The first day I arrived in London, it was raining – heavily, on the glass roof of Waterloo train station. I vividly remember the antique four-faced clock that hangs from the ceiling.
It was a long time ago, in the late ’80s, just after I’d graduated from school. I’d been visiting the fashion capitals of Europe – Paris, Milan, Berlin – appreciating the culture and exploring my sense of self.
I was travelling alone and loved walking the streets: I could watch everyone; see everything. What struck me was London’s originality. Not in the architecture so much: in Milan you can see the Duomo; in Barcelona, Gaudí. But in the people – they have a special energy.
I found London wears many faces. One face is conservative: the architecture, the grey skies, the polite – but distant – interactions. Another face is a rebel: really avant-garde, the freedom and celebration of gay lifestyles, the passion for art and self-expression, a desire to do things differently. You can see it in street fashion, in punk flair. Fashion all over the world today has become more boring, more commercial, but in London there’s still a lot of individual artists.
I’m also fascinated by British history, documented in institutions like the British Museum. And when I talk to people, I detect the noble face of London – a sense of inner royalty. The more time I’ve spent in London, from the theatre-laden West End to Brixton in South London, the more faces I’ve seen.
‘Special’ is the word. It’s always special.
Tim Yip is an Oscar- and Bafta-winning art director and costume designer.