Friday, October 05, 2007

Thierry Henry: 'I'm definitely not a fashion victim'

Back in London, the footballer talks about what it is like to be have your face plastered on the side of a bus, and offers style tips for men. Frances Booth reports

Thierry Henry is back in London. With minders, a precisely timed schedule, and a clothes range to launch.

Crowds jostle to get a glimpse as he models the Thierry Henry Capsule Collection in the window of the Regent Street Tommy Hilfiger store.

He certainly looks the part. Black kipper tie, white shirt long-sleeved shirt and grey suit from the Tommy Hilfiger range. Matched with an air of confidence and a genuine smile.

Cameras flash and bulky men guard doors. Champagne is served. Cheers to the new clothes.

But what is the footballer thinking in those split seconds when he turns away from it all, his back to everyone, his fists on his hips? Is this real for him? Does he have other things on his mind?

He has been through a lot recently, the move from Arsenal to Barcelona for £16.1m, the divorce from model Claire Merry (who he met on the va va voom set). What does it feel like being back in London? Doesn’t he just wish everyone would just go away?

He seems resigned to the perils of stardom. But it is still strange to see yourself on the side of a bus, he says.

“I can never get used to it to be honest.” He is still “like a kid” about that.

How did the collection come about?

After working with Tommy Hilfiger on a few shoots, Thierry mentioned his new charity to him, The One 4 All Foundation, which tackles racism and social inequality. Hilfiger liked the idea of teaming up.

Profits from sales of the collection will go to help the charity.

There were a lot of meetings, Henry tells me. Lots of shoots. He sounds quite bored. “I didn’t know they were going to put my face on it.”

The point, for him, is the charity. This is what is real.

“It’s important. That is exactly where I come from”

The aim is to help these kids. “Trying to keep them dreaming.”

Henry was born and brought up in the tough neighbourhood of Les Ulis, Essonne, France. AS Monaco spotted him in 1990 and signed him up. Then he went to Juventus, Arsenal, and this year, Barcelona.

“Those kids still have the right to dream. You never know, maybe the next Prime Minister might be there. But you can never know if you don’t give them a chance.”

It is clear he sees himself in them, and this drives his enthusiasm.

He says you need to give them the material things that they need – like furniture, and facilities, so they can have a good education, so they can “just be themselves, and make sure they grow properly”.

“Sometimes your parents can not be around you and support you because maybe themselves, they have to take two jobs at a time. It is the oldest brother usually who has to look after everybody.”

“I know exactly how it is in an underprivileged area. That is where I come from.”

The collection with Hilfiger is a way that he has found that means he can help. But he has no pretensions about his fashion credentials.

“I am not a stylist and I am not a designer,” he says.

“I’m definitely not a fashion victim. It is not like ‘I need to have this because everyone is wearing it’. I will actually be totally the opposite.”

Who influenced his style?

“My dad. When I was young. He was just crazy with his clothes.”

Always wearing matching clothes, always looking good. Just being himself.

Any style tips for men? What creates the best look?

“Just wear what you really feel comfortable with. Be yourself and be confident. It depends on what you like and how you wear it. I think it’s all down to that. You have to have your own style.”

There seems no danger of him getting sucked into the clean-cut fashion world he is moving in right now.

Fashion or football? Football. Every time.

And what about what next? Any plans?

“I never plan anything because sometimes you can get too much disappointment when you plan stuff. You already can get disappointed when you don’t plan aswell.”

The enthusiasm is gone from his voice.

Fair enough. Some of his plans have admittedly gone astray.

I’ll see what life can bring me, he says, as the next person desperate for his attention is ushered in.

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