by Kathryn Gilbert
If my boyfriend asked me to let him hack my £100,000 Hermès Birkin to pieces with a chainsaw, before proceeding to set it on fire, that would probably be the end of us.
Yet this is what Clint Eastwood’s daughter, Francesca, allowed her photographer boyfriend Tyler Shields to do. Aside from the dubious ethics of burning away enough material worth to provide 400 water stores to impoverished African families, destroying something your girlfriend loves so you can make the statement that ‘Destruction is a beautiful version of freedom’ seems pretty selfish. His repeated assaults on his girlfriend’s wardrobe bring to mind one question – would you make such a style sacrifice in the name of love?
For me the answer is no. If it were a choice between a dead-end relationship and an Olympia Le-Tan clutch I’d have no problems in choosing sides; the object of my fashionable affections would win out. But it doesn’t have to be this black and white. Brands like The Kooples have built their entire image on the idea of the happy marriage of love and fashion. Their ad campaigns are composed of picture after picture of impeccably dressed, suspiciously beautiful couples with the caption “Klara and Karl have been a couple for two years”. The well-honed marketing strategy is based on the comforting recognition of the stylish benefits of a good relationship.
Take David and Victoria Beckham, for example. Before they found each other David was relentlessly offending the nation with bizarre haircuts and Victoria was the unfortunate victim of the ‘90s girl-band aesthetic. Fast-forward to 2012 and David has been the well-groomed face of numerous fashion brands, and is now designing underwear (of course) for H&M – see this month’s UK Elle cover for affirmation of his sartorial status.
Meanwhile Victoria has upped her ante to impressive heights, with two deservedly respected lines to her name. You may call it a decade-long PR campaign, but I like to think that they contributed to each other’s style rehabilitation. Whilst I may have absolutely nothing to substantiate that with, the power of two has certainly been effective in guaranteeing the Beckhams their place in the industry.
On a more personal level, I’ve found that relationships lead either to hideous mistakes (eleven months after the break up and I’m still growing out the bob) or unexpected improvements. At first it can be difficult to accept criticism, particularly when your tracksuit-wearing counterpart tells you, “I think you should belt that. Maybe the black one?” Was the boy with an inexplicable attachment to flip-flops and raw edged t-shirts really making better sartorial decisions than me? Sort of. I provided the raw materials, he offered the judgement I trusted. In relationships, style is a tale of two halves.
Because without wanting to be too utilitarian about it, apart from anything boyfriends and girlfriends are good critics. They’re the ones you want to listen to and the ones who’ll set you straight in the kindest way possible, adding to your sense of style rather than changing it. I’m not saying you should sign your wardrobe over à la Eastwood, but remember a bit of healthy collaboration can only be a good thing. Just make sure your other half doesn’t come armed with a chainsaw and blowtorch.