Meredyth Lewis: Are you enjoying the Clothes Show?
Dermot O’Leary: I’m having a great time.
DO: No, I am. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for; I’ve never been here before, I had no real conception of how long the days were going to be.
ML: How long are they?
DO: They’re not especially long, I mean, I never think it’s hard work. It’s mentally tough, you do long hours which is fairly tough, but I’ve done so many different jobs which are, back-breaking, like bean-picking in the middle of a heat wave and bar work and stuff like that—much more hard work than presenting. Presenting is just blagging your way around for a lot of it. I’ve enjoyed it very much. We have to get up and meet down here at 8.45 a.m.
ML (having got up at 6.30 a.m.): That’s not too bad!
DO: Well, all the models have to be in at 6 a.m., so yeah I’m having a great time. It’s a great feeling when you walk out there, it’s the only time in my life, when I go out on stage and 7,000 girls just scream at me.
ML: I actually expected you to follow the examples of the male models, and… well… "strip".
DO: We have to voice over the show, so we can’t.
ML: So the commentary isn’t pre-recorded?
ML: Did you have to do any research for presenting the Show?
DO: They gave me lots of videos and bumph to give me a general impression of what the shows are like. That was pretty much it. I just ran around frantically trying to get as many clothes as possible to pretend that I looked fashionable.
ML: Have you ever thought of a career in modelling?
DO: I’m 5'9". I did it once for charity and I was so appalled by… I mean the great thing about presenting, is you come out and you’ve always got your brain and your wit—if you’ve got any—to back you up, so you can always talk, whereas in modelling what are you supposed to do? There’s nothing you can say, but I admire people who do it tremendously.
ML: So you wouldn’t do it?
DO: No. Me and Jamie were watching the show once, from where we do voiceovers and we were sitting there thinking, ‘God, I wouldn’t want to do this for a living, it would be so tough.’
ML: Do you find it hard keeping up the energy levels, especially if you’ve done four shows already in a day and then you have to go on and do it again?
DO: Not really, I don’t know why it’s just—I suppose, because I enjoy it so much. About two months ago, I was really, really tired. I had been working seven days a week for the last seven to eight months. I was just exhausted, I had a week off here and there, but seven days a week does take its toll, no matter what you do, but as tired as I was I never once thought, ‘I never want to do this any more.’
I never thought I resented it at all, I was just tired of getting up. But I do enjoy it and it’s the nicest feeling knowing that regardless of whether people like me or not, knowing that I can do it and I’m good at it. At the moment I feel like I want to be doing this until I’m 50.
‘Twenty years from now I’d like to be the next Terry Wogan.’
ML: So, what are your plans for the future?
DO: Twenty years from now I’d like to be the next Terry Wogan.
ML (laughing): Releasing singles too?
DO: He did one single called ‘The Floral Dance’. It was great. (Laughs and then serious) You can let him get away with it because he’s good. But I’d never release a single. I really admire those guys who can still … your people like Wogan and Parkinson. I mean Wogan presented his own show three times a week for seven years at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and then bowed out on his own accord, and that’s class. Now he does what he wants to do—he does radio. That’s where I want to be. That’s why it’s quite important for me.
ML: Do you want to get married and have kids?
DO: It’s quite important for me to not do too much too fast. I’ve been doing this gig 18 months now, and I’m loving it. Eventually, I do want to get married and have kids.
ML: Well, before you do that, have you got any favourite designers that are here, at the show?
DO: To be honest with you, I haven’t even had a chance to go out.
ML: How would you react to people recognizing you?
DO: Oh, I’m not worried about that.
ML (shocked): But you’d get hoarded!
DO: Jamie’s been doing his radio show, and I had to go out and warm up the audience on my own, it was like ‘Please welcome Dermot O’Leary,’ and the people were like ‘Who?’
ML: No, you’re hugely underestimating yourself.
DO: Well, it’s a nice way to be. Anyway … the good thing is that the All Saints have a stall here, so I’ll try and swing by there, because I like them and they gave me loads of stuff to wear two days before I came up here. The stuff I do like, I’m not totally sure they have stalls here. I like Nigel Hall, Home …
ML: What made you donate your denim jacket to the British Heart Foundation’s Celebrity Clothes Auction?
DO: It makes me look like a monkey.
ML: So you’re willing to let someone else look like a monkey.
