Fashion: It's big, brash, and very loud

Have you got the stamina to join the fun at Clothes Show Live?
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The Independent Culture
IF YOU'RE not a Tweenie (a teen or twentysomething) with a pair of lungs capable of belting out ear-splitting decibels, be sure to take cotton wool to stuff in your ears, or stay away altogether from the world's biggest, brashest fashion extravaganza. The Clothes Show Live, now in its 11th year, is geared towards its 200,000-strong screaming youth audience, who descend on the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham for the six-day event.

These die-hard fashion followers shop for approximately seven hours a day, spending around pounds 60 each, which gives the hordes a combined estimated spending power of pounds 12m. Whoever said fashion was inaccessible and elitist?

No wonder the event claims to be the ultimate teen shopping paradise, with more than 400 stands selling cut-price designer names (Ben de Lisi, Patrick Cox and Betty Jackson), most high-street tags, and quirky craft labels.

This year, the doors will be flung open by the former hard man of the football pitch and current hard man of the silver screen, Vinnie Jones. Vinnie fans should go to the British Heart Foundation stand, where they can bid for one of his signed waistcoats, or Prince Nazeem's Adidas training kit (hopefully laundered), or the mask worn by Catherine Zeta Jones in Mask of Zorro.

Other celebrities at this monster of a show include Lisa Ratliffe. If you don't know the name, you will certainly have seen her face on Calvin Klein's billboards. The 18-year-old former dental nurse was "discovered" at last year's show and has since gone on to be one of the most highly paid models in the fashion industry.

The prospect of being "spotted" by one of the many model agency scouts who set up camp for the entire week in the NEC (such is the quality of the hunting ground), is certainly one of the main attractions for most teenage girls. For wannabe Erin O'Connors (also discovered at the NEC) and for any die-hard fashionista, the other thrill is in seeing a catwalk show. Hosted by Jamie Theakston and Dermot O'Leary, these runways are hardly typical fashion show fair. Forget the usual cathedral-like solemnity and think more on the lines of a rock concert with 7,000 teens raising the roof, seven times a day. If you're brave enough to head along, take a look at our offer.

Entry to the Clothes Show Live, including a reserved seat in the British Heart Foundation Fashion Theatre, costs pounds 19.50 from 3-5 December, and pounds 14.50 from 6-8 December. All tickets include a pounds 1 booking fee. If you quote `The Independent' when booking, you will be given VIP seats in the British Heart Foundation Fashion Theatre. The credit card hotline number is 0121-767 4444. Website: www.clothesshowlive.com

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