My London: Sandy Powell

 (Artwork by Silvia Prada)
(Artwork by Silvia Prada)

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Brixton. I’ve been there for 30 years. I was born here, I went to primary school in the area and then in my early 20s I moved north of the river and lived in Hackney.

What was your first job?

My very first job, and this is going back to being a teenager, was a paper round. But my first real job was when I was still at school — I worked at the National Theatre in the costume-making department. I was 16, it was incredible and my first taste of being in that sort of environment. Of course, I was sweeping the floor and making the tea, but I did do some sewing eventually. I was just always into clothes, storytelling, films and performance.

Where would you recommend for a first date and why?

If it’s successful, you could be absolutely anywhere and it’ll be romantic. It doesn’t really matter. I had my first date in Dunkin’ Donuts in Piccadilly and it went very well. But my ideal date would start at Tate Britain, where you’ve got art to look at and big open spaces to chat in. Afterwards, I’d go all the way down to Southwark to Tate Modern because it’s such an iconic London walk.

What’s your favourite piece of art?

That’s really difficult, it changes all the time! I always use art galleries and museums for inspiration. I really like the Tudor rooms at the National Portrait Gallery and the last exhibition that stood out was Schiaparelli in Paris, which was pretty amazing.

Which shops do you rely on?

I’m going to give you shops that I rely on for my work: one of them is Joel’s Fabrics in Church Street. Another is in Brixton Market. I’ve used those and all the fabric shops along Goldhawk Road in Shepherd’s Bush for my costumes. A lot of the shops over the years have closed down in central and have moved way out to warehouse spaces.

The most iconic Londoner in history?

Bowie, a Brixton boy! I first heard ‘Starman’ on the radio when I was 12 and it was a life-changing moment. The costumes in Velvet Goldmine were all from my memories of being a teenager in the Seventies. I was young and I couldn’t afford to buy any of the clothes, so I had to make do with making my own and just dreaming about going to all these exciting concerts.

The best meal you’ve had in London?

At my local restaurant called Marema, it’s Italian and very good. They’ve only been open a couple of years but it’s really some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had.

What do you collect?

I try not to accumulate, but I can’t resist a beautiful bit of vintage fabric or trim, which I buy thinking it would be useful one day. I have boxes and boxes of that sort of stuff in storage for my work, where I also have a small archive. I’ve got a few from Young Vic and Carol, but on the whole they belong to the production companies.

Who is your professional hero?

Derek Jarman, who I worked with at the very start of my career. He was one of the biggest influences of my life because he was the first film director I worked with and he summed up London for me, even though he wasn’t technically brought up here.

What’s your favourite beauty spot?

Jo Hansford, where I colour my hair. I’ve been orange for the last 30 years and shades of red prior to that; when I was much younger, I was every colour. I won’t change colours at the moment, but who knows? I might go a single shade of white one day.

How do you feel about your Bafta Fellowship?

Very flattered and honoured, it’s unbelievable but makes me feel old, when you get a lifetime achievement and you think, Oh my God, I really have been around a long time!