Authors: Kirstie Clements
Lunch was easy and convivial, and even though Karl was on his very strict diet, the food was sensational. I mentioned that we had just been to see a wonderful exhibition of Marlene Dietrich’s personal wardrobe. Karl had known her and said he couldn’t stand her, and made some salacious and hilarious comments, best not repeated. He knew Marlene Dietrich! I was in awe. When Paul and I tumbled onto the street a couple of hours later, it took a few minutes for us to compose ourselves. It was a once in a lifetime experience.
We immediately caught the Metro over to the 16th and Paul bought a Dior Homme tuxedo worth two months’ pay to celebrate, but he had decided he must have something to wear to the launch party.
My next rendezvous with Karl was scheduled during the Milan collections, which were due to start the following week. We met at the Fendi showroom the evening before the show, and I sat at the desk with him, watching with fascination as each exit was brought out for his tweaking and approval.
He was in a somewhat mischievous mood and had tired of the long negotiations with Nicole Kidman. “You know, I saw a photo of the model Eva Herzigová in a magazine and she looks just like Nicole!” he exclaimed. “Why don’t we shoot Eva wearing couture and we can have her doing all Nicole’s red carpet poses? We can have a little fun with it.”
That is exactly what we did. It solved both my cover and budget problems. We could put Cate on the cover, or a model. There would be no Hollywood agent standoff.
The shoot with Eva was held at 7L late one afternoon and we shot well into the night. Amanda Harlech was there again, and US
’s contributing editor André Leon Talley dropped by to watch. Eva is so glamorous and a consummate model. She was mostly glued to her mobile phone all evening, and from what I could discern she is fluent in more than half a dozen languages. When she admired the gorgeous black Dior Homme overcoat Karl was wearing (in French), he promptly draped it over her bare shoulders and gave it to her. The Nicole Kidman homage was our little tongue-in-cheek secret, and I don’t think anyone in the Australian press (or Nicole’s agent) picked up on it, but every one of Eva’s poses were copied from Kidman’s past red carpet appearances.
Getting the issue to the printers on time was a massive challenge for the entire staff, but Karl came through like the professional he is, just in the nick of time. We certainly had some nail-biting moments when we were waiting on elements, such as his approval of Paul’s layouts, but the emergency plans we had put in place meant that we could always progress with at least some pages and in the end it all came together.
We then began to plan a massive launch party, which we decided to hold at the Sydney Opera House, choosing a suitably famous landmark to celebrate a most momentous occasion. Karl had expressed interest in attending right up until the very end, and we had booked hotels and started to lose sleep over details like chauffeurs, restaurants, bodyguards, weather, everything. Our events director Sally Bell was magnificent. The invitations, with a fold-out silhouette of Karl, designed by Paul Meany, were dispatched and the buzz around town was “would he or wouldn’t he be there?” Then we received the devastating news
that, due to overlapping commitments and the great distance, Karl would not be able to travel to Sydney. He promised, however (I think to assuage my disappointment), he would record a video message to play on the night.
The event planning went ahead, and then one afternoon Sally appeared at the door of my office. “Look what I’ve got,” she said in her lilting Scottish accent, shaking a video tape. It was Karl’s recording. We rushed into the boardroom and watched Karl descend regally down his staircase at his home, pause at the bottom, and speak about how much he enjoyed editing
, working with me and how he dearly wished he could be at the party with us all. Sally and I burst into tears.
The party was expensive, chic and swank, filled to capacity with elegantly dressed guests sipping on icy champagne and delicious canapés. Michael McHugh spoke, I spoke, and we ran Karl’s video. Charla flew out from Paris, there were fireworks on the harbor, and placed on tables around the room were the very first advance copies of the December 2003 issue, guest edited by Karl Lagerfeld. It had been a marvelous, unforgettable rollercoaster.
here are some stories that are irresistible to an editor. I had been keeping my eye on the burgeoning romance between a young Australian woman, Mary Donaldson, and Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark, who met at a pub during the Sydney Olympics in 2000. The story went that apparently not wanting to reveal his profile, the prince introduced himself to Mary as Fred. They fell head over heels in love. I noted that there were trips back and forth to Denmark and Sydney for the two of them, until it was reported that at the end of 2001 Mary had quietly moved to Denmark. It was obvious that the relationship was serious, and that she was perhaps “in training” for the next stage.
It was a real-life fairytale, every woman’s fantasy of becoming a princess. Editorial co-ordinator Kimberley Walsh was obsessed with Mary. She had a “Mary” file on her desktop and she would scan the internet for shots of her every morning. Kimberley, Leigh Ann and I were looking at some Mary photographs one morning over tea, musing over how daunting the royal grooming lessons might be when I said, “She’s
probably homesick. Let’s send her a
subscription.” Leigh found the palace contact details and Kimberley eagerly wrapped our latest issue in white tissue paper, tied it with a
ribbon and airfreighted it to Mary. Every single month.
Sometimes I would pop a handwritten card inside, other times not. It just became a monthly ritual, and meanwhile Leigh Ann also began to make polite inquiries through the official palace channels about a possible
This went on for over a year when finally the engagement was announced in October 2003. Leigh Ann intensified her campaign with no definite word either way coming back from palace officials. The royal wedding was held in May 2004, and attracted nation-wide attention in Australia. Most weddings leave me dry-eyed, but the story behind this couple accidentally finding love in an ordinary Aussie pub was catnip to me as a journalist.
Several months before the wedding I had traveled to Copenhagen with the Danish luxury house Georg Jensen to join a press tour of their atelier and attend a gala dinner held in the National Gallery. My great friend fashion scribe Tim Blanks was also on the trip, and one chilly afternoon we were treated to a daytime harbor cruise and a visit to the Amalienborg Palace complex, a large square in central Denmark flanked by four palaces.
