Charles Rufus Felix Speed, known better to you and me as Charley Speed, Models 1 superstar and judge on Britain & Ireland’s Next Top Model.
I met Charley at Clothes Show Live, I had the pleasure to work backstage dressing the contestants of BINTM for their catwalk shows. It was there where I was beckoned to sew a button onto a jacket by Mr Speed himself. Yelling at me in a joking fashion for my lack of home economic skills (but an appreciation of my fashion). It was after this harrowing first acknowledgement, (he referred to me as a “helmet”) when I started talking to Charley between shows (as he immersed himself into his Bad Piggies app on his phone) which seemed to be the only free time we had.
I managed to squeeze in a quick interview around all the chaos of hair & beauty, the frantic dressing of the BINTM girls and the management team yelling out show times and requirements.
- HJB: How did you become involved in the fashion industry?
- CS: A really good friend of mine (while I was still at Art & Design college) sent photographs in to some competition she saw on a kids TV show, well, a Saturday morning TV show called Massive… I think. Then she told me about it and then the first I knew of it is that they wanted to see me and I went to see them as I was at college doing… not much. They said “You can do it part time or full time, we think you’ve got a really good look for right now, if you do it full time we think you’re gonna do pretty well”. So I just thought I’d go for it. It was a chance to travel and all sorts.
- HJB: What was the biggest campaign you were involved in?
- CS: One of my very first campaigns within about three or four months of signing with Models 1 was Calvin Klein which was pretty much international. Times Square with Kate Moss, it was everywhere. Then I went on to do another three campaigns with him and Kate and that’s what cemented me.
- HJB: So how did you get involved with Britain & Ireland’s Next Top Model?
- CS: Essentially, the winner of the show traditionally gets a contract with Models1 who are my agency and who are the ones who first signed me up. Back when [Lisa] Snowdon was doing it, I think they wanted to get a new judge on the panel and they came to Models1 to perhaps get a male model on and they rounded a few of us up who’d had a lot of experience and I just went through the interview process, screen tested with her. They really liked me but eventually at the last minute, the money-men went “Oh, lets get someone a bit more flamboyant”. Thankfully, they called me back again when Elle Macpherson took over, so in a way it was a blessing in disguise and then I got another two years with Elle and the show was elevated by the time I joined.
- HJB: If you could work with any designer for a show, who would it be and why?
- CS: [Pause] That’s a difficult question. I haven’t modeled properly like that for years, when I was modelling, if someone had asked me who haven’t you worked for, that would be an easier question. And that’s not me showing off, I just kind of… When you’re an ‘it’ model, you work for everyone! I always love modelling for Gucci when Tom Ford was at the helm because he really reinvigorated the brand. He brought back that classic, lovely tapered, well-cut suit and I opened countless shows for him which is a big thing when you’re a model. Opening shows is kinda cool, there’s a bit of a prestige to it and he was such a charming man to work with and having seen his visual work to his film, I’ve just got so much respect for him. I did drama when I was younger and I have an affiliation with that. So it’s gotta be Tom Ford.
- HJB: If you could only wear one designer for the rest of your life, who would it be and why?
- CS: Probably the same answer. I should really say a British designer, and I have a huge respect and love for Saville Row and that tradition that goes back such a long time. There is nothing like a bespoke suit. There are so many brands that I like in that respect… I’m sorry guys, I’ve given them a plug and I adore Saville Row, I love Richard James, I love Richard James Custom, it’s very cool and I’ve worked with him a lot, but I’m going with Tom Ford man, as its just my style.
- HJB: While on the topic of suits, what are your three rules of ‘How To Wear A Suit’?
- CS: I don’t really have any rules, I mean, make sure it fits properly man. Okay, there’s also the obvious things about cufflinks, just the right amount of cufflinks showing below the suit jacket. I personally like a slim-fitting suit. Anything that’s boxy, forget it! You know what, you can buy off the peg suits very reasonably priced and you can find tailors who will take them in for you for like fifteen quid. Yeah? They’ll just pinch the back and it will transform it. Those are my best tips.
- HJB: Thank you so much, it’s been a pleasure.
- CS: You are most welcome.
I can honestly say that Charley Speed is a very open and friendly man, he seemed well up for a laugh and didn’t seemed fussed by the hustle bustle that was going on around him.
I loved working with Charley and the Britain & Ireland’s Next Top Model girls and would love to work with him again on another project… If you’re reading this Mr Speed, contact me !
[Photography: Nicole Gomes – www.facebook.com/NicoleGomesPhotography]