Monday, 29 March 2010

Photographers, Models and Exploitation

It must seem a bit rich to many people that a model has accused a photographer of exploitation, but it has happened.

The photographer Terry Richardson has blogged that he is really hurt to have been falsely accused of 'insensitivity and misconduct' by the model Rie Rasmussen.

The view of the man in the street would presumably be that models make the decision as to how far they will go in a photographic session and the photographer decides how far he will ask them to go. End of story … if the playing field was level.

But it rarely is. Many models at the beginning of their careers are young, insecure and possibly even virginal. Photographers are some of the very few men in fashion who might be straight. And certainly there are predators among them, wishing not just to sleep with models but also in their photographs to patronise and possibly debase them. And their allies in this are the people who should be protecting models: the agents, stylists and editors who work with them.

And I am sure that many do offer protection but, in the desperate efforts to be 'edgy' and shocking that most of these people seem to feel are essential for commercial success, others seem to inch closer to blatant titillation almost daily. Nudes on the covers of fashion and lifestyle magazines are the cheapest form of selling through sensationalism, and yet they succeed; simulated highly sexual scenarios – a genre introduced by Tom Ford at Gucci several years ago – do the same for top brands through their advertising campaigns.

Revealingly, the main culprits are the not-yet-household names (and probably never likely to be) in photography and the titles that will never have the general clout of Vogue, Harpers or Elle. In other words, the ones that try to keep afloat by inventing a type of 'cool' that speaks only to the young, few of whom can afford the magazines or the clothes they feature and would probably find few opportunities to wear them.

I often feel that fashion has become an incestuous maze of crazed and immature imaginations trying to grab attention by being naughty. I certainly know that the stylists, editors and photographers who create these pictures live their lives well removed from the things they promulgate. And that doesn't just give credibility to the accusations of exploitation; in the way it patronises, it robs anything they produce of any claims that could be made for its creative value.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Designers and the Press: Lessons from the Past

This morning I've been reading the answers to questionnaires I sent out to the top designers as part of a piece I am doing for 10 Magazine. The idea's very simple. Ten designers get ten identical questions and send me their answers. No interview; no extra queries to elucidate their answers. Just them, their thoughts and an e-mail back to me. The results are fascinating: they each reveal their thinking by their choice of question to elaborate on.

I am always amazed at how accessible designers make themselves and how they are – in all but a few cases – prepared to be honest and speak the truth. I am conscious, of course, that cynics will say that the questionnaire is immediately handed over to a PA or PR to answer, with the designers only signing it off at the end. That could be true, but designers tend to have egos far too large to let anybody else to speak for them, no matter how close that person might be. They are also aware of how important any reference to them or their attitudes is these days, in whatever form of media. And I include blogging and Twitter, for which most designers have a healthy respect (tinged, I suspect, with a little fear of a medium whose power is still not entirely understood by many).

I can't help wondering what Chanel, Vionnet, Dior or Balenciaga would have felt about the 'open access' game that designers now have to play, no matter how private their private thoughts still remain. I think we know what Balenciaga, who hated the press and for a few seasons actually banned them all from his shows, would think. He rarely if ever talked to journalists, believing that making clothes for his customers was a sacred bond to be discussed with nobody but the woman concerned. Of course, that could happen naturally in the days of couture when fashion was an individual pleasure with customers and designer working together in shared knowledge and taste.

Now, of course, designing clothes is no more personal than designing cars or screwdrivers. The designer has no interchange with the woman who buys what he designs. Balenciaga would have thought that that made the whole process so impersonal as to be pointless, but I can't help feeling that the other three, all of whom were highly commercial, would love questionnaires … especially the in-your-face women – Chanel and Vionnet, both so tough their lineage could probably be traced to Attila the Hun or Ghengis Khan.

