Name a city you’ve never visited, but want to.
Mexico City. I’ve never been to Central America, and I’ve been doing a lot of reading about Mexico and specifically Mexico City’s food scene and design culture. There are lots of young designers who are taking traditional folk arts and crafts and making something new with them.
How would you describe your personal style?
I think I veer between looking, to the outside world, like either someone from the Royal Family, or a scruffy teenage boy who likes indie music. I don’t really have much of an in-between. I have all my crummy old band t-shirts from New Order and Joy Division. Then I have fur coats, tartan skirts, riding boots, and all that.
There’s this vintage shop in New York called Search & Destroy. It’s a bit of a funny setup – I’m not necessarily recommending people to go there. The main demographic is basically hardcore anarchist punks. They have all these grandma clothes, coats, tartan skirts, which all end up on the sale rail. I bought a Christian Dior camel coat there for $20. So, I do quite well out of veering between the two extremes.
What kind of bike do you own?
I own a second-hand Schwinn called Pablo – after Pablo Picasso and he’s red, like the Spanish flag. Super heavy but reliable, never hits a puncture or scratches.
What are you listening to right now?
I really like techno music … and dance music in general … to party to. I’ve been listening to a lot of female DJs this year: Nina Kraviz, Avalon Emerson, Helena Hauff. There’s also a group called Discwoman who promote female New York DJs and put on lots of shows in the city.
Favorite day trip from New York City.
The beach. Ideally, Fire Island or the Hamptons. But the easiest, and where I go most frequently is Fort Tilden – although technically it’s still the city, it doesn’t feel like it.
I love being by the sea, looking out at the expanse of water and the horizon. It feels like a complete decompress from the city. I know a lot of people sniff at the beaches in New York, but most have never spent summers swimming in the English Channel with pebble beaches and seaweed, so they don’t understand!
What’s a cliché about how the British are depicted in film and television?
Of all cultural representations, I think the Brits get off quite lightly. In foreign movies Brits are often represented as posh, eccentric and slightly uptight. But this doesn’t represent the diversity of modern-day Britain or British people. I come from Birmingham, which Donald Trump referred to as a “no-go zone” That’s a representation of Britain I find frustrating.
Do you miss anything about British entertainment living here?
Oh, I miss the BBC so much. The BBC has quality programming, objective news, advert-free and treats its audiences with respect.
I was home recently and the BBC was running a multi-series about the art of Polynesia — on prime time. I’m not sure I know of anywhere in the world that would put that sort of niche educational and cultural programming on a weekday night at 8pm.
There are trashy programs on the BBC, but they are largely entertaining, and less trashy than other channels, like Graham Norton and (previously) Bake Off.
What’s your go-to cocktail?
I’m not a huge cocktail drinker. When I do, I like classics — a sour margarita with Mexican, and sometimes a sidecar. I’m a much more of a wine drinker. Having spent time in Spain, Ribera del Duero, is my favorite red and Albarino my favourite white. Ribera is a little tricky to find outside of Spain, they export a lot less than Rioja.
What do you think of the new Doctor Who?
I think it’s great! I love Doctor Who and have watched it since it came back on air with Christopher Eccleston. Jodie Whittaker’s doing a fantastic job. Up until now, my favorite Doctor has probably been David Tennant. But I also really liked the first few series of Matt Smith. And then Peter Capaldi. I can’t choose. It’s early days but Jodie could be up there too.
What surprised you in your academic studies of sustainability?
I’m constantly surprised at how much we know about climate change and other environmental issues, such as air and water pollution, waste … and yet how little we have done or are doing to change the systems which are creating these issues.
For example, in New York we recycle less than 50% of materials which can be recycled. It confusing for consumers, and so many materials which could be recycled aren’t because the recycling plants don’t have the right sensors or they are mixed up with other things.
We ship billions of pounds of waste to China. But, on a more positive note, there are so many aspects of every one of these macro systems where we can intervene, either on an individual, organizational or political level. They are so broken, there’s lots of opportunities to fix the individual parts.