Thursday 18 September 2008


Fashion Week. You'd think it was bloomin' Holy Week-it's talked of in similarly reverent tones. You ask someone (anyone) if they can make a meeting or answer a simple question and they look at you like you're a heretic and say indignantly "but it's fashion week" as if I've just asked them to work Christmas Day. But, of course, fashion week is 'work' and therefore, in these uber-capitalist, god-is-mammon times, even more sacrosanct. Work -or what passes for it in my business-is the Supreme Being.

And of course, when one person suffers from a delusion, it's called insanity. When many people suffer from the same delusion, it's called religion. And, this religion is fashion: there's High Church-couture and designer - and Low Church -high street- and the evangelicals, who are usually devotees of Primark rather than Prada and get all happy-clappy about bagged bargains and luxe-for-less sample sales.

And it's a religion with its own festivals: namely fashion week. I can see that this is hardly an original concept: after all, Vogue's been called the fashion bible since it was first published (which kind of begs the question: what's Bazaar? The Apocrypha? The Dead Sea Scrolls?)

Anyway, I've got myself sidetracked-where was I? Ah yes. If fashion is a god, then I'm feeling peculiarly agnostic. I'm Scrooge shouting 'bah humbug' to fashion Christmas as the Mercs line up outside the office to ferry acolytes to ceremonies, or editors to shows. And how anyone can get excited about what we'll all be wearing (or what we'll be told we'll be wearing) next Spring/Summer has always seemed to me faintly ridiculous. I'm only just walking up to the idea that a lot of eye-makeup and a tough black cuff might be all it takes to get me through this season's Rock Gothic trend(though as always, totally over-excited to be able to give up fake tanning my legs and get back into black opaques).

That's not to say that the Shows aren't a beautiful pageant, but it is the apotheosis of the superficial. And also rather odd (I'm not even going to step into the quagmire of the seating hierarchy-this really isn't something to shed tears over, but they do, every season without fail. The General Synod is has far fewer internecine traumas than the fashion pack). And also horribly groundhog day: trends, like history, repeat themselves: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce (well, fashion is rather extreme). Next year we'll all be wearing navy peg top trousers, continuing this season's ankle skimming look and guaranteed to make everyone who isn't 15 and Duchess of Windsor thin look like a dumpy middle aged maths teacher from Wolverhampton. This is the very peculiar contradiction at the heart of my industry: looking au courant has very little to do with looking good.

Anyway: what about the ritual of the Show? Obviously, you've first to practise your fashion face-this is much like a poker face, but rather more bored, dismissive and disdainful. The etiquette as a member of the fashion congregation is to maintain this face at all times: one must never look entertained, interested or even bemused. Catwalk models are particularly good at this, though the boredom part of it probably comes easy: being shoved in and out of clothes can hardly be a fascinating enterprise. It possibly helps with the wearing of the clothes: catwalk samples rarely make it onto the rails, being not only tiny but also what's called in the business 'directional', which loosely translates as unwearable by anyone sane. My particular favourite this week was a succession of dresses which all made the wearer look like they'd lost an embittered struggle with a metal zip, and had just decided to wear it anyway, half on, half off.

And of course, the debate that never tires of itself during Fashion Week is the extreme thinness of the models - true, they're all skeletal teenagers with the appalling posture of a scoliosis sufferer, but this has nothing to do with the pressure to conform to a rigid stereotype of 21st century female beauty.

The reason they don't eat is much more obvious than that: They're merely fasting to get closer to God.

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