Dior (a more subtle and gentle self-publicist, but with a very healthy ego) would have been more diffident but certainly would have said his piece. After all, he is one of the few designers from the fifties who wrote a (ghosted) biography and put his name to a dictionary of fashion, as well as lecturing and giving interviews at a time when the old guard thought such things shockingly vulgar and commercial. Dior really understood the value of publicity and, like Vionnet and Chanel, realised that the individual relationships of traditional fashion could not survive the expansion of markets and customer types.

All three were correct, of course. Now the individual relationship is not between customers and designers but between customers and those who bring clothes to their attention (the press) and those who exemplify their dreams and wishes (stars and celebs in the front row).

But I still think that Balenciaga had something of worth in his attitude – something we should try to recapture. Maybe the current lot at that once-austere house think so too, and feel that banning the editor of French Vogue from shows is sending a positive message. It is, although for me not the one their crazed press office imagines. But as the history of many fashion houses shows, designers come and they go, taking their foolish minions with them – whilst good editors tend to have very long working lives...

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The Age of Fashion

One of the sharper comments I received about my blog concerning the age of some members of the judging committee for the CFDA Awards has brought up an interesting ageist point that has caused me to think rather about the future of fashion (but then I would, wouldn't I?). The writer points out that I am a fine one to talk if I believe that FASHION FRINGE IS FOR DESIGNERS AGED AROUND 27 and yet dedicated to nurturing YOUNG talent. The clear inference for a lot of fashion followers is that the age of fashion credibility is slipping ever lower.

It is a sobering thought. If people in their twenties are no longer considered young in fashion terms, does this mean that designers will also soon be teenagers? After all, there is a sort of logic in people from the same age group as the buying public being the ones who know the market best. Certainly, I think fashion that spans a wide age group – ie most of a woman's life – is doomed. The high street is already showing us this, because one of the characteristics of youth and age is that we all think almost entirely in our own age group and ignore or dismiss those outside it. It's hard to imagine a teenager designing clothes for a woman over 35 living an affluent life; in fact, it's just as hard as the septuagenarian designer in Paris or Milan trying to capture the mood of the streets … and we all know how disastrous that is. Even more worrying is the fact that, by definition, most teenage designers will be without any training at all. Give or take a once in a lifetime chance, how many good designers is that likely to produce?

But even using the word good begs the question. What we consider good design at this point is trained in us by looking and wearing clothes designed in a certain matrix with which we are all familiar. And that can certainly change.

What does all this mean? The death of designer fashion as we know it (and maybe even as an entity at all, I think), as young women begin to view the way they dress exactly as young men have for the last twenty years, as something that owes a lot to groups – often ethnic groups – and rarely influenced by the catwalk. In fact, the opposite. Knitted beanies and jeans hanging off the butt were copied from the runways, not conceived on them, after all. Urban clans, already strong among young men across the globe, are being joined by girl gangs. They're by no means all aggressive or anti social, but in both cases how the group dresses is as esoteric and crucial as the way women followed the daily fashion changes at Versailles. And for the same reason. The obsession with minutiae is a sign of the disengaged mind.

So what of the young professional woman? Where will she dress? Increasingly in the high street, and more cheaply, surely. Why spend a lot of money on status products when the real status is wearing a uniform that shows you belong?

So, in different clothes, the punk parade of conformity will continue until the arbiters of taste are so young they aren't even able to articulate their opinions. Now that's democracy for you – or the horror of the Brave New World.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The CFDA and the Bloggers: Why?

We all know that fashion is changing at an unprecedented pace. I don't mean fashion styles but fashion as an entity. Since Worth opened his salon in Paris 1858 and effectively created the modern dress designer, the mechanics and even the aesthetics of fashion - design, presentation and also clients - have changed little from his original concept. Throughout the twentieth century, clothes remained remarkably static. Hemlines rose or fell; some of the underpinnings loosened up; nylons, hairspray and synthetics made things easier and cheaper; but the only major change was that women began to wear trousers, not as a protest or as fancy dress but as a permanent and acceptable way of dressing. And that's about it, really.

