Text by Naomi Bikis
It is 8am and, in just heels and underwear, Harriet Verney is teetering across a field of black sheep at her family home in Gloucestershire. A cold, dull sun is breaking over the horizon, but already Verney is awake and chatting at great speed.
For the 19-year-old, today’s shoot is nothing unusual. Verney grew up at Hilles, the country estate home of her late aunt and fashion icon, Isabella Blow. After Verney’s parents divorced, she came to live in this fashion world mecca with her mother, Lavinia Blow. An upbringing here was never going to be mundane and Verney is already forging her own independent path. She has written for US Vogue, been photographed by Nick Knight and Mario Testino, and co-launched Pigmee magazine and online boutique with-a-difference, 123store.co.uk. She is also busy forming a band, who will be called either Groovy Genius or Inside Daisy Clover.
“I don’t recall being aware that someone famous was coming to stay or if it was anyone important,” she says. “You just don’t give a fuck when you’re a kid. I guess, subconsciously, I was influenced by the adults around me. Once I set up this gallery at my house and for every new customer that came in there would be a new outfit. Of course, Issy found this hysterical. I’d borrow her clothes and that’s when I became obsessed by fashion and dressing up.”
With designers, artists and aristocrats all frequenting the house, Verney was never destined to do anything “conventional”.
“Oh no, I wanted to be a banker up until I was 15,” she says. “I had this theory that I’m living with the world’s most avant-garde, crazy people and I thought they all needed looking after. So I decided to set up an old people’s home and that I’d be a banker.”
The plan was short-lived. At 16, she left Cirencester College to move to London’s east end with her boyfriend. She reels off stories of her new home, and trying to raise the ghost of Elvis Presley with a local witch and hallucinogenic honey at an eventful Halloween party.
But her next ventures look set to overshadow everything to date.Together with her mother and Daphne Guinness, she is working on republishing the book Walkabout; a Journey in Lands between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. It documents the travels of Verney’s great-grandmother, Lady Vera Delves Broughton, and Lord Moyne of the Guinness dynasty as they discover the pygmies of Papua New Guinea. “It’s the most amazing collection of images,” she enthuses. There is also a children’s book on the way.
“I’ve done this first chapter about Mr. and Mrs. Ragwort, two poisonous yellow plants. They bump into a slug and they smear lipstick all over him and then there’s a weird paedophile called Clover. It is really, really strange,” she promises.