Naomi Parry is a London-based stylist and former friend of Amy Winehouse. Here, she recalls working with the late singer and her influence in the fashion world on the tenth anniversary of her breakthrough album, Back to Black.
I met Amy when I was 19 years old and about to start Uni. I was with a male friend at a gay bar in Soho, and she was there with her male friend. My friend took a bit of a liking to her mate and ended up sending over drinks, which sounds incredibly cheesy, but we were teenagers and it felt like the right thing to do. I didn’t know who Amy was, but we ended up bonding over backcombing our hair—we both had really long hair back then and liked wearing it really big. We spent the rest of the night hanging out and talking and managed to remain friends, which is rare in London—you meet so many random people. But we bonded slowly. She wasn’t quick to let people into her circle.
A year later, around the end of 2006, I was in school and working as an assistant stylist for local bands and she called me up and asked if I’d be interested in working with her. Her stylist at the time had something else that she wanted to move on to. I was very young and inexperienced and thought, I’ve really got to grab this opportunity by the horns. So I went for it. As daunting as it was, we got along really well and worked really well together. One of my first jobs was the 2007 Brit Awards, and we put her in a very bold yellow dress. She wasn’t particularly well-known at the time, but the designer, Preen, was very excited about dressing her. The dress wasn’t supposed to be worn with a bra, but she insisted. She always got her way.
One of the things I found very inspiring about Amy was how headstrong she was in a such a male-dominated industry. She didn’t let anybody walk all over her. Of course there are some exceptions, but for the most part, it was true. I suppose we had a slightly masculine energy between us both, but were quite feminine in the way that we dressed. She loved tight, form-fitting things, big heels, big hair, and a lot of eyeliner. One of the last projects I ever worked on with her was a line of dresses that really epitomized her style. They were very bright, very fun, very short … all inspired by her Brazilian tour in 2007. She absolutely loved this one pink halter dress. She felt really good in it. It was perfect for her.
She wore ballet pumps since the day that I knew her. I think the trend started around the same time she was studying at Sylvia Young Theatre School. They were from a company called Freed of London. I remember numerous times where I’d have to stand at the side of the stage with a pair because she’d wear heels for one song and want to change into them. We used to buy them by the absolute bucketload. They didn’t have proper soles, so she’d go through each pair so quickly. I remember at the bottom of her wardrobe, she had mountains of graying ballet pumps that were put through just about everything. We used to call it the Ballet Pump Graveyard.
Amy always had a very clear idea about how she wanted to look. It was very much about the ‘60s thing … the big hair was inspired by Brigitte Bardot, and she was into the idea gangster moles—girls that hung out with gangsters. There were influences from the ‘80s and the ‘90s as well—she loved Alabama from True Romance and used to watch Planet Terror obsessively. Ultimately, we found a style that she was really comfortable with, and it became synonymous with her. It was like her armor—she put that on and became Amy Winehouse. Sometimes, it was difficult finding dresses to fit her small frame, but there were some designers that worked very well. Luella had fantastic, short dresses, and same with Betsey Johnson. Dolce & Gabbana was another go-to.
Because she was so strong-willed, she was very particular about what she wore. She really loved underwear, too. She had a ridiculous amount of underwear and always insisted on wearing frilly French knickers under everything, despite how snug her dresses were. She also liked really bold, old-school prints. Black and white looked really great on her. There was this one belt that I couldn’t get her out of—it was from this company called Arrogant Cat. She would pull it [the belt] so tight that it would bring her in and give her a bit more of an hourglass figure. She wanted that sexy, curvy shape that she used to have. I couldn’t understand how she could breathe and sing at the same time!
On a day-to-day basis, Amy dressed herself. She wasn’t keen on having a big entourage around her. Towards the end [of her life], she did her own makeup and hair on tours too, even though she was so famous by that point. Offstage, she was very casual. It was strictly ballet pumps, jeans, and a polo shirt. At night when she was working, it was very much little dresses and heels. I don’t do styling anymore … I worked for a while after [her death], but I missed working with Amy so much. She’s one of the last of her kind. She never wavered from her image. She didn’t follow trends; she was just herself. I think about her every day.
—As told to Claire Stern