Mr Edward Siddons may look like a model but in actuality he's an Oxford student studying English Literature and French. As part of his degree, he's spent the last year making Paris his home, discovering much more than just the intricacies of the French language.
I bumped into him last season at Men's Week in Paris and was instantly taken by his description of being an Englishman in Paris. Here I ask him all about this and more so read below for the full interview.
He's the final gent to be featured as part of the GQ for GAP campaign and the perfect candidate to end the series dressed in Brooklyn Tailors. With a heart for tradition but a mind to shake things up they're a match made in heaven.
Friday, 17 October 2014
GarconJon meets... Edward Siddons #GQforGAP
Edward Siddons, Editor and Translator
Where did you grow up and where do you live now? I grew up in Walsall, a town just north of Birmingham. It’s still my base, insofar as it’s the place I return to and it’s where my parents’ home is but I spend very little time there – mostly because it’s culturally desolate. I first left to study English literature and French at Oxford, and as part of my degree spent the last twelve months in Paris. That’s all over now, though, so I’m enduring a brief stint in the Midlands before heading back to Oxford to finish my degree. For the moment, I’m not sure where I’d call home.
What's your star sign? Cancer. Which is nice because I like crabs, but irrelevant because I can’t stand astrology.
Current album on repeat? Hard Core by Lil’ Kim. It has been on repeat for more or less the last three years though. It’s one of my favourite albums and I’ve been thinking about writing on it for a while, something about self-fashioning maybe. It’s great: witty, raw, and unashamedly sex-positive from a female in an industry that did and still does repeatedly panic when female sexuality is expressed without reservation, and without catering to a man. It was the case with Lil Kim, with Foxy Brown, and still is with Nicki Minaj.
Describe yourself in 5 words? Ambitious, playful, curious, queer, and angry.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I never had a particular ambition as a child. I loved science and was really curious about physics until I got to secondary school and realised it would involve Maths. Aged twelve, I became really interested in fashion and wanted to become a designer until the age of fifteen. It was something entirely different from anything I’d known, a kind of escapism, on the one hand, and something relevant, that I could use to empower myself, on the other. Womenswear provided the escapism, menswear the empowerment.
The escapist element meant that the womenswear designers that I paid most attention to were people like Alexander McQueen and John Galliano in their uniquely dark theatricality, but also the slew of really talented graduated CSM was turning out in the mid-to-late-noughties, the notable example being Gareth Pugh. As a young teenager, I was sort of horrified and transfixed by the perversity of his first collection, and I remember sketching – in secret – after having pored over the shots online.
I never got the chance to explore any of that, or do much about wanting to design: my school was highly academic, my brother went to Oxford, and I did well, so Oxford became my goal too. It worked out, and I have loved it there, but I still sketch occasionally, which very few people know about. For a while, the conservatism of somewhere like Oxford meant that I came to dismiss fashion, but spending the last year in Paris has presented opportunities to re-engage with fashion, and I think it’s what I’m going to go into. It feels exciting and new, but also tinged with a kind of nostalgia and reconnection with a teenage me.
Paris has been your home for the past year, over the past 12 months how has this changed your point of view? There’s no way I can answer that fully here but I’ve learned a lot. Paris has made me harder because there is a lot of bullshit that comes with living there. The city – or at least, the milieu that I was in – was one in which image was important and there’s a lot of judgement that comes with that. If the French dislike what they see, they have no shame in showing their contempt. And it’s no better on the contrary, either. If they do like what they see, then that will express itself with shameless objectification as you get leered at on the metro by a guy who – in France at least – is probably eligible for retirement.
On a more positive note, I met some great people and I’ve built a life there. It has made me considerably more ambitious, more political, and more bullish. If you want anything doing or want to get anywhere, you really can’t fuck around in Paris.
Is there an element to the city that contradicts your Englishness? So much! I apologise when I’m not sorry, I say thank you when I have nothing to be grateful for, I queue patiently – all of those classic stereotypes. The French do none of the above. The stereotypes regarding Parisian nonchalance and a certain off-hand directness are all true, and all quite alien to my fairly Victorian upbringing.
Favourite place in the city for:
A dance? Bizarre Love Triangle at Maxim’s. Hard, queer and sweaty. It’s great as long as you ignore the side-eyes and shade that Parisian gays dole out.
A drink? Either Aux Folies up in Belleville or the lawns of the Tuileries in summer with a bottle of cheap wine.
A coffee? Ten Belles in the 10th.
A walk? From Buttes Chaumont park, over towards la Villette, then down the canal towards Jaures, then on to Stalingrad and République. Alternatively, I used to enjoy walking from the 13th in the east to the centre whilst sticking on the left bank. It’s not Parisian at all, but the concrete and glass was quite a nice escape from what became suffocating neo-classical architecture elsewhere.
Finish these sentences:
Paris is... intense.
Parisiennes are... always from the provinces, faking it until they make it.
Je m'appelle Edward et je... pense donc je suis.
You're an Oxford boy...what do you think of Cambridge? Sorry, where?
Is there a piece of literature that's changed your life since reading English? Of course. I can clearly trace my coming to terms with my sexuality in literature. James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room articulated the strange self-loathing and shame that was ingrained in me for far too long, and seeing it play itself out in the text, I realised how debilitating it was. Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty showed me the world of sexual liberation that queer sexualities can offer, and the dangers therein. They, and tens of other novels, have changed my outlook quite radically, but the real change was Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, which isn’t fiction or poetry or what I think you’re implying by “literature”, but instead the most powerful attack I’ve read on society’s conceptions of sex, gender and sexuality. It changed my life because it was a kind of weapon. It irrevocably politicised me and armed me with the theoretical basis to unpick idiocy and ignorance. It simultaneously made me calm within myself, and furious at everything outside. Fundamentally, it was about liberation.
See the full article by clicking here.
Give me a quote that will stay with you eternally. My mother once said that “Education is the only thing that can never be taken away from you.”
Who are your style influencers? Anyone who wears black and wears it well. So, everything from Berlin’s gay aesthetic and Gareth Pugh’s early collections, through to my grandma looking phenomenal in this dress she has with a demure little black lace section just below the neckline.
What magazines are you currently reading? I read Vogue Paris and Vogue Hommes International as a starting point, but at the moment I’m devouring the Business of Fashion. It’s really excellent, offering insightful analysis of creativity, to-the-minute information on the growing role of fashion tech, interesting discussion of commerce’s role in what is now a global behemoth of an industry. It places fashion in a far more political and engaging space than it is often considered, and that’s exactly what interests me, and what I want to explore as a fashion writer.
I also enjoy most things by Suzy Menkes, Alex Fury and Angelo Flaccavento. I have enormous respect for people who cut through the bullshit of the fashion world to provide intelligent critique in an industry that too often panders to brands. Sparkling prose also helps.
What's on the horizon for you? For the moment, my degree and editorial work for The Stimuleye, a creative collective headed by Antoine Asseraf, Rene Habermacher and Suzanne von Aichinger. The current project to be released on November 1st is on the cultural climate of Paris, entitled “Paris is dead.” We’ve got great content from names you’ll know and names you won’t, and its shaping up to be really interesting: critical, original, and – refreshingly – polyvocal.
In the long term, however, my future is going to be writing. I want to make a career out of words, and for the moment, in fashion, but with a political eye and insight that my academic background – for which I’m eternally grateful – has offered me. Next time, Mr Pryce, I’ll be interviewing you.
Finally, leave us with some words of wisdom... In the words of the greatest mind since Nietzche, “You gotta work, bitch.”
See the full GQ article at GQmagazine.fr.