By Royal Appointment

WORDS Sarah Ann Murray

When I first told my father I was going to be a ‘stylist,’ his response was, “Sarah, you can’t just make up a job.” In truth, at the time, I too wasn’t entirely sure what exactly was involved. I knew it was something about dressing people and choosing their clothes. But, almost twenty years later, I’ve just had the pleasure of styling rock legend Brian May for Queen’s opening performance at the Platinum Jubilee.

Starting out in fashion, though, was much less glamorous. After Law school and a stint travelling, I headed to the London College of Fashion to put into action this pipe-dream career. A couple of magazine internships later and some trial-run personal styling sessions with friends’ parents and I was hooked, mostly because it was a job where I could wear whatever I wanted to work.

I soon moved to Singapore, where, between visa runs to Malaysia, I learned that it’s not all glitz and glamour in the fashion world. I spent many long hours dressing mannequins in malls, styling school fashion shows, and accessorising some questionable TV adverts. Fortunately, this led to a job with a men’s fashion magazine and for the next few years, I lived and breathed all things men’s luxury, tailoring and Savile Row, styling fashion shoots, dressing cover stars and attending fashion week. 

It was in styling photoshoots that I really came to understand the power of what we wear. Clothes and fashion tell a commanding story and can form much of our identity. That story can be even more powerful when the people you’re dressing are well-known faces, and I’ve been lucky enough to style some incredible people. An oh-so-cool Samuel L. Jackson in the mountains of Colorado, an enigmatic Eric Cantona on the streets of Paris, the genuinely lovely David Beckham, a reserved and polite Andy Murray, a chiselled David Gandy, and Kit Harrington, better known as John Snow. Fortunately, my other half is quite relaxed about what I do for a living!

This shot was the first look I tried on Samuel. It was a light-weight, textured, wool suit from one of Savile Row’s oldest tailors, Gieves & Hawkes, which looked great next to his beard – the first time I’d seen him with a beard. It was always going to be a contender for the cover and I wanted something simple to let that well-known smile do all the talking. So it didn’t look too corporate, I opted for a brown polka-dot knitted tie and those strong frames finished off this quirky take on a classic suit style.

A few years later, a job came in to style Queen for a magazine shoot. After the shoot, to my surprise, Brian May and his team asked if I’d be able to help put together a few looks for his next upcoming event – The Oscars, no less. Queen were opening the show the year their film, Bohemian Rhapsody, was released and walking the red carpet. 

And so began my time working with Brian May, which has become a very privileged – on my part – collaborative process and an insight into Brian’s creative, detailed mind. Which is how his bespoke jacket for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee came to life. Brian wanted to wear something that was a show-stopping piece suitable for the occasion, but with a personal meaning, and then, of course, comfortable enough to wear on stage.

For the design, we incorporated one of Brian’s most important subject matters: British wildlife animals. For years, he’s fought tirelessly to protect them. The animals were initially sketched by Brian’s friend and artist, Sarah Rugg, and then recreated in material by London’s finest embroiderers, Hand & Lock, and individually sewn onto the fabric to create a visual jamboree of flora and fauna, including, of course, a fox and a badger.

Underneath the jacket, Brian wore a shirt with reflective detail, ideal for under-stage lights, paired with slim grey jeans. The hand-painted silver vegan trainers are a key look for his stage-wear whilst on tour and a simple styling cue I like to follow for men: keep things tonal.

It’s an unbelievable experience to work with someone like Brian May and play even the smallest part in what was a momentous occasion. Still, it would be remiss to leave out an utterly humbling moment where I once held Brian’s guitar during a fitting and mindlessly began to strum the four chords I know. He turned and noticed, and asked, “Oh do you play?” As always, he was so very polite as I clearly do not play the guitar well in the slightest. I quickly snapped back to reality and remembered that I was attempting, ever-so-badly, to play guitar standing in the living room of one of the world’s greatest ever guitarists!

Sarah Ann Murray is a Fashion Direct​or, Stylist and Journalist.

Main image: © Benjamin Wareing/ Alamy Live News

Tips from a stylist on creating your own style:

Give context to your style

Establish what you’re trying to communicate about yourself with clothes; what’s the story, who are you today, where are you going, what’s the occasion? Clothes create the narrative which means your ‘look’ can comfortably change from day to day, event to event, smart to casual.

Make it your own style

Try to summarise your own style in just a few words and then when you’re shopping, think of these words and see if your choices match your vision of how you’d like your ideal wardrobe to be, of how you want to look.

Invest time, not necessarily money

Creating a wardrobe you’re happy with is tricky and requires time to shop and try things on. But it’s also about being a little daring – that fine balance between being comfortable but also not getting stuck in a style rut; go on, give it a go.


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