Born in rural County Tyrone, Jackie Mallon fell for the poetry of Seamus Heaney and the writing of Polly Devlin at an early age. They provided the inspiration for endless notebooks filled with teenage ramblings. But when faced with the choice of studying Literature or Art and Design at university in Belfast, she chose the latter.
After completing an MA in Fashion Design at London’s Central St Martins, she lived in Milan for eight years designing for Moschino and Giorgio Armani’s catwalks while stockpiling stories and character studies for the novel she still didn’t know she was gearing up to write.
On a trip to New York in 2006, she fell in love with the city and its sense of possibility that hummed like electricity around her. She moved there and it wasn’t long before she quit the hustle of Manhattan’s garment district to spend three quiet years at her kitchen table writing Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel based on her experiences in the fashion world.
She is currently a freelance designer while working on her second novel.
SILK FOR THE FEED DOGS
True happiness for seven-year-old Kat is riding beside Da on his Massey-Ferguson tractor. True misery, on the other hand, would be learning to operate the monstrous Singer sewing machine her mum slaves over. But the day her father impales his arm on its spindle, Kat—in a twist to the fable in which the king bans all spinning wheels from the kingdom for fear his cursed daughter will prick her finger and perish—vows never to go anywhere near a sewing machine again.
Yet, at eighteen, Kat’s idea of happiness hinges solely on a career in fashion. The farm can no longer contain her creative impulses, and she enrolls at London’s prestigious design school, Central St Martin’s, where she makes a fast friend in the ambitious, martini-swilling Edward Brandreth. They form an incorrigible duo; he is “the Thelma to her Sundance.” But they are forced apart after graduation when Edward lands a glamorous design job in Milan, and Kat stays in London, accepting a position with the enigmatic Lynda Wynter who runs a small label.
Soon Kat’s new environment turns hostile; she must contend with Lynda’s mercurial nature, later explained when Kat stumbles upon her arsenal of pharmaceuticals. The dysfunction reaches its climax with Lynda’s hands around Kat’s throat. She flees to Milan and joins Edward.
In Italy, her fortunes look up: she wins a promising job at the fashion house Intermezzo and begins negotiating the dating scene or, as she, intimidated, refers to it, the “Seduction Olympics.” But her dalliances with Italian men spell nothing but chaos: a single night of passion ultimately costs her her beloved job.
Unemployed and sketching in a café, Kat is approached by a fashion insider charmed by her work. She gains Kat access into the glittering House of Adriani and an audience with the King of Italian fashion, Signor Adriani himself, who offers Kat a position on his elite team. But as her star rises, so too does the scheming by Signor Adriani’s creative director and loyal right hand, Arturo Di Carlo, who is ready to sabotage her every move.
He is livid when Beyoncé picks Kat’s dresses for her tour, but when Signor Adriani promotes Kat to director and invites her to accompany him to Cannes Film Festival, the majestic calm of the House of Adriani is shaken like never before.
Weeks later, on a trip to the island of Procida, off the coast of Naples, Kat comes to realize life within the glass palace is stifling; she’s becoming just another “Adroid,” one of the army of Adriani devotees who all behave and dress alike. The island’s natural charms have reawakened in her the desire for fresh air, wholesome toil, and the sensation of “bits of earth lodged deep in her fingernails.”
Upon her return, she tenders her resignation. Signor Adriani, feeling betrayed, has her unceremoniously escorted off the grounds, forever banishing her from his kingdom.
Finally, Kat finds Edward again, this time in Paris, she reveals to him her new career plans…
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