The Changing of the Guard had just begun, so Tim and I jostled our way to the front to watch the proceedings. I stared up at one of the palace balconies and imagined Mary somewhere inside, taking Danish lessons. “You know,” I said to Tim, “there’s a beautiful Tasmanian girl named Mary who is set to wed the Crown Prince. I want that story for
soooo badly.” Tim, in his usual glib manner said, “Are you having an ‘it should have been me’ moment, Kirst?” Admittedly I was caught
up in the whole romantic dream, but more than anything I wanted to be in that palace, interviewing Mary. “I am going to get the story, believe me,” I said to Tim as we readjusted our scarves in the freezing wind and headed back to the boat.
By the time the royal wedding was over, Kimberley’s Princess Mary obsession had taken on biblical proportions. Leigh Ann had continued to valiantly email the palace, but then we decided to get serious and ramp it up a notch. We wrote an email to Mary, suggesting that this was the ideal time to capture her as she embarked on her journey as the Princess of Denmark; we would create a photographic marking of this new, remarkable stage in her life. We dropped top photographers’ names like no tomorrow. We heard nothing.
Then, one Friday about 6 p.m., I was in my office gathering my things to go home. The rest of the team had left for the weekend. I glanced at my watch and realized that now was the ideal hour to call Denmark. Leigh Ann had tracked down the direct line to the Lord Chamberlain of the Household, so I dialed the number with no great sense of expectation that he would even answer. But surprisingly, he did.
I hastily regrouped my thoughts, introduced myself and humbly went through my spiel. Then he said affably, “Ah hello. Yes. I know about this. I spoke to the princess this morning. She said yes, she would like to do it.”
Much like when the doctor told me I was having twins, I thought I’d misheard.
“Excuse me?” I stammered, trying to stay composed. “Did you say, yes, she’ll do it?”
“Yes, we just have to work out when,” he replied.
This was unbelievable. Mary had done no interviews, no magazine sittings. They were one of the world’s most glamorous, and private, royal couples. This was a
I recall hanging up and actually screaming “Yeeessssss!” down an empty office corridor, before I called Leigh Ann and Kimberley to give them the news. I called to let Michael McHugh know, and he also—to his credit—joined in the general hysteria. The project was not going to be cheap, so he would have to sell it to FPC’s proprietor Michael Hannan as a huge win for potential circulation.
It was also crucial that we kept it under wraps so as to not spoil the impact when the magazine did come out. I have never felt stress as intently as I did in the lead-up to leaving for Copenhagen, and actually ended up at the doctor’s as a result of the anxiety.
When I became the editor of
I basically gave up writing, because I felt that I should be the figurehead of the magazine and leave the content to my team. But if a story was particularly topical, or the subject very high profile, I thought it made sense for me to write the piece. I missed writing and Princess Mary was the story I wanted to tell.
I employed fashion stylist Trevor Stones to work on the project; he was already a
contributor and we all began working on the logistics. The photographer chosen was Regan Cameron, who would fly in with his team from New York. Princess Mary requested her own makeup artist; a hair stylist would come from elsewhere in Europe; and Trevor and I would fly to Copenhagen from Sydney. It was a very closed set—no manicurists, no manicurists’ assistants, no astrologers.
The shoot was planned for September, prior to the RTW shows in Milan. Trevor had asked every designer who sent clothes to agree to
complete confidentiality; it was like a stealth campaign. The night before I was due to leave, Michael McHugh called me at home while I was packing. I thought he was going to wish me luck but instead he asked me if I thought FPC could afford what it was going to cost. He had already seen the budgets and we had kept costs down to the bare minimum. It was a question that would have been better directed towards Michael Hannan, but the call was intended to hand me total responsibility for all consequences—financial and otherwise—right at the eleventh hour. It had been impossible to go to market with the fact that Princess Mary was going to be on the cover, so our advertisers just had to trust we had something special up our sleeve. But this was a once in a lifetime editorial opportunity and I knew it would sell. The conversation just made me more determined to make the project unforgettable.
Trevor and I flew to Copenhagen, and made contact with our connection to the palace, Princess Mary’s personal assistant Anja Camilla Alaidi. Anja was a young, attractive brunette, very cool in her jeans and boots, but all business. That evening the three of us gathered in the bar of the hotel, to meet with photographer Regan Cameron and discuss how events would roll out. The next day I was to interview Princess Mary at the palace, after which Trevor and I were to go through the fashion with her, trying things on so that we could make a preselection, while Regan was to scout the palace for locations. Regan is originally a New Zealander and I had worked with him in the early days at
, mostly on beauty shoots when I was an assistant. Since then Regan had hit the big-time overseas, and he arrived in Copenhagen with some big-time New York attitude.
He strolled into the bar, said hello to everyone, and then declared that he was going back up to his room. “You can work things out with my assistant,” he said over his shoulder as he departed, while his
colleague sat down at the table. Anja looked at me, wide-eyed with disbelief. “What did he just say?” she glowered. “Where did he go? No, no, no. We are discussing the Prince and Princess of Denmark!” She rounded on the assistant. “Go up and get him NOW or the shoot is off.” I adored her for that. Normally that’s something I would have to do.
Regan got the message and was back in an instant. He was a pleasure to work with after that.
The following day we were collected from the hotel by palace staff in Jeeps and driven the short distance to the palace of Christian VIII. Trevor and I were so excited we practically skipped up the red-carpeted stairs and were then led to an antechamber, situated off a main ballroom. Protocol had been explained to us: we were to address Mary as Crown Princess Mary, or Your Royal Highness unless she directed us otherwise, and we were not to enter or leave a room before her, or of course any other member of the royal family we might encounter. There was no curtsying although I would have been more than happy to do so; I love all that pomp and ceremony.