good” in sup­port of En­able Ire­land. The i ni­tia­tive asks peo­ple to do­nate pre- owned qual­ity clothes, ac­ces­sories and home­ware to their lo­cal TK Maxx. Since its con­cep­tion in 1997, the cam­paign has raised more than ¤ 3 mil­lion for En­able Ire­land in aid of chil­dren and young peo­ple’s dis­abil­ity ser­vices.

Kidd, a par­ent her­self, sells the cam­paign with such zeal, she could con­vince the most re­luc­tant punter. “There is al­ways some­thing in your wardrobe that ei­ther didn’t fit right or didn’t look right or that you’ve worn enough and by hand­ing it in you can help many chil­dren,” she says.

Her will­ing­ness to en­cour­age cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity should not be dis­missed. TK Maxx is just a sin­gle player in a multi- bil­lion dol­lar fash­ion in­dus­try be­com­ing aware of the so­cial im­pact and mar­ket­ing po­ten­tial at­tached to phi­lan­thropy. “You know we can climb moun­tains, and swim across chan­nels and do things like that, and raise a tiny amount com­pared to th­ese big busi­nesses. I think it is very im­por­tant that they are all stand­ing up be­cause they make such a mas­sive dif­fer­ence,” says Kidd.

“I kind of came on the scene in the late 1990s and 2000s. There was such a cool kind of move­ment with Gal­liano, with Lee McQueen it was like the Brits were dom­i­nat­ing. And boy we did have some fun!” she says.

As her ca­reer in fash­ion pro­gressed, Kidd grew in­creas­ingly anx­ious. “I was young, and I didn’t know what was go­ing on, and I just thought I was go­ing to die the whole time,” she ex­plains. Kidd feels the re­jec­tion she en­dured as a model con­trib­uted to her anx­i­ety. “I think mod­el­ling was the first time where I turned up early, I went to bed, I ar­rived with ev­ery­thing look­ing good. I did ev­ery­thing that they needed, and then some­one would come in and look like a com­plete god knows what and they’d get the job, and you’d be like – what have I done wrong?

The scru­tiny she ex­pe­ri­enced at the hands of the British me­dia is com­pa­ra­ble to the on­slaught of on­line abuse mod­ern teenagers reg­u­larly ex­pe­ri­ence. “I cer­tainly went through a hell of a lot of s** t as a teenager with the press,” she says. Tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter Lor­raine Kelly fa­mously said she looked like a “sick, anorexic giraffe”.

Kidd’s great- grand­fa­ther started the Ex­press, and so she was al­ready me­dia savvy. “I was lucky to be born into that, whereas young girls that are not ready for that, that are not pre­pared for the on­line bul­ly­ing, or con­stant images of what ev­ery­one thinks is per­fect. It is a very wor­ry­ing time, and I think there will be a point where it will com­pletely im­plode,” she says.

Kidd came to promi­nence in an in­dus­try no­to­ri­ous for cham­pi­oning tall, thin, white, able- bod­ied fe­males, and lit­tle be­sides. How­ever, this sea­son she senses a shift. “I think it is re­ally lovely that you’re see­ing all dif­fer­ent sizes, all dif­fer­ent eth­nic­i­ties, you’re see­ing ev­ery­one from dif­fer­ent walks of life,” she says.

“I can’t say bad things be­cause it was my in­dus­try for so many years, but as a con­sumer, I look at a fash­ion, and I go ‘ God I re­ally love that out­fit’, and you go es­pe­cially to that shop, and it just doesn’t look the same on you as it does on that im­agery,” she says.

Kidd feels the in­dus­try’s sud­den diver­si­fi­ca­tion is a re­sponse to the selfie- tak­ing, fil­ter- ob­sessed world of 2018. “I think with so much so­cial me­dia, In­sta­gram, Kar­dashian, ev­ery­thing is so false, and ev­ery­thing is so per­fect, but we’re not stupid. I think we’re now yearn­ing for proper, real, tan­gi­ble things and images, and the fash­ion world is an­swer­ing that, which is bril­liant,” she says.

Her ca­reer is strik­ing, not least for her suc­cess, but her fear­less ap­proach to con­quer­ing male- dom­i­nated fields. As she re­treated from fash­ion, she be­gan to ride horses again. By the end of that year, she had joined the British Polo team. “I com­pletely, fully im­merse my­self in th­ese things!” she pauses, “I don’t know re­ally know why I went into such male- dom­i­nated things”.

Al­though Kidd ad­mits the tran­si­tion from the cat­walk to driv­ing cars for Maserati had its dif­fi­cul­ties. “I was the only woman in a series of, I don’t know, 24 other cars,” she ex­plains. “They were very nice at the be­gin­ning, all the other driv­ers and pro driv­ers, and then about a year into my first series I started get­ting bet­ter, and bet­ter, and bet­ter. They couldn’t overtake me, and I started ac­tu­ally over­tak­ing them. And then they just were like hit­ting me off the road, it was em­bar­rass­ing,” she says.

Kidd omits a con­fi­dence which has lit­tle re­gard for gen­der bar­ri­ers. “If I wasn’t so good at rac­ing cars or if I wasn’t good at play­ing polo and I couldn’t be shoul­der to shoul­der with them I wouldn’t have done it. I would have gone ‘ it’s too tough, it’s just a brick wall’.”

Her re­sponse to equal­ity move­ments like “Times Up” and “Me Too” is con­cise. “It’s about bloody time,” she says. “I think it is very im­por­tant that women have a voice, and you know I’ve been very much a woman’s ad­vo­cate through do­ing sports, from golf, play­ing polo and rac­ing cars, so for me it is won­der­ful that there is this kind of move­ment where peo­ple are be­ing lis­tened to.”

Be­fore the in­ter­view con­cludes, a cru­cial ques­tions re­mains – what would the last sup­per of a for­mer su­per­model turned gas­tropub owner con­sist of? “Oh my god,” Kidd ex­claims, “it would prob­a­bly be a good proper roast chicken, with roast po­ta­toes, cau­li­flower cheese, and greens from the gar­den, so good”.

■ To find out more about Give Up Clothes For Good see tk­maxx. ie

■ Jodie Kidd is the face of TK Maxx’s cloth­ing drive “Give Up Clothes For Good” in sup­port of En­able Ire­land

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