But the secret snake was at work in the garden, ready to destroy it all, just biding its time … and gently hissing 'the world belongs to youth.' It was able to be ignored for a very long time because, although youth's power grew with every generation, it didn't become truly empowered as a fashion force until it began to have its own money. That changed everything. The age of fashion consent – or at least, understanding – began to slide dangerously low. And it has continued to do so until we have come to our present state: the reign of the know-nothings, where front rows at fashion shows are crammed with stars and celebs who are rarely over thirty and, if they are bloggers, are welcomed as young as thirteen. Is it a self-inflicted wound on the fashion body or merely an acknowledgement of the inevitable?

Let's look at some facts (as pointed out by the comment on a previous blog that in many ways prompted this post). The CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) has included two young bloggers in its invited list of judges (I've been one for years) who annually select the best designers in various categories of the U.S. fashion business. No prizes for guessing. Tavi and Bryanboy are both up there with the cream of the industry who have in the past been chosen with great care as people with expertise in the field, people whose judgement is trusted as being based on wide-ranging experience of the fashion world. People who know.

Doesn't matter any more. What counts now is who sells clothes and to whom. And that is all that fashion blogging and Twitter are for, as far as the fashion – and especially designer – business is about: capturing a new and ever younger market. Of course nobody at the CFDA respects or cares about the opinions of the likes of Tavi and Bryanboy. The designers who have crammed their front rows with footballers, movie stars and TV stars don't care either. All that fashion cares about now is enthusiasm and that can be as uninformed as you like. Everybody in fashion knows is that it is enthusiasm and excitement, not knowledge, that sells clothes. At least for a time. And that is why the very young are so important now.

One of the saddest aspects for me of all of this is a professional one. I worry about all those still-young fashion editors who started this movement and think they know the story but who are, in fact, already too old to feel the pulse at first hand. They are already obsolescent, no longer able to keep up with currents being driven by fifteen-year-olds. They will be old beyond their time and will probably have to end up selling jeans to ten-year-olds in order to scratch a living as they watch that coveted front-row seat being handed over to their younger sisters. Even Charles Worth knew that fashion was a tough world.

www.colinmcdowell.com
www.assarahseesit.blogspot.com

Sunday, 14 March 2010

John Galliano: New Chair of Fashion Fringe

Today is a very exciting day for me as founder and creative director of Fashion Fringe @ Covent Garden – it's the day we announce our chair for the next two years. Following on from Tom Ford and Donatella Versace, we have John Galliano, who I know will build on the foundations they laid and help us take Fashion Fringe to a new, more extreme and daring level.

Anyone who knows anything about fashion knows what an honour it is to have John once more involved with London fashion, not just for FF@CG but also for London as a crucible for exciting and even iconoclastic fashion revolution – a role that has been largely lost sight of since the time when John worked here. That is why I am so happy that the man who I believe is the only fashion genius of our time has agreed to give back something to the city that enabled him to nurture his extraordinary talent. What he will offer us all is inspiration and guidance towards the sort of totally unique extreme daring and originality that his runaway always has, the sort of excitement that makes the whole world sit up and take notice, just as he has done ever since his graduate collection which said so clearly that a new force had arrived in world fashion.

Daring, boldness and strength are what make fashion leaders. Self belief, too. But we must be sure of what we are expecting from John's influence and example. And what we are not. It is as easy to grab attention and cause excitement in fashion as it is in any other creative field. But that is not enough by itself. Nobody needs crazy things that merely amuse for a minute or two. Whoever gets to be one of the four finalists will have to prove to John – who is the sole final judge – that thy are not only about fantasy. Good clothes, no matter how extreme they appear, must have a focus and a practical purpose. And that is to excite women to want to buy into the designer's aesthetic. Even if few things on the runway seem able to be worn under normal circumstances, the winner will have behind them an understanding of how to turn them into real clothes for real women. Anything else is merely a self-indulgent waste of time. What John will look for is not mindless craziness. That is too easy and totally pointless. He – and Fashion Fringe @ Covent Garden – will want to see a strong aesthetic that comes from a belief in fashion as a discipline as strongly creative and original as any other artistic endeavour … one that will help redraw the fashion map, just as John always does.

