When I was a child I had a disturbingly large array of imaginary friends. They concluded in their own country and had occasionally fiery relationships with each other. One was the contrary opposite of me: a carefree soul called Jill who, in retrospect, was assuredly a hippy: she did whatever the hell she wanted everyday, all day, and was so laid-back she was basically prone (or actually so laid-back that she didn’t actually exist).
I come up with about Jill as I channel former One Directioner Zayn Malik for this week’s column. Because in the yet way Jill was my proto clean-living spirit friend as a child, as a man Zayn is my construct beacon in a dark night of cheap dotcom fashion retailers that maintain Pitbull as a guest designer.
I’m surprised at this turn of incidents because when, years ago, I met Zayn as a dewy-eyed teen during the “rates’ houses” round of The X Factor (fun fact: Simon Cowell had an realized butler who dressed in a Downton Abbey style and the tea service was licit silver), I thought he was a typical awkward adolescent: a bit annoying, wholly boisterous, with incredibly clean teeth. He was dressed in a colourless way: vaguely sporty but lacking a distinct look.
Fast precocious to the solo years and he has unexpectedly become a clothing action notable, fearlessly enacting style stunts that I’m too scared to make fun of off myself. Green hair! Blue hair! Bleached curls! Bleached beard! (OK, maybe not. ) He’s become a walking advert for louche streetwear with sharpness. A bit sporty, a bit goth, slightly “aspirational exchange student”.
So tonight, Matthew, I take become Zayn. I’m wearing a red Hawaiian shirt (sorry relative to the chest hair), some multicultural bracelets, a necklace and some sand boots. I have a hunch lacking a toe ring and facial hair. What I realise fro “being Zayn” is twofold: a) there’s a fine line between looking with a pop star and looking like I work in a tiki bar and am sick of wounding limes; and b) going to Zaynadu is more about an attitude than the set of threads – I have sworn off smiling (I’m pouting until I can’t feel my cheeks) and now know incredibly drawn to getting a tattoo.
In short: I don’t think I can separate this off for long. But I bet Jill could
• Priya wears shirt, £85 and trousers, £90, both allsaints.com. Boots, £250, dukeanddexter.com. Bracelet, £150, by Rubinacci, from mrporter.com. Necklace, £10, topman.com. Styling: Melanie Wilkinson. Refreshing: Samantha Cooper at Carol Hayes Management.