Dazed's fashion director recalls her highlights as she passes the baton to Robbie Spencer
Like other Dazed alumni such as Alister Mackie and Nicola Formichetti, Karen began as an intern and rose through the ranks to become fashion director, championing her own take on the cutting edge during her tenure. This is the stylist who ran rings around iconic Paris fashion houses, getting them to make Beyoncé custom clothes for Dazed's July 2011 cover.
With June's Daft Punk issue the last under Langley's reign (she'll take the new title of senior contributing fashion editor, focusing on her international freelance career whilst passing on the role to Robbie Spencer), we chat ascendency as Langley compiles her ten favourite editorial highlights.
Dazed Digital: What got you into fashion – was it always an ambition?
Karen Langley: I didn't really know what I wanted to do until I was doing it. I decided to come to London during fashion week and help out on a show because it was a fun thing to do. I really didn't see it as a vocation. I'm not sure whether I do even now! That's what makes the industry so fun: it's both a hobby and a job!
I came down to London for the day to help out on the Robert Cary-Williams show – after Alexander McQueen it was the hot ticket at the time. Katie Grand was styling the show and Simon Robins was assisting. I had no idea what a stylist was, I didn't know such a job existed, but I was looking at what Katie was doing and thought to myself "whatever it is that she's doing, thats what I want to do." I ran around like a crazy person helping anyone and everyone backstage and my hard work was repaid by Simon, who offered me an internship at Dazed & Confused. Thats where the story began. I interned for a month that summer and got the bug. It's also where I first met Cathy Edwards who has been so instrumental in nurturing my career.
DD: Dazed is rare in that you can start as an intern and work your way up to the top – as creatives such as yourself and Nicola did…
Karen Langley: Whenever I speak to students about how to get into the industry I always try to hit home how crucial work experience is. As an aspiring stylist going to college and studying is the icing on the cake. The real work is achieved through getting yourself out there. During my time at Central Saint Martins I spent most of my day at the Dazed & Confused offices, writing my thesis in the evenings.
DD: You've spent years doing shows. What were your standouts of attending womenswear?
Karen Langley: I've been incredibly lucky to see some of the most exciting shows during my tenure at Dazed. However, for me, backstage is where you really experience the drama. The first show I ever assisted on from start to finish was during my second internship with Dazed on my gap year from Saint Martins. I assisted Katy England on the Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2003 collection. The production involved the making of three films: one underwater, one night vision and one infrared. The three films and sections of the collection came together in one of the most epic McQueen shows in Paris. I remember both Katy England and Alister Mackie telling me afterwards that if I could make it through that show then I could make it through the production of any show. And they were right.
DD: And what have you called in that you were particularly blown away by?
Karen Langley: I've had the pleasure of working with some of the most amazing clothing and jewellery – the sort of items that you know the next time you'll see them they will be exhibited in a museum. I guess it's shooting couture that you are really taken back by the craftsmanship and artistry of fashion. Givenchy couture of any season never fails to blow my mind.
DD: Have you got any favourite anecdotes from your time at Dazed?
Karen Langley: Plenty, although they're not suitable for writing down! Some of my dearest memories from the office have been from the times when we've collectively been rummaging through the fashion cupboard like an old episode of Bitsa getting ready for fancy dress parties.
DD: What will you miss from the office most?
Karen Langley: Of course seeing some of my closest friends on a day-today basis is something I will miss. The Dazed & Confused office is a very strange and wonderful place, unlike anywhere else I've ever been. Turning up each day you can never really be sure how the day will unfold.