This is me: Meet Mr Gammon, the costume designer behind Sainsbury's Christmas ad

The costume designer and stylist's creations can be seen on TV ads as well as on bands such as The Rolling Stones.

My love of fashion came from a mixture of 1980s pop and wanting to be Doctor Who. In my day, Doctor Who was this very extravagant, eccentrically dressed person.

I used to hang out with some real goth punks. I had a punk look but I wore bright colours, like polka dots and a jacket with 10-inch vinyl records sculpted into giant shoulder pads. I used to walk around with door knockers on my feet. Back then people were quite tolerant of expressing yourself in an eccentric way.

I made a joke at school that I was going to do needlework as a GCSE. From there, it got me to actually start making clothes. When I was 14, I started making Bermuda shorts as a little side business. Fast-forward to me going to the Royal College of Art and studying fashion.

Gammon is my surname. On my art foundation course, I was kind of adopted by these three beautiful girls who were final-year fashion students. I was slightly in love with them and they helped me put my portfolio together. After doing a Jane Austen project, they came back and started calling me "Mr Gammon". They sat me down and said: "I bet you don’t have the balls to introduce yourself as Mr Gammon on day one of college."

I did, and no-one spoke to me for three weeks – they thought it was the most conceited thing. But I stuck to it. It’s stood me in good stead, because it’s like I take the work very seriously but I don’t take myself that seriously.

I developed my personal style because London always looks like it’s in mourning. Everyone wears black, and teenage kids just wear grey Primark.

For me it’s very much about colours and layers. Tom Kuntz [the director] always says I look like a time-traveller – it’s a bit like someone from the 1800s has travelled to the future but arrived in colour.

I’m constantly drawing. I’ll be on the Tube and I’m drawing the people across from me, and I don’t hide it. When a brightly coloured time traveller sits across from you, you can’t hide what you’re doing. I’m constantly trying to record stuff.

At the beginning of my career I made clothes for stylists. My second job was designing clothes for The Rolling Stones, so you could say it was downhill from there. I was only in my early twenties, and I designed clothes for their tours Voodoo Lounge and Bridges to Babylon.

From there I got known for designing one-off pieces for famous bands, like the Spice Girls and a load of indie groups. I made weird things like a horse tail for a bass player of David Bowie. I made a white patent leather mini skirt for Victoria Beckham. Unfortunately, I did not make Geri Halliwell’s famous Union Jack dress – you can almost say it’s a career of near misses.

I became known as someone who could do store-buying and styling, but could also design and make. I wrote fashion articles and I started doing a lot more commercials. I’ve been really lucky that there’s been a diversity to what I do.

The Guinness "Sapeurs" ad was a real gift. It was very much about swagger, with an elegance to the menswear and tailoring. They were looking for someone with good design experience who wouldn’t suddenly make it into a comedy fashion show. Those gentlemen were amazing. It was more of a case of celebrating their look – a bit like styling The Rolling Stones. They already have a style, you want them to feel comfortable, but you might push and influence the look a bit.

Friends of mine were proudly posting the video when it launched and there were a load of comments saying: "What did he do? Don’t they look that way anyway?" I always say the beauty of a good costume designer is to look like you were never there.

With Sainsbury’s Christmas ad, you couldn’t help but feel this sense of goodwill, and you just wanted to make this the best you possibly could. I had this huge amount of freedom. The producer gave me a list of the kind of costumes they were looking for, and that was it. For example, on their list they had the queen – that’s all it said. So I went away and started pulling references of little children dressed as the queen. And I said: "Hold on a minute, if they’re talking about the queen at Christmas, surely she has to be in a TV, like the Queen giving her speech." What was great was everyone was just laughing their heads off at my drawings.

I’ve always said to my assistants, be interested in something. I like old movies from the 1920s or documentaries about London life. I’ve got a real kind of retro-head with regard to vintage movies and old artwork. There’s a wealth of stuff I never feel like I know enough about.

A lot of my inspiration comes from that slight neurosis of wanting to make sure the next job is as good as Sainsbury’s. And it comes from what is next and what’s around the corner. That will always keep you young and hungry.

Mr Gammon is a costume designer and stylist. He has worked on ads including Guinness’ "Sapeurs", Sainsbury’s 2018 Christmas film, "The big night", and Virgin Media’s campaign starring Usain Bolt. He is also known for his designs for bands such as The Rolling Stones and Spice Girls.

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