Saturday 4th December

| BY Paul Toner

Being Cozette: Ten Meets Industry Connector, Cozette McCreery

earrings, jacket, top, necklace and brooch by Dior

Cozette McCreery has lived many lives. She’s been the “fashion bouncer” of east London’s Boombox; a barmaid at the George and Dragon; a driving force behind cult knitwear label Sibling and the grinning panda bear who posed on the cover of the 39th issue of 10 Magazine. She’s the industry’s answer to Trinity from The Matrix, a brand ambassador for Italian sportswear giant Iceberg who once worked as a shepherd in the Israeli mountains (more on that one later).  

More importantly, McCreery’s a connector: a mentor figure for budding designers in the capital whose generous smile could make anyone feel at ease when stepping into a pretentious fashion party. The Cozette sat in front of me is fresh-faced, her cropped, inkyblack locks wet and slicked back out of her face. “I’ve just been swimming so I’m probably a bit away with the fairies,” she says,her snowy cat, called Mouse, elegantly arching its spine in the background 

McCreery Zoom calls me from her flat just off Hackney Road, where she has lived for 19 years, long before Shoreditch became swamped with swanky pop-ups and overpriced cocktail bars with built-in ball pits. She’s been locked inside these four walls a lot more than she’d hoped for these past 18 months. As for many in the industry, when the fashion world came to a standstill last March as the severity of the coronavirus pandemic sank in, work for McCreery dried up. She formed a support bubble with her neighbour, the artist Thelma Speirs, and the pair would scroll through the collections of the various digital fashion weeks, joined by a bottle of red, and review the shows as if they worked for Vogue 

“I needed that kind of stuff,” says McCreery. “I didn’t want to just have everything wiped off the map, I wanted to be able to talk about whether I thought Saint Laurent big knickers were the best thing since forever.”  

dress, cape and gloves by Prada

She found plenty of other ways to keep herself busy, too. Working alongside Charlie Porter and the British Fashion Council, McCreery helped launch the Student Fabric Initiative: a collective community action of 27 UK and international brands which will donate deadstock and unwanted materials to 33 colleges across the country. 

Many of the designers who’ve opted to take part also joined McCreery for the Emergency Designer Network, volunteer-led organisation, setup by designers Phoebe English, Bethany Williams and Holly Fulton, which produced scrubs for hospitals and care homes through the pandemic. “It really was a big community push,” says McCreery, whose job was to get as many brands, designers and PRs involved as possible. Setting up a GoFundMe, the foursome launched the initiative just before the 2020 Easter break. “Holly said it felt like we had a fashion show every week, it was that amount of the stress  – and it was boiling hot as well! 

The scheme helped create 50,000 surgical gowns and 10,000 sets of scrubs for health workers, all without any government assistance. Still operating today, the network is looking to work with other scrub hubs to create a permanent workflow and is in talks about ways to make scrub manufacturing more circular. “We were basically told we had the couture version of scrubs because they were really well-made,” says McCreery. “People were saving them as their ‘best’ – we were like, ‘What’s that? A major cardio operation? What’s “best” when you’re a heart surgeon?’” 

dress by Gucci

McCreery’s love of clothes was passed down from her father. “I would go shopping with him more than I did with my mum,” she says. “My dad would be like, ‘Right, we’ve got an hour, what is it that you want?’, I would literally rip pages out of Honey and Nineteen magazine and off we’d go. He’d be like, ‘That jumper looks nice on youbuy it in two more colours’ –, he really told me to buy well and keep wearing it, and then mend it if you need to.” McCreery says she had a very privileged upbringing. Her father knew a lot of people in Knightsbridge who were involved in the design industry, like Joseph Ettedgui, and she remembers her old man parading through the streets in a full-length mushroom silk trench coat by Gianfranco Ferré. 

The original plan was to go to Oxford to read English, though McCreery wanted to become a vet, but was “too stubborn” to get her second science qualification to do so. Instead, she started going out, to Café de Paris in the beginning, where she first met lifelong friend DJ Fat Tony 

The late-night excursions were more than just chances to get legless, though: they were a way of finding work. First at Max Mara, after bumping into one of the gents in charge of the house’s UK stores; then at Jasper Conran, who offered McCreery a job after she taught him how to clean stains off a marble table top at the Café de Paris.