So, if you are thinking of applying, remember that it is self-belief and self-discipline that create the revolutionary. As Diaghilev said, "Astound me." It's not an easy call, but the watchwords are extreme boldness, experimentation and inspiration, tempered by a belief in the possibility of true personal originality.

Will we find another genius? Only you can determine that, but John and I are hoping so.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Alexander McQueen: A Month On, the Future of the Label

It is exactly one month ago today since the news of Alexander McQueen's death. In that time there have been outpourings of grief and much speculation about the future of the McQueen label. The Gucci group have issued a statement saying that the label will continue but, not surprisingly at this stage, have given no details. These are perilous days for the future of Alexander McQueen's label.

The major problem is what could be called the Margaret Thatcher–Tony Blair fall-out factor. It is a quirk of history that powerful figures almost always leave a strong after-wave when they are no longer in power … or even alive. It is the old principle that small trees cannot thrive in the shade of big ones. After any strong character falls, there is confusion while weaker ones vie for the leader's crown. In the case of a politician we end up with an interregnum until a party regroups and finds itself a new leader. But creativity isn't like politics. Whereas policies are always able to change, the creative zeitgeist of a designer label is the sprit of one man or woman, and it is very hard to change it.

We all remember how hard McQueen found it at Givenchy – he left rather than remain in an artistically alien role. The same awkwardness is now hovering over his own label. Gucci want it to continue, presumably with McQueen's team. But a team without a leader can never retain the spirit of the original. So, does Gucci find a young talent to take McQueen's place? Perhaps the question should be, what young designer would take on such a poisoned chalice that will almost certainly end in failure? It is hard enough to take on a long-dead fashion name, but one whose memory is so vivid seems impossible. Who would want to be compared with Alexander McQueen, knowing that he or she will always be found lacking?

I can think of only one possible name. Gareth Pugh alone has the right spirit and aesthetic to give it a try. But why should he take the risk?

Monday, 8 March 2010

Lakme Fashion Week, Mumbai: Generation Next, and a Way Ahead

Generation Next: Sabah Khan

Indian fashion has always been at a disadvantage because it doesn't have a winter season, or so several journalists to whom I've been talking suggest. I don't know if they are right but, if they are, then it was a sharp move for Mumbai fashion week to rebrand itself as a resort event. There's no end to the number of little dresses, kaftans, ponchos and pants that can come down the catwalk under that title. And no need to tailor anything at all if you don't want to. So, with that one word – Resort – Mumbai stops fighting for a place with the major Western capitals (at least for the time being) and pitches for sales on a much more level ground.

By competing not with Paris and Milan but with Miami, Rio, Sydney and other fashion weeks favoured with almost perpetual sunshine, Indian designers can begin to show the West what they have to offer. During this week I have already seen cruise clothes that would perfectly fit the West's need to push away the midwinter blues. But there is still a lot of traditional fashion, and not only the sari but also the sort of elegant sophistication in evening wear that can come from it. I try to imagine some of these jewel-encrusted items on backs in the West and, fabulous as they are, I can't. Nor can I see fifties' resort shapes that rely entirely on colour being worn at the beach instead of the tried-and-tested Pucci formula.

It seems to me that the way for Indian fashion to go is the Generation Next route, but even then I think that fresh young(ish) talents should be … well, fresh; and for that one has to look at the art colleges. What I am saying is that India has a long and exciting visual history and it isn't evident enough on the runways of Mumbai. And it should be, and I am sure it could be. Young designers have to be carefully chosen and then given very specific nurturing and mentoring. I started this in the West when I set up Fashion Fringe @ Covent Garden which is an initiative to find good young London-based designers. Step one is finding the talent, but more crucial is step two: to build these strong young talents into real businesses that can be supported as they grow. Now, mentoring and sustaining talents has become part of the young fashion scene in London and the British Fashion Council and other independent bodies have found considerable amounts of money to do so.

