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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, March 16, 2007
    The icon wrapped up in the ordinary
    "The pursuit of style has always been a spirited part of the work process. Images that inform the work or the movement of the work. Baudelaire's cravat. June Christie's careless ponytail. A raincoat a la Camus. Bob Dylan's snap tab collar. Black capris like Ava Gardner. Discarded finery from rich heaps. Italian sunglasses. Green silk stockings. Ballet slippers. Boxer shoes. A sense of style. A certain body language. A simple, intricate gesture. More often than not, bred from innocence, awkwardness, or pure survival." - Patti Smith

    Another first for me. First time I've bought a book in a supermarket*. It seemed to be the right place to do it, to purchase a copy of Coleen's Welcome to My World during a late-night stock-up on essentials with one luxury item thrown in. In the very shop (at the top of our road) she still goes to with her Mum, the very chain she models clothes for now. It meant I could cover my embarrassment by also throwing into the trolley some pink wrapping paper which (I hoped) would suggest to the checkout girl that the book was probably a Mother's Day present.

    Not quite my Mum's sort of book this, though, I think. It's probably more a young mums' book, with its pages of fashion tips and clothes-shop chatter. It's certainly a young girls' book given the crowds of teens who swarmed Waterstone's on Bold Street last weekend looking for a sight of their city's latest diva, hoping for a word with her, at her book-signing.

    But I guess any mum would warm to the way that Coleen writes about her family, about how this autobiographical endeavour is charged with the air of someone who refuses to have her head turned by fame and who still likes nothing better than spending time in the family home with mum, dad, sister, brothers and Wayne (who loves that too).

    That's why I've previously recorded and make no secret of my admiration of Coleen who, of course, hails from this parish. Respect, for a young woman who respects (and is still strongly connected to) her roots.

    The publisher's puff for 'Welcome to My World' says that it 'offers exclusive insights into [Coleen's] transformation from an ordinary Liverpudlian schoolgirl into a glamorous style icon'. But Coleen seems keen to dump the 'icon' tag and accentuate her normality. Her conversational writing style - so like listening to a twenty-year old woman going on about health, fitness and her boyfriend's bad habits that it made my eyes glaze over on many occasions - achieves this.

    I think it'd be more accurate of the publishers if they lost the word 'transformation' and affirmed instead that a large part of Coleen's appeal is that this trendsetter, consciously du jour, is equally consciously wrapped up in the ordinary, enduring everyday. For that, we celebrate and give thanks.

    And as regards her fashion career, considering where that's come from, that too provokes respect: hear her telling you that from her earliest days she's always been interested in fashion, see the childhood photos which bear this out, then return to the quote at the top of this blog from the other, very different book which I've been spending time with today.

    [* unless you regard Borders as a supermarket, of course]