"There where a lot of reasons why we where in Genoa," continues Kirkby. "There was also the question of AIDS in Africa, which all the big industrial nations where ignoring. And to add insult to this devastating disease they where making a great deal of money from the drugs and not allowing the Africans to produce generic drugs."
Here, Broach takes over. "The first time the AIDS quilts were brought to London, we were able to connect what was happening in the world with making clothes. Fashion is such a vacuous term, but sewing is a communal event, particularly between family and women. The whole purpose of the quilts was to join together in response to an illness so rudely and ignorantly stigmatized." Her voice rising, the diminutive designer commands attention. "I was also helping produce and direct an AIDS documentary, the only one at the time. I interviewed an old couple from the north of England who had lost their son to the disease. They were so strong in the way they dealt with it. When the two-day interview was over, I remember walking away and completely breaking down. In fact I cried a lot during the whole filming. I like things that are very emotional," she asserts finally, in a statement that, to someone who didn't know better, might squirm in contrast to Boudicca's subversively cool image.
"Films do it to me, too. Currently, I'm really into this odd film called Time Code, by Mike Figgis. You'd never know it at first, but it's a modern story about sex, love, treachery, adultery and isolationall the emotions. The screen is split into four stories, all shot in digital." She searches for a way to illustrate the point with her hands. "When you first start watching you think you can't follow what's happening. But it all comes together at one point on one screen."
"You know," she continues, now clearly on a roll, "the world I lived in when I was younger wasn't global, but it was global ultimately, because we had TV. And when I'd watch TV, I'd watch films. This is very strange for Americans, but in London we had two channels and they ended at midnight. When I was a kid I would sometimes watch thirteen films a day and switch between them. I never had a favorite, but I love Cassavetes. I think he's an amazing filmmaker. And he's inspired so many others. I also love really old films with Bette Davis." She imitates the actress puffing on a cigarette, her lake blue eyes striking an uncanny resemblance. "That wrinkly old woman is so genius. But gruff, because she smoked packs a day. I was brought up on watching movies where everyone smoked. I think I'll pick the habit up again when I'm 80."
And will she still be designing? "I hope so. And I hope there'll be many other young designers. But what really angers me is how people who make millions from the industry give fuck-all about bringing people from the bottom to the top. It's really key to support those who are new." What, then, are the prospects for a new UK competition called Fashion Fringewhich aims to find the next McQueen, Galliano or Westwoodstarted by Colin McDowell, senior fashion writer for the London Sunday Times and, for many, the voice of London fashion? Likening it a sort of Fashion Idol, Kirkby leans forward and says, "I find it slightly distasteful. For the last three seasons Colin McDowell has cut London Fashion Week to pieces, probably setting the stage for this competition. I think he understands fashion history quite well, but I'd want to keep an eye on the first people who didn't win."
But Boudicca is full of surprises, and where there's pessimism, there's an equal dose of optimism. In her final thought, Broach offers this: "I think, above all else, Boudicca is a journey for us, and sometimes people get it and they walk with us. But I don't think we've gotten where we want to go. I don't think the vision has become a reality yet." A silence follows. "But I don't think that's negative. I think our dream is pretty big."
Boudicca is available in London at Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, W1A 1AB, +44 8708 377 377; in Paris at Onward, 6 Rue Vivienne, +33 (0) 1 55 04 87 87; in New York at Seven, 180 Orchard Street, 646-654-0155; and in Los Angeles and Tokyo at Barneys.