There is very much more money in Indian fashion manufacturing than in the UK, so I see no reason why a similar approach tapping this vast wealth would not work here. With a fashion world focused on the West and with world fashion currently totally dominated by huge conglomerates and mega brands it seems to me that the best hope for keeping Indian fashion alive and moving is by helping good talent to get a foot on the ladder and then start climbing. And that means organisational and financial support.

Frankly, fashion weeks are useful profile raisers but they are only part of a complex mix of support and development required to build a national fashion industry, much of which often brings little or no immediate return on investment. It's about having faith not only in the future of designers but also in one's country, surely.
Generation Next: Vipin Batra
Generation Next: Sukhwant & Aastha
Generation Next: Sougat Paul

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Lakme Fashion Week, Mumbai: Little Shilpa, Lecoanet Hemant

Little Shilpa


Little Shilpa is not a name that would get you very far as a designer in the West, you might think, but here this physically tiny designer (hence the name) has a cult following. Ostensibly a milliner (she trained with Philip Treacy), her skills stretch much further. She creates jewellery and accessories but she should really be concentrating on sculpted and architectural works. Her show of brightly coloured perspex headpieces based on bikers' helmets and native American headdress was exhilarating but, in fashion terms, pure fantasy. The accompanying jewellery was predictable. There seems to me to be valuable talent in the wrong bed here. Her work should be in galleries, not on catwalks. Such a waste.

Another label showing here with a Western connection is Lecoanet Hemant, a half-French, half-Indian duo who have moved to India after many seasons of showing in Paris. Their clothes are traditional but not in an Indian sense. Just not what is currently seen as fashion in the West. But their handwriting is strong and their techniques show their background. I wasn't at all surprised to learn that they have factories spread across Asia. They balance the luxe of Paris with the richness of India to make clothes in which wealthy, worldly Indian women – and there are a lot – feel at ease. Their design approach goes some way towards resolving the eternal conundrum for women across India (and the millions across the globe) who want the dreamable to be wearable as well.

At the end of the second day of Indian fashion week, there are questions. Foremost is how far can Indian designers go? Is it worth the risk of weakening – and probably eventually destroying – a vibrant, ages-old culture of dress merely to jump on the roundabout of international fashion? Is it possible to keep the essence of that culture and still create clothes with an international appeal? Should ethnic be seen as a synonym for obsolescent? Only India can decide that. But, on the evidence I have so far seen, if the designers showing in Mumbai are hoping to break into the bigger pond they have to be much better prepared than they are now. A designer label comes with certain expectations, pre-eminently that the designer has his or her own point of view independent of what others are doing and wishes to present it at the highest level possible. He or she must ensure that fabrics are good quality and the manufacture is to a high standard. I have seen far too many very cheap fabrics on the runways here – the quality that students buy in Berwick Street – and more uneven, badly sewn hemlines than would be acceptable in a woman's sewing group in a sheltered accommodation home.

The taste level is a much more problematical question, linked inextricably to mental and cultural attitudes. Here in India, I feel it might reduce to a straightforward clash between the social and the cerebral. I don't think any outsider has the right to comment on that except when the designer is working in an ostensibly Western framework. But standards of quality are universal and must be addressed by all who are interested in making an international mark for themselves. I just have the feeling that there are few designers in the gentle middle-class world of Mumbai fashionable life who are really interested in the fashion world beyond. And why should they be? They are making money in a rapidly growing internal market that they understand. Why risk stepping out of their own limelight into unlit territory where the only certain thing is the level of competition?

