Katharine is as adept as organising political lobbies and launching environmental crusades as she is at creating, eminently wearable clothes.
Hamnett doesn’t spend the interview trying to sell her clothes – she advocates second hand and even goes so far as to suggest that people should make their own – instead she talks about her visits to Paris’ seedy Montreuil flea market: the lack of professional morality and physical appeal of Westminister politicians: Japanese cameras: her “potty poetess sister, Charlotte Appleton, she’s brilliant, a new, female Shakespeare”: the need to fund research into organic production processes: “I have lots of things to think about apart from clothes” she says.
Hamnett has always refused to court the fashion press and makes no bones about the fact that she thinks the area is hugely over-represented. “Fashion gets more publicity that it deserves. If magazines and newspapers were put together with a set of global priorities in mind, then fashion wouldn’t even get a look in. As it is, fashion because it’s light and people don’t like to be disturbed, gets colossal coverage. And I’m sorry,” she says, with no trace of regret in her voice, “but I do not work in a vacuum. I live in the real world with all its terrible faults and you just cannot simply sit on your ass and do nothing about it, especially when you have all this ridiculous excessive fashion coverage at hand to use and try and make everyone think a bit.”
“Listen, I know for a fact that certain very glossy sections of the fashion publishing world would rather that I just disappear,” she is evidently none too worried about making life difficult for herself. Moreover, she seems to revel in shaking things up.
As ever Hamnett has a mission on the go. Allied to her Buddhist beliefs and spurred on by the horrific findings of some casually undertaken research a couple of years back;
“I thought, here I am making soppy clothes and this has really got to be harming nobody, and then you find that agriculture cotton slaughters 20,000 people a year by pesticide poisoning.”
Cotton 2000 is the name of a project launched three years ago in association with the Pesticide Trust. Its ambitious aim, through research and education, is to abolish all pesticides in cotton growing, leading to totally green cotton by the end of the century.
Ask Katharine Hamnett a question, and you’re guaranteed of an interesting answer – usually not the one that you might have predicted and sometimes on which seems to have little bearing on the original questions, but it’s always a revelation.