Why did you decide to get involved with the show?
The concept just really appealed to me. I went to meet Rihanna so she could explain the show to me, and I could see how excited she was, and her real passion for this exciting fresh undiscovered designer. To find someone who hadn’t been noticed before, was something that really appealed to me.
Were you interested in fashion before joining Girls Aloud?
Well, I was always really fussy about what I wore, but I came from a small town where everyone would just wear tracksuits growing up. So I wasn’t surrounded by trends or fashion choices, and also I had no money. So it wasn’t until I got into the band and started working with different stylists, and then I was presented with different trends and different ways of wearing things. I really liked doing shoots and seeing how things can work together. My fascination with fashion grew from there. At the time I was having a bit of an identity crisis, and it helped me to figure out where I was going. Fashion can really give you that if you need it to. It’s like, if you need to come across a certain way for a meeting, you can wear an outfit that helps you become that person. Your clothes can affect your personality.
Styled To Rock is all about stage wear, so you must have been able to bring a lot to the table in terms of advice?
Yeah. I think designing stage wear is all about understanding the different artists and their individual needs. Everybody is vulnerable when they’re on stage or on TV or doing an interview, and it’s important they feel comfortable and as much like themselves as they can. So the designer has to get into their mindset and help them achieve that. The designers had to understand that, they can’t just create something that’s going to impress us mentors, because that means nothing if the client isn’t comfortable.
Did you ever wear outfits you weren’t comfortable in, during the early part of your career?
Yeah. I was so young, and I think when you start out, you do just think the stylist knows best. Inevitably as I’ve grown up, I’ve become aware of what works for me and what I want to be styled in.
How does your own personal style differ from the Girls Aloud style?
When we’re working together, it’s about what’s best for the band and that’s what we’re all really good at. We all have our own input, and we’re really good at working as a team, but we do all dress very differently so it’s quite a tricky process to make that work for everybody. In real life, I just like cool, tracky pants and a creeper, or jeans and a little jacket. Quite a relaxed look.
Can you describe the standard of the designers on Styled to Rock?
I thought they were brilliant. I was actually really surprised by how good they were, especially considering the budget and time frame they had because it wasn’t easy. They were under pressure too, designing for some huge clients, but they still managed to be individually creative and come up with something totally different each week. I really loved seeing them grow as people.
Did you find it difficult to criticise their work?
Ultimately, as a designer you have to be aware of the trends that work and the silhouettes that work on different body shapes. That’s just a given. So it was hard for me to see when that didn’t work. For example if a particular designer who, granted might usually do menswear, didn’t understand that women have boobs.
What was it like to work with Henry?
It was amazing! I love Henry to death, he’s such an amazing person. I didn’t actually realise how intense his day work was. He works so hard for his line. If we weren’t filming, he’d be off on Skype calls for his brand, or he’d have me try things on because his deadline was up. He so deserves his success.
What’s it like to be his inspiration?
Oh my gosh. I’m such a massive fan of what he does, so that’s a massive compliment. His stuff's only growing and getting better, as well. I go in and he says, ‘Do you like this?’, and it’s another amazing piece, and you go, ‘Where does your creativity end?’. It’s constant! He’s so incredibly talented.
The judges with the contestants
Why do you think he does feel inspired by you?
I don’t know, gosh! I suppose I don’t have any rules about what I wear. I’ll wear anything, crazy as it might be, even if it doesn’t match. He likes to have fun and so do I, so perhaps that’s why.
Can you describe how you met?
Oh it was so annoying, he had all these brides at his show, and not one had red hair! It was like, ‘oh, wow’. So I told him off.
Do you often tell off designers for not using redheads?
[laughs] No, but it was just so obvious, because he had every colour under the sun apart from red! We just got on after that. We’re just on the same page. I don’t like it when he gets too serious though. He says, ‘Come on, we have to be professional’, but I like it when we have a giggle.
Nicola with fellow mentors, Henry Holland and Lysa Cooper
And how did Lysa fit in?
Brilliantly! The three of us had a little groove going on. We understood which each person’s role was as well. We were coming at it from different angles but our opinions weren’t dissimilar. We knew who was brilliant and who needed more help. My role was to give the artist’s perspective, and to talk about the logistics of stagewear, and also hopefully I told them about how to inject your personality into your clothes, too.
What’s the best advice you can give to any aspiring designer?
I want things to be innovative. I want to see someone’s creativity on the garment and I don’t just want to see a jumper, and a trouser. If you bring something different to it, I will always be excited.
What was your relationship with Rihanna like; had you met previously?
I think we met Rihanna way back when she’d first started and Girls Aloud had first started, very briefly. But no, I hadn’t met properly before the show. I was definitely a fan, just of her style alone, she follows London fashion closely and channels it. She isn’t someone who looks like she’s been dressed. She has fun with her clothes. What you see on the outside is what’s going on inside with her. It’s how i feel about clothes, too. I tried to explain this to the designers: your clothes are an extension of your personality. There has to be a connection between the artists and the garments.
Your final shoot went on all night until 6am. What do you talk about to someone like Rihanna for all those hours?
Oh, gosh. We talked about everything. We talked about nails, her body chains, her birthday. Just girlie chat - with Henry there too! She was just lovely.
Styled to Rock is on SkyLiving, Tuesdays at 9pm