After taking two years out to venture to Rotterdam, Paris and Israel (where she was briefly a shepherd), McCreery returned to London in the early 90s, immersing herself in the city’s nightlife. She worked the door at Fat Tony’s Saturday  night gig at the West End’s Wag Club, before venturing east. From club nights like Trailer Trash and Boombox, to late-night Turkish bars and, 4am karaoke sessions at Hackney’s The Dolphin pub, McCreery would be there.  

earrings, necklaces, jacket and jumper by Fendi

“I’ve never done drugs, [I was] just high on lifevodka and orange juice,” McCreery recalls of the period. “We’d be going to some rave off the M25 and Fat Tony would be like, ‘Cozette has to stop off and call her dad.’” On multiple occasions, she would set up camp beneath the DJ decks, wrapping herself up one of Tony’s goose-down leather jackets for power naps in between sessions. “I’d just crawl underneath, all the music still playing, and fall fast asleep.” 

Still, between four-day benders, McCreery managed to stay productive, working as a PA and design assistant for Bella Freud for 12 years. It was through Freud that McCreery met Sid Bryan, with whom she would go on to create explosive knitwear label Sibling alongside Joe Bates in 2008. With Bryan and Bates manning the design front, it was McCreery who kept the cogs turning in the machine, managing the brand’s social and e-commerce platforms, co-ordinating all Sibling press coverage and overseeing each London Fashion Week show for the label until its closure in 2017.  

Looking back, McCreery is immensely proud of what Sibling achievedMy ultimate favourite Sibling show was AW15,” she says of the season that saw hunky models charge the catwalk wearing bubble-gum pink locks and shredded knits, giant teddy bears clutched to their chests. The brand is remembered for its bold, upbeat shows – a reaction, in part, to the rather po-faced affairs that dominated in menswear at the time. “I was sick to death seeing the Daily Mail print photographs from the London menswear shows and saying, ‘No wonder the models look miserable, look what they’re wearing. “ just thought, ‘They can’t complain if the models look like they’re having fun.” Sibling’s smiley catwalks were met with rave reviews (even from the dreaded Daily Mail).   

Behind the cheesy grins, however, it wasn’t always shits and giggles. Co-founder Bates had suffered a long, agonising battle with cancer for seven years, before passing away at the age of 47, in 2015. “I think what people forget is that Sid and I just kept going and occasionally Joe would be picked up from hospital, put on the catwalk and taken back to hospital again – it was like military operation,” says McCreery. The brand’s SS16 womenswear show took place just weeks after the designer’s death. “We did think, ‘S should we not show the collection? Like, is it really rude to do this? Joe, of course, worked on the collection, so it felt a bit disrespectful not to do it.” 

shirt, rings, shorts and boots by Balenciaga

McCreery and Bryan soldiered on as a duo, putting out five more hedonistic collections, before pulling the plug in 2017. “We were just exhausted, to be fair,” says McCreery. “Neither of us wanted to get to a point where we hated what we were doing and financially, we were ticking over.” Lots of the press were like, ‘Oh, they’ve gone under,’ – another one-bites-the- dust sort of thing. [But] – it was our decision. Sid had moved on; I’d moved on. It was best to end things on a high note.” 

In and out of Sibling, McCreery has always been able to rely on east London’s queer nightlife scene. The Glory gave her work when her brand shuttered, she worked behind the bar of the George and Dragon (now the Queen Adelaide) between jobs, and the Bistrotheque catered scotch-egg parties for Sibling’s post fashion show celebrations. “To me they’re like second homes,” says McCreery. These people have been really important in keeping me together.” Fashion figureheads like Katie Grand, the late Judy Blame and Kim Jones have also been instrumental in keeping McCreery’s head above water. “Kim, I have known since forever. He was very supportive with me when things were getting tough and he would always give me five minutes of his time. He’s even had pep talks with me straight after his show in Paris.” 

For many of London’s brightest young talents, McCreery is to them as Jones is to her. She’s as much a shoulder to cry on as someone to give your head a wobble when you’re close to giving it all up. Oh, and she could drink you under the table, too. Without people like Cozette McCreery, this industry would lose half its sparkle.  

Taken from Issue 67 of 10 Magazine – BOLD & BEAUTIFUL – order your copy here.

@cozettemc

BEING COZETTE

Photographer Adama Jalloh
Fashion Editor Cozette McCreery 
Hair Lyndell Mansfield at Of Substance using Schwarzkopf got2b
Make-up Andrew Gallimore at Of Substance using Dior Forever Collection and Capture Totale Super Potent Serum
Talent Cozette McCreery
Fashion assistants Frankie Reffell, Brittany Newman and Zac Apostolou
Production Cameron Carswell
Production coordinator Emma Jones
Thanks to Miguel Bento at Tuscany Wharf, Richard at Queen Adelaide, David Waddington at Bistrotheque and John Nolan at The Glory
Retouching Kaja Jangaard