DO: I bloody hate the thing. No … No, I really like Hard Yacker stuff, because it’s an Australian brand. Which is a lot less desirable in Australia than it is over here. You can get it in places like Jones over here and pay an extortionate amount of money for it, where as in Australia, my mates tell me it’s not the case. But it was one of those classic moments when you buy something and you just think, ‘Wow, I really like this jacket,’ but the minute you get outside it metamorphoses into the worst jacket on earth. I tried it on when I got home and I thought, ‘I look a complete ass.’ And I even wore it once, and my mate, who’s a photographer, said, ‘Is that new?’ and I went, ‘Yeah, what do you think?’ and he goes, ‘I wouldn’t wear it’. And I just thought, ‘Christ he’d wear anything,’ so then I had to chuck it, I wasn’t going to wear it. So when the guys asked me to donate something and although I thought donating something I wear quite a lot would probably be better, I thought, well, it’s a nice jacket, I’m not going to get any use out of it, maybe someone else will.
ML: What is your most favourite item in your wardrobe?
DO: Well, I’ve got this really plain, simple, Jigsaw suit and I rarely have chance to wear suits. So sometimes I go home and change into it and wear it around the house and I just adore it. So I’d say that it’s my suit. It was really the first suit that I bought.
ML: What the worst item of clothing you’ve ever bought apart from the "dreaded" denim jacket?
DO: Well, anything I bought in the period of the ’80s was pretty bad. My mate Neil Butler, we both bought these dreadful jackets, mine was a kind of grey denim jacket; he bought this pink ski jacket at the same time that I bought my grey "thing". It was white originally and his mum washed it and it turned pink because it had a red strip across it. And the funniest thing was that, of course when your that young, you can’t really afford stuff, or just to replace the jacket, because you don’t work—so the jacket has got to last you six months. He got beaten up every day, so I got beaten up out of sympathy.
ML: What’s the worse piece of millennium clothing you have seen so far?
DO: Well, the new thing is cowboy hats, and I’ve seen some pretty horrendous ones, which are kind of a mistake on guys. Girls nowadays in this whole fashion world can quite easily get away with it; guys just look idiots in cowboy hats.
‘Well, the new thing is cowboy hats, and I’ve seen some pretty horrendous ones. ... Guys just look idiots in cowboy hats.’
ML: What are you doing for the millennium?
DO: Aren’t parents classic? You know how they change goalposts on you as months go by. I said to my mum in the summer I was thinking of spending the millennium in Rome with some friends. So my mum went ‘Yeah … yeah,’—she was probably cooking or washing at the time. Great mum, she went, ‘Yeah … fine … no worries.’ But of course it gets to the start of December and I slip into the conversation that I’m probably going to Rome, and she’s like, ‘Oh my God, you can’t,’ She went skitz as mothers do and we decided to go with her plan, obviously, and we’re now spending it in a French–Irish restaurant in Croydon.
ML: Do you think designers charge too much for their clothing?
DO: Recently I did go into a shop with my mate and we saw this jacket. It was about £250 and you just think to yourself, ‘You’re being ripped off,’ yet you still pay it. You just want to pluck up enough courage to say, ‘How can you charge that much?’ I went out last year to buy my Dad a Christmas present [at] a place on Carnaby Street; there was this tie in there. (And you know when you walk in a shop and you know that you just have to buy something—I’m awful for that, I’ll try something on and it doesn’t matter if I hate it but I’ll probably still buy it anyway.) I asked this guy how much the tie was, and he said £80—and I was like, ‘£80 for a tie?’ So I rebelled, and gave the tie back, saying to myself, ‘Keep your stinking tie—it wouldn’t look nice on my Daddy anyway.’
ML: Do you get on with co-presenter Jamie Theakston?
DO: Unbelievably well, shockingly well, and I know that’s a kind of cliché, but normally it takes about two weeks to suss somebody out, but we met up in the morning to present a show and since we’ve just been getting on like a house on fire.
ML: Do you want to go into the fashion world more in the future?
DO: Designing clothes?
ML: Yes, Would you ever think of having your own brand?
DO: No, I find it astonishingly arrogant, for people who do a job for instance related to football or the radio who have no background in clothes whatsoever, to start designing in a vain attempt to get some money out of it. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try as hard as you can but people should realize their limitations.
At this point, the call for the next show goes out, and after meeting Dermot O’Leary, we realize that there is more to the charming, good-looking Irishman than meets the eye and that we have met a presenter who is far from encountering his limitations yet.
M E R E D Y T H L E W I S
Meredyth Lewis is UK correspondent for Lucire.
Our Clothes Show Live ’99 coverage
The Clothes Show Live
The Fashion Theatre
Rivella College Forum
Interview with Dermot O’Leary