Last week, Stylist put on the ultimate festival for women. Part-book club, part-fashion show, part-motivational masterclass, part-foodie heaven, it was an event that saw everyone from Nigella Lawson to author Salman Rushdie and activist Yeonmi Park come together to share their life advice.
Held over an electrifying four days at the Business Design Centre in London’s Islington – the atmosphere was amazing from the minute the doors opened – we brought the pages of Stylist to life. Catwalk shows and blow-dry bars sat alongside feminist debates, stand-up comedy gigs, author interviews and food demos – turning the space into an eclectic celebration of all things Stylist.
Hosted by Dawn O’Porter and Edith Bowman, Stylist Live featured an awe-inspiring 128 guest speakers, from eminent foodies such as Yotam Ottolenghi and Mary McCartney to top authors including Caitlin Moran and the 2015 Man Booker prize winner Marlon James (just two days after he won the prestigious title).
There were 82 learning lab sessions, with readers able to get the lowdown on everything from how to start a business for under £100 to how to write your first novel with author Laura Barnett. Hix’s Ronnie Murray and Dustin MacMillan got the crowd a little tipsy during their oyster and cocktails demonstration while whoops could be heard coming from fashion blogger Frédérique Tietcheu’s session on how to change up your style.
Our Culture Lounge, decked out like a low-lit library complete with mismatched sofas, played host to everything from live acoustic sets (Laura Mvula) to rowdy feminism debates (DJ Gemma Cairney and Stylist columnist Lucy Mangan).
Meanwhile the Stylist team were everywhere (all dressed in Asos indigo to match the vision of fashion director Alexandra Fullerton). We could be found at the Stylist Zone encouraging readers to sketch their own cover designs as well as hosting 69 of the events such as ‘How To Be A Magazine Editor’ with Lisa Smosarski. But that wasn’t all…
Stylist set the stage for inspiring women
At the heart of the festival was the aptly named Stylist Inspires stage which played host to awe-inducing speakers Davina McCall, Caitlin Moran, Nigella Lawson, Lorraine Pascale, Bridget Christie and more.
Davina set the tone by opening the show with her frank talk: totally honest (she opened her session by telling us she’s now 23 years clean), she took the time to listen to the audience, offering pertinent advice (“My dad says the point where everyone else gives up is the point where you keep going longer”) and, in some cases, hugs. It left us moved – but also upbeat.
It was a mood that prevailed across the four days. Caitlin Moran loudly exhorted us all to, “Take up our space” while Lorraine Pascale reminded the audience, “Happiness is a choice.”
Nigella told us her key piece of life advice was to “Do it now. The worst thing you can tell yourself is you’re going to do something and not do it. So do it. It doesn’t matter if you fail.” And when Katie Piper took to the stage on Sunday to close the show, she hit the nail on the head: “One of the most powerful tools we all possess is human spirit. To me, that’s what radiates beauty.” Inspiring stuff.
And behind the scenes…
Some of our favourite moments came when we spotted our speakers swapping ideas and thoughts and, in some cases, phone numbers. Edith Bowman got on like a house on fire with Hemsley + Hemsley (apparently they gifted her a spiralizer). Edith was also very chuffed with the Star Wars-inspired scarf she bought at Emma J Shipley’s pop-up on the shopping floor (modelling it with Darth Vader noises). Former Great British Bake Off winner Frances Quinn rushed to the front after Nina Stibbe’s book club and shouted, “I go to the gym with your mum!”. And backstage, anti-FGM activist Nimko Ali was seen deep in conversation with MP Stella Creasy, while the new Man Booker prize winner Marlon James gamely let Caitlin Moran lick his Booker Prize in the green room.
Other favourite spots include Gemma Cairney making a dash to see Nigella on the Speakers’ Corner stage, Mary McCartney answering a cheeky question from her seven-year-old son and singer Andreya Triana getting changed in the Stylist staff room before her acoustic set. Oh and Lorraine Pascale running to catch the Tube (she didn’t want to sit in traffic).
Until next year, you lovely lot!
Words: Francesca Brown
Photography: Getty Images