I love hosting this interview series because it opens my eyes to the talent out there, and how creative and organised they really are. It kind off takes me behind the scenes, into their world, and I love it. I know I said this will be a monthly series, but I come across some very talented people regularly, and sometimes, it can’t wait a month because I am super excited to talk about them, and share their stories.
Say hello to Tony Porter, he is one of the people to spearhead the idea of the British Fashion Week, now known as the London Fashion Week, 40 years ago. He went on to work in Biba for years, set up a fashion PR firm, and is now concentrating on his new career as a writer, with his gripping fashion memoir – Copies of Whatever Next?, now available on request. Grab a cuppa and enjoy the interview.
1. Can you tell us how you started British Fashion Week, now known as London Fashion Week?
At the time I had my own fashion PR business in London, and it surprised my to see how twice a year all our press and buyers went to Paris and Milan to see their fashion weeks. We didn’t have one, so I went to the director of the Clothing Export Council to ask why. He said that if I could collect £500, he would match it, so I went to Zandra Rhodes, Jean Muir, Bruce Oldfield and others who gave me £100 each. I created a little brochure which I distributed with an invitation to top press and through them buyers were assured that if they came for a few days they would see our best designers at times and venues with minimum delays and a guaranteed seat. The designers themselves cooperated and the first British (later London) Fashion Week was a great success with huge international success. That was exactly 40 years ago this month.
2. How did you cope in the competitive world of fashion?
I concentrated on the PR side of fashion choosing to promote products that were newsworthy and sold by companies who appreciated the value of publicity. There were instances where I had to compete with others, but I found that my manner of expressing myself and the way in which I approached the press usually worked in my favour.
3. You spent 8 years in Nigeria, and left due to the Biafran war. I would like to know how you found living in Nigeria?
I started there in the army, married there and had three children there and we all loved it. At certain times of the year the climate could be trying, but we got used to that. I learnt Hausa which helped me enjoy the people of the North, while in the South, most people spoke English which enabled me to share their sense of humour which was always only just below the surface.
4. You have dabbled in the paint, fashion, PR and now writing industry. Which have you found to be the most competitive and why?
PR was the most competitive. I always found that there were three or four others after the same coverage that I was seeking. There was just so much to be achieved with entertainment, press releases etc. but in the end what mattered most were the stories and, in the case of fashion, products which we were trying to promote.
5. Can you tell us about your fashion memoir ¬¬– Whatever Next?
It is not so much a fashion memoir as my autobiography, of which fashion was a part. It tells of my seven different careers, including selling paint, testing and marketing insecticides, also buying a tiny island off the south coast of Devon, then restoring its art deco hotel. I have also written about my interest in polo, sailing and classic cars. Quite a lot, hence the title Whatever Next?
6. Where do you see your writing career in 5 years?
Years ago I wrote three short stories for my grandchildren and they loved them. It is far more likely that I will pursue those rather than start on fiction. As things stand, there is no more non-fiction left in me!
I enjoyed chatting with Tony Parker. I found his life experiences interesting and refreshing, and I hope you guys enjoyed reading this interview.
Let me know if you did by leaving a comment please.
Thanks for reading.