Anyone who thought London Fashion Week was all about the clothes – the glossy catwalks, the fact that purple is the new black (it’s not) or that we’ll all be wearing loon pants and crop tops next season (we won’t) – was only half right.
Because while the serious business is certainly the main event, the much more entertaining sideshow is made up of the fashion freaks, the front row celebs and the style commentators you rarely see at any other time of year.
This is their natural habitat, their preening season, when they gather in force. And it’s the kind of stuff that has helped make London such a global fashion phenomenon – an industry worth in excess of £21 billion.
The wildly outlandish dressing, the blue hair, the men in tights and the women in chainmail and shoes like stilts – banks of photographers lie in wait around Somerset House, LFW HQ, to capture their willing victims.
Because if fashion week is about anything at all, it’s about getting noticed – one enormous, colourful, in-your-face ego-fest. That, and throbbing feet.
If it’s not the weird and the wonderful – the bloggers desperate to be the next Susie Bubble and the young design students and wannabes just desperate for attention – it’s the style stars who are regulars at the shows who get the flashes popping: Alexa Chung’s effortless chic at Antipodium, Anna Wintour’s inscrutable polish at Christopher Kane, Brix Smith-Start, complete with pugs, at Mulberry.
Then there are the not-so-regulars, the unlikely star spots such as gnarly old Mick Jagger, who appeared on the front row this season to support his designer partner L’Wren Scott.
But don’t be fooled: the reality is much, much less glamorous. An average of six shows in one day; 24 in a week (because fashion week actually only lasts four days – who said fashion people were a bit dim?). To get to each show, one must traipse across London, from Somerset House on the Strand to Oxford Street, to Regents Park to Mount Street – miles of expensive shoe leather destroyed and sparks flying from the Oyster card as you go. It’s stressful and exhausting. In heels, on cobbles, while tweeting the latest backstage shot, it’s potentially fatal.
Scots designer Kane tapped into flower power for his spring and summer floral fashion collection yesterday, and the petals pulled him through despite a confusing detour or two.
His catwalk show, held in a sprawling, two-storey warehouse fitted with floor-to-ceiling mirrors, started out with a science fiction vibe. Models in pale pastel colours and daring teardrop peep holes trod a mirrored walkway as pulsing music echoed off the iron colonnades.
Some of the first models wore metallic paisley cutouts on their collars or lapels, suggesting something from Star Trek’s Enterprise. The shapes may have been meant to resemble petals, but some outfits were so heavily peppered with peep holes that the effect was lost.
The collection was on a firmer footing with diaphanous gowns with lots of pleats and more girl-next-door sweaters in floral tones bearing words like “PETAL” and “POWER”.
Kane’s hologram-effect dresses with thin, glittery streamers that were so delicate a few floated off as the models strode up and down the catwalk. The dresses looked like party wear in the year 3013. Also on the odd side were sheer black dresses festooned with traffic-sign arrows pointing at each other. Far more successful were his asymmetric dresses with crystal-encrusted shoulder-straps.
Over at Kensington Gardens a packed venue for the Burberry Prorsum show saw Anna Wintour, Alexa Chung, Sienna Miller, Paloma Faith, Olivia Palermo, Donna Air and – er – Harry Styles line up to be photographed outside, while the event inside was streamed live in the label’s flagship Regent Street store.
Hundreds of customers crammed into the vast atrium, drinking champagne and watching superstar models Cara Delevingne and Jourdan Dunn present the SS14 collection.
The moment I stepped through the door, an e-mail popped into my inbox from Christopher Bailey himself, Burberry’s chief creative officer, welcoming me and hoping I enjoyed the show. Now, I’m not naïve enough to imagine Mr Bailey took the time, amid last-minute sewing on of buttons to softly flowing silk trench coats, to send me a personal message of goodwill, but still, you have to hand it to the guy.
And the clothes? I can hereby announce that next season we will all be unashamedly feminine and summery, wearing sorbet colours of pistachio, strawberry and vanilla in floating fabrics, floral prints and lace, with luxurious embellishment, and according to Christopher Bailey at least, big knickers under sheer skirts. No flats though. Shame.