Lecoanet Hemant

Anupamaa

Shrivan Narresh

Lakme Fashion Week, Mumbai: Sabyasachi




Sabyasachi is not a designer well known in Europe or America, and yet his was far and away the best and most coherent design statement of day one here in Mumbai. It was entirely individual and even understated compared to all the colourful exuberance of the rest of the day; it was wintry in feel and it included some jackets. So, we can say that he is facing West. And so is his aesthetic. As I watched this beautifully judged collection unfold I was taken back to the early work of Dies van Noten, Romeo Gigli and even Bill Gibb and early Laura Ashley. It was soft, gentle and understated. It was about dressing women so that it is not the dress but the person that makes the statement. It had a pleasantly nostalgic feel whilst being totally of today.

Small floral prints, rich combinations of pattern, subdued colour, a narrow silhouette: there was a real aesthetic at work here, and it was based on the possibility of real women wearing real clothes for real lives. You won't find the blockbuster show-stopper on the runway of Sabyasachi. What you will find is a wardrobe for an attitude of mind and a way of life.

And this designer scores because he has learned that hardest of all four-letter words for a designer to learn. It begins with an e and ends with a t. Editing a collection is second in importance only to designing it, in my opinion, and yet very few designers realise that on a runway less is always more. The shorter and sharper the statement, the greater its impact. That is why Sabyasachi's runway presented such a clear and concise statement of his thinking and had those who know about fashion, rather than blingy dresses, all saying, 'Yes. That was it.'

Sabyasachi's aesthetic appeals to the individual because it has the confidence of a creator who has, at the risk of sounding pretentious, a design philosophy – a very different thing from just sending a few commercial looks down your catwalk. This designer deserves a wide audience.



Saturday, 6 March 2010

Lakme Fashion Week, Mumbai

A lot can happen in fashion in four years. That's how long it is since I was last at Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai. And there have been big changes, including a growth in confidence, efficiency and organisation, paralleled by a big step forward in design terms. Although by no means turning their backs on their heritage – why would they when it goes back very much further than most western ones? – the designers here have taken on board the need to satisfy a growing need for westernisation of their creativity, as much for the modern young Indian customer as for the rest of the world. But they haven't lost their colour sense, I am pleased to say, whether subtle or bold. Although, rather sadly, I saw a lot of sophisticated, wealthy Indian women in a smart restaurant last night and what was the prevailing colour for those wearing western fashion (the majority)? Yes, black.

But this is still a fledgling industry and there is a way to go before India can take its place as a world fashion hub, although I have no doubt that it will. Meantime, I have already seen on day one talents that at many times could hold their own with those of the West in the area of floaty beautifully coloured dresses that would look right any where around the Mediterranean or even at an English garden party, depending on how exhuberant you want to be. At times, as in the West, it is weighed down with the sort of embroidery that Josephine (of Naploeon and Josephine) would have loved but, by and large, colour and pattern save the day.

In a country where winter is a few chilly weeks in Delhi, there is no real tradition of winter clothing here, which means that tailoring heavy fabrics is not yet an Indian strength. Here the tradition is for draped fabric. So the cutting and make of a lot on the runways is not strong … but that does not mean universally, by any means.

The wedding is the great event in India that makes many designers very rich. The wedding season, from September to March, is worth $12 million, which is not surprising when you think that on one day recently there were 30,000 in Delhi alone. And when you remember that these are five-day affairs where all the family and principle guests (600 to 1,000 for a society affair) dress up differently every day, that is a lot of dresses. Then add Bollywood and this is beginning to look like a serious business. And it is. Not just for clothes either. At the label Rocky S the finale consisted of a ruby and diamond necklace that would have had Elizabeth Taylor gnashing her teeth in envy. It almost upstaged the clothes.

Sabyasachi


Shyamal & Bhumika


Krishna Mehta


Vizyon

As Sarah Sees It

As anyone who has been reading my blog since I started last September has probably guessed, I like to tell things as I see them. Not the same as how they actually are, of course, but I like to express my opinion as clearly and directly as possible. But there are areas of fashion that I have few opinions on, even though they are a vital part of the Planet Fashion mix.

