September: the air cools, the knits at the back of the closet are reached for once more, the heating goes on and every single newspaper and mag bleats on about London Fashion Week with breathless abandon.
It makes me chuckle when I'm told what 'It' bag (costing enough to feed a refugee family for 5 months) I should be slinging over my shoulder; or that 'culottes are back' when in fact, why did they look good on anybody, ever? "Oh must get a culottes jumpsuit, it's so flattering and warm in winter" said no one, ever. As my photographer mate Derek said to me in the Sep of '97 as I ran myself ragged trying to get into some inane fashion show, almost trampled by a dozen papps and heeled skeletal women wearing shades indoors, "all this fuss over a frock." Quite.
That's not to say I didn't have a ball when I went to all the shows in London and Paris Fashion Week back in my fashion reporter days. Dame Viv was always good for a cackle, Manolo the nicest man in fashion, and Amanda Wakeley a designer with manners, grace and taste.
I remember feeling high as a kite when I grabbed the first interview with Stella McCartney after her first ever collection for Chloe in Sep '97. I went with Christian Louboutin after spending the morning interviewing him; he gave me the name of Chloe's director: Patrick De La Tour on a yellow post it note and I used this tiny piece of paper to inveigle my way into the show, and somehow backstage - demanding my meeting with Patrick. A security guard the size of an ape, parted the sea of people and brought me through - my cameraman trailing behind me, my mic our umbilical cord. Patrick looked confused, as he would, so I asked the obvious, 'where is Stella?' He pointed over to where she was, exiting a room with Paul and Linda, and I dashed over. She was witty and warm for the whole two minutes I had her, before the room converged upon her and I was squeezed out.
Because you see, everyone takes FASH-ONNNN very seriously. Which is a shame, because the only folk having the last laugh are the big wig companies who are persuading hard working women to part with ££££ to buy something that is 'in' and 'hot' one minute and 'out' the next. The joke is indeed on us. No one has summed up the bizarre notion of fashion better than Dr Seuss, in his book 'The Sneetches.' Read it and see... are we all just craving to be a Star Bellied Sneetch one season and star-less the next...?
Thank the lord for folk like the late, mad, Isabella Blow, (who was hilarious to interview, always wearing a giant Philip Treacy shrimp hat - or some other creation of his - to obscure the back two rows from seeing anything on the runway) or enfant terrible Andrew Groves (ex of McQueen) who had a model wearing latex and a fake fur strut on the catwalk, then open her coat to let out a tonne of flies over the fashion mavens' heads, as she turned and swaggered off, tampon string clearly visible.
I no longer subscribe to fashion for many reasons, not least because my life as a writer doesn't require any fancy heels or pencil skirts or anything other than comfy jeans and trainers. Thank god. All that preening and grooming is such an effort. The best dressed folk are always the ones who just throw things together and don't throw themselves at the mercy of a few editors of dwindling magazines....
That isn't to say I didn't have a blast when I gadded about from show to show and after party. The most memorable being Antonio Berardi's show at Brixton Academy, with Kate Moss strutting down the catwalk wearing plaits and a glittery stetson; or in '99 at Camden Roundhouse, Mel B giving it some oomph at the Julian Macdonald show, cheered on by the rest of her Spice Ladies (minus Geri). LFW was 5 days of eating nothing, drinking anything I could lay my hands on and being asked by frightfully nice ladies like Camilla Morton (Isabella Blow's successor in my mind) if my thrift store dress was 'Versace Versus?' Er...no. £2 from an All Aboard shop... It was 1997, Labour had just got in, Patsy and Liam were on the cover of Vanity Fair, La Moss opened London Fashion week in a Clements Ribeiro union jack sweater (and avoided all my interview questions, glaring instead) and Britpop ruled the world. London was swinging. It was a fun time to be inspired by all the theatrical shows, chase the attending celebs and star bother the designers themselves at various London haunts like Momos at the Met Bar (where Galliano and McQueen both were charming and agreed to later interviews, but this never materialised in the cold sober light of day).
So as autumn descends once more and fash-pack race around London town ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the latest frock, I can cheerfully say I won't miss it one bit. There is something slightly repugnant in these times to be fawning over mere material, that costs a ridiculous amount of money only to be tossed aside, when the world has much greater needs for your hard earned buck. Are your status items - your trinkets and toys - the only things to define you? Does anyone ever need to be on a waiting list for a handbag?? I can understand that paying extra for a well cut piece of clothing that will last decades is infinitely better than buying Primark tat that has been made from abusing workers in a far off country. But still. As the dandiest fashionista of them all, Quentin Crisp once said, “Fashion is what you adopt when you don't know who you are.”
Amen to that.