St Albans Fashionista at Waterstone’s evening

St Albans author Angela Clarke

St Albans author Angela Clarke - Credit: Archant

AS soon as I sat down in front of Angela Clarke, it was clear she was a fully-fledged fashionista with a passion for glamour.

Adorned with a sparkly clip-on collar and due to hop on the Eurostar to Paris with a pal later that evening, she was every inch a real life Carrie Bradshaw, the super-stylish lead character in the fashion-devoted American TV show Sex and the City.

Shamelessly I wore my favourite Topshop shirt in a bid to impress St Albans writer Angela who, in my head, I feared would be an amalgamation of fashion’s scariest; a cross between Miranda Priestly in the Devil Wears Prada and Anna Wintour.

Instead I was treated to a funny, down-to-earth and intelligent chat from a woman clearly bemused by where she has found herself. A self-confessed “normal person” who had no industry background, she is keen to stress how she worked her way into the inner circle of fashion.

The former fashion agent skyrocketed to the top of the book charts recently with her whistle-blowing debut that lifted the lid on the fast-paced glamorous industry. What started out as an anonymous column for the Daily Mail has become a successful 336-page fashion handbook published by Virgin Books.

Throughout her 10 years work she shared a taxi with Alexander McQueen, saw Kate Moss dance barefoot, chit-chatted with Manolo Blahnik and owned an enviable 267 pairs of shoes.

The former student of Roundwood Park in Harpenden explained: “I was a very small but significant cog in a very big fashion machine, which meant that I wasn’t important enough for people to notice me and but I had to be there so I got to see a lot of stuff.”

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The 32 year old fell into fashion accidentally after she was dumped by her boyfriend around the start of the millennium and landed a place on the Harrods graduate scheme.

She pinpoints a Christmas-themed summer photo shoot as the moment she fell in love with the fashion world: “I was like ‘oh my God this is amazing, this is something that’s so creative and fun and inspiring’. Here’s something I can do.”

This experience coupled with a chance meeting with the late designer McQueen put stars in Angela’s eyes: “He [Alexander] was so nice, and friendly and lovely and so down to earth.”

With a wry smile and a hint of sarcasm she mused: “I was like ‘fashion’s got to be amazing right? Everybody’s got to be like that in fashion.”

But not everybody was and she admitted the fun, energetic and vibrant world she immersed herself in often had it’s dark moments: “You do get big egos. It is possible to not look a certain way, but it is difficult. You’re not going to fit in with everyone else, you’re not going to fit in the clothes you get samples of because obviously the sample size is 0.”

Then there were the cake sniffers: “When I first joined the agency the girls that I worked with didn’t eat cake, they sniffed it and then threw it away as they said that way you’ve got all of the benefits and none of the calories.”

But she added: “For every monumental big ego you meet in the fashion world, there’s like eight really nice, down-to-earth people. But they just don’t make quite as interesting stories!”

Her new book Confessions of a Fashionista lifts the lid on her stylish past and although real names are changed, her stories are extremely candid.

The author is not afraid to dish the dirt on herself and admits she doesn’t paint herself in the greatest light, especially in relation to why she said farewell to her job after a decade of success.

Guilty of disappearing up her “Spanx-clad arse”, she felt she had to call it a day: “I just became a total tit and I started to sneer at my friend’s high street handbags and that kind of thing.

“Once you start doing that you have to take a big deep breath and step away, I couldn’t control it and I wasn’t able to exist in that industry and still be a decent person.”

When asked if she was worried she would be reprimanded for being a whisteblower with her book she replied: “I was scared, I was very scared of upsetting people. I don’t like to upset people which will seem very funny when you read the book.

“I like making people laugh and I tend to side on wry observational humour but not everybody wants jokes told about them.

“No one has bludgeoned me to death yet with stilettos,” she joked.

With two other books in the pipeline, Angela is more than pleased with her new profession: “I’m very happy out of the industry. It was a fantastic place. I was in my 20s and had a ball. I had great memories and great friends but I’ve moved on.

“I’ve learnt that if all else fails go to Topshop. Don’t bother dieting just wear Spanx and if possible wear two pairs. And also, nothing – no matter how great the shoes or bags are – is worth more than people you really love and care about.”

Angela will be appearing at 7.30pm tonight at Waterstones in St Peter’s Street, St Albans. And if you’re still wondering, my shirt got the seal of approval (after all, it was from Topshop).