So, I have asked a colleague whose opinion I trust and respect and whose writing I always enjoy reading to create a blog a couple of times a week to complement mine. She will be talking about high street style, beauty and who knows what. I've left the details up to her.

So do have a look at As Sarah Sees It, which you can access from the main web site. I know you will enjoy her intelligent, fresh take on things. She'll be a worthy addition to your blog roll.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Milan Fashion Week: Anna Wintour is Right

Is the fashion world imploding or does it just seem that way?

Milan is over and it would seem that designers put a lot more effort into worrying about Anna Wintour's squeeze – trying to reduce the days that Milan has to show – than into the rather more creative business of designing clothes. Everyone is sore at being told that Italian fashion doesn't merit the space it did in its glory days, but they are missing another point.

Simply, Milan costs too much money for magazines and newspapers to spend too much time in. The limos that are essential in a city where every major designer insists on showing in the label's own HQ, usually long distances apart, cost thousands of euros. And, as every traveller knows, the taxi situation in this city is even worse than it is in Paris. So, Wintour is right. Better to have two days featuring the labels with an international reputation than to end up with no days at all because everything is too spread out and too much money goes on simply existing.

Of course, if the designers cut their advertising budgets – clearly a less and less effective means of getting the story out there – they could easily afford to subsidise the limos, hotels etc that London pays for to keep foreign buyers coming. That would bring the costs down and maybe keep the coverage up.

Not exactly rocket science.

Monday, 1 March 2010

London Fashion Week: A Wish List

One more visit to London Fashion Week, and then I'm done.

For far too many runways, it was the same deadly story this season as last. Is there some central pool of ideas that is feeding the 'creativity' of our young designers? I can think of no other reason for the similarity of what we saw over and over again – or so it seemed.

Here's my list of things I hope not to see again for some time and certainly not next season (do feel free to make any contributions of your own):

• Pleats and peplums sprouting everywhere.

• Mindless draping. We are not talking of the sublimities of Madame Grès here but the cop-out of people who do not know enough about either dressmaking or tailoring and who believe that wrapping one bolt of fabric around another and roughly tacking it can be called an evening dress.

• Endless minis. As Mary Quant, cleverer in every sense than any young designer in London today, realised: they are as easy as falling off a log and always sell, but it takes more than that to make them into a fashion statement.

• Inserts of fabric – especially stiff shiny ones.

• Leather-capped shoulders.

• Short flirty skirts with little kick pleats.

• Panels and half garments.

• Coiled and twisted ribbons of leather, satin, wool… or anything else the desperate designer could lay hands on.

• Shapeless furs – or any furs at all, really, in these enlightened days.

Enough already. The fashion world is not a kindergarten. Let's try to remember that next season.

London Fashion Week – Burberry




Last season, the first in which Burberry showed its collection in London, was a publicity triumph for the company even if it left buyers puzzled as to how they could actually sell much that came down the runway. This season, there was no such question.

This was a totally bankable collection in which everything appealed. Christopher Bailey gave us a statement of good, solid looks that women across the world will be buying eagerly. Everything was classic English, and the tailored coats and jackets were not only beautifully cut in rich materials but flatteringly familiar. We had retreated from the avant garde and, appropriately enough for this label, revisited tradition – army and navy tradition, with fine wools in khaki and navy and enough shiny brass buttons to keep both the Duke of Wellington and Lord Nelson happy. It was all refined and perfectly proportioned clothing with an impeccable English accent. No wonder the buyers had smiles on their faces.

(I couldn't help noticing that Anna Wintour in an interview at the show kept referring to the label as 'Burberries', which seemed odd, given that its correct name was everywhere; then again, I'm guilty of having spelled Hakaan's name wrongly in a previous blog - thanks to relying on a BFC handout, I hasten to add, rather than checking myself – so it's clear that nobody's perfect.)



All Burberry photos © Jason Lloyd-Evans