Sinéad Burke Says Fashion Has the Power to Change Society

-How lovely to
have you here, Sinead. -What a treat. This is wild.
-It’s wild to have you here. We met at the Met Gala
very briefly. -Which is also a wild sentence. -That is very wild, to meet
anyone at the Met Gala, and yet we were lucky enough
to meet there. How did it end up
that you were there? And how was that evening?
How exciting was it? -I’ve always been
deeply ambitious, and since I was 18 years old,
I’ve kept this notebook of things
that I’ve dreamed of doing. And on that list, was being on the cover of the September
issue of “British Vogue” and at the Met Gala,
and many people kind of raised their eyebrow
curiously and went, “Ooh.” And then it happened.
-Yeah. -And I went with Gucci, who were
the sponsors of that event because it was themed as camp. But it’s the most surreal
experience of my entire life and I think of most people’s.
-Yeah, no. You can’t wrap
your head around — There’s no place on Earth
you see more famous people. Also, and they’re dressed up
more than you’ve ever seen them. -And they all know each other.
-They all know each other. -Or pretend to.
-They pretend to. Yeah. You looked wonderful,
by the way. -It was a good dress, right?
-It was a beautiful dress, yes. [ Cheers and applause ] And lest anyone here think you
didn’t complete your list, you then also were on the cover of the September issue
of “British Vogue.” [ Cheers and applause ] Not bad.
-Not bad. Particularly because this was
shot by Peter Lindbergh, who has since passed, and what an incredible thing to have for myself
and my family. And, yeah, it was curated by Her Royal Highness,
the Duchess of Sussex. -Pretty good. -I mean, she’s well known.
-Yeah, she’s very well known. -Yeah.
-And now, tell me — When this happens, are you
someone who just waits for it to come to the house, or do you
go straight to the newsstand? What was the — When the day this was
available to the public. -I was in Paris learning French,
but my siblings — -That’s what happens.
You’re on the cover of “Vogue.” They’re like,
“You need to learn French.” -It’s kind of a prerequisite.
-Yeah. -So when your time comes,
I’ll be there for you. -Oh, thank you very much.
-I’ll give you a couple of phrases just to get you started.
-Thank you. Do you think
it’s gonna come soon? ‘Cause I am dying to be
on the cover of “Vogue.” -You know Anna, right?
-Yeah. -She knows people in there.
-All right, all right. I’m going to go
to work on it, then. -No, but my siblings
were so amazing, as was my family. They went into all of
the local shops in Ireland and just decorated all of
the newsstands with my face. And it sold out, so I think
it’s solely responsible of my brothers and sisters
that it was a sell-out issue. -That’s it.
-“Vogue” are really welcome. -That’s — Excellent.
It was a family affair. How many siblings do you have?
-I’m the eldest of five. -Eldest of five. -I have three sisters
and one brother. -You know, one of the things
you’ve talked about is, obviously, you have this passion
for fashion and — Didn’t mean for that to happen. And then, but, you know, having
sisters and you go out to shop, and, obviously, there were
clothes unavailable to you that were available for them. Was that difficult, and was that
one of the things that made you so aspirational to the idea of trying to have
that representation? -I always understood
the power of fashion. It’s the one industry
that we each legally have to interact with because
if you and I leave here today and don’t eat or don’t pray or
don’t play sport, we’ll be fine, but if we leave here naked…
-Yeah. Right. -…the NYPD would be involved. -You’re going to be
in the back of a cop car. -Right? Pretty quickly.
And, yet, it was something that I couldn’t access because I was never considered
within the system. And I remember viscerally going
shopping with my siblings, particularly, my sisters, and
picking up a pair of high heels and saying,
“I want to wear these.” And my sisters
were younger than me, having to break the news and
say, “Those are not for you.” But I understand that if
fashion took a step forward, particularly around disability
and activism, that every other industry
would follow because it shapes
politics, legislation. It shapes culture.
It shapes sport. There’s no other industry that tangibly connects
everything together. So, I started a blog
ten years ago, because I would sit around the
dining-room table every evening and tell my siblings
and my parents, “What do you think
Adidas are gonna do?” And my parents would
cautiously say, “What about?” And I’d say, “Oh, good.
So, here’s the thing, right? So, they have the created
the Stan Smith shoe, sneaker, or trainer, runner in Ireland. And, yet, Phoebe Philo
at every Céline presentation takes her bow in those shoes,
but she’s just left Céline. And Nike have taken Colin
Kaepernick as an ambassador, and sales went down 3%
initially, but then up 21%. So, how are Adidas
gonna compete? Of course —
They’re gonna create a Vegan Stan Smith
with Stella McCartney.” And my parents would kindly say,
“That’s lovely. Is there anybody else
you can talk to about this?” And there wasn’t.
So I found the Internet. -Oh, there you go.
-Yeah. -The Internet’s a really good
place to find people who want to hear
what you have to say. -Kinda.
-Yeah. Are your sisters jealous at all
now that you have — obviously you have access to a
very high level of fashion now that is tailored
distinctly for you. How are they taking it? -Well, there’re still
a mantra in my house that’s “first up, best dressed.” -Oh, okay.
-So, it doesn’t matter that they’re not little people,
but average height, like you. -Uh-huh. -They will just wear
this custom Gucci tuxedo. -Really? -With three-quarter
length sleeves. -Oh, my goodness. They’re that desperate
for the label that they will just
put it on anyway? -I take it as a compliment.
-Yeah, as you should. -I think so.
-Yeah. -But I’m not sure these trousers
as shorts is a look. -Yeah.
-But I admire their enthusiasm. -I admire their enthusiasm,
as well. You did some work. What was the museum in Scotland
that you did some work with? -It’s the National Museums
of Scotland. And they did this
incredible exhibition about diversity in fashion,
and they asked if they could borrow my clothes,
which is such a treat. And I said, “Great. How are we
gonna display them?” And they said, “We’re going to
hang them from the ceiling.” And I said, “Oh, How is everything else
being displayed?” And they said, “Oh, well,
there’s mannequins.” And I boldly asked the question, “Well, how do we get
a mannequin made?” Which — You should
never ask that question unless you are prepared
for the solution. And the solution was me
going to get my body cast. -Oh, wow.
-Physically. -Physically — How long does it
take to get a full body cast? -So, it takes the legs
and the hips about four hours of just standing there, and then
you do the torso and the arms. And then you see
your physical self — at least for me and somebody
who looks like me — for the first time in 3D. And particularly you see
the back of yourself. -Yeah.
[ Laughter ] -And I, trying to be kind,
asked the people who cast me that obviously, like,
the camera puts on ten pounds. And they’re, like,
“No, that’s what you look like.” [ Laughter ] -There you go. Well —
-So now it exists. -There you go.
So there’s a mannequin
in the National Museum. -And it’s now available
to retailers, so, it’s, like creating that
change within that system… -That’s fantastic. -…that it can now be
on display in stores. [ Cheers and applause ] -You mentioned your parents. I believe your parents
are here tonight. -My parents are here tonight.
-And how do you feel about everything that
you’ve accomplished in just recent years?
-I think they’re proud, but also very concerned that I don’t have a pension
or a mortgage. -Okay, gotcha. Yeah, yeah, yeah. -So I think they are
looking forward to an era of when
I have a real job. -Yeah. Well, I think we’re all really enjoying this era
right now, so… -But we’ll see. -We’ll all chip in and find
a place for you to stay. -Yeah. Exactly.
Thank you so much. -Thank you for being here.
It’s just a delight to talk to you.
That’s Sinead Burke, everybody.

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