Fashion: What a scream!

The Clothes Show may be dead and buried on TV, but once a year it's dragged kicking and screaming to life.
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The Independent Culture
It's brash. It's bright. Its decibel levels are ear-splitting. Screaming teenagers love it; this is their idea of heaven. It is also most fashion editors' idea of hell. This Friday, the doors to the NEC in Birmingham will be opened by the TV presenters Jamie Theakston, Jayne Middlemiss and Tim Vincent and the BBC's Clothes Show Live monster will be unleashed.

This year, the show that has become something of an institution celebrates its 10th anniversary. It boasts more than 400 stands selling cut-price designer clothing and high-street labels; the catwalk theatre is more like a rock stadium with almost 7,000 seats. And last year the show attracted 250,000 fashion followers with a combined estimated spending power of pounds 10.6m. Whoever said fashion was inaccessible and elitist? The Clothes Show Live is like one huge fashion orgy. Anything goes.

The main attraction for most teenage girls, however, is not so much the idea of some Christmas shopping and party frock bargains, as the opportunity to be talent scouted by a model agency. This year's Supermodel of the World (Miss World, but for models), 16-year-old Katie Burrell, was discovered there by Models One, as was the real supermodel of the world, Erin O'Connor. All the big agencies have a stand there, including Kate Moss's agency, Storm.

"It's great for us because we always find hundreds of models," says Paula Karaiskos from Storm.This year, Storm is holding a competition, in conjunction with B magazine, to find a cover girl.

On Friday, the trained eyes of the agency's founder, Sarah Doukas - the woman who spotted Kate Moss at JFK airport - will be out on stalks. She will join her team of eight bookers, who will be at the show for the entire nine days. Over the weekend, reinforcements will be on hand, making the team 13-strong. There will also be models - there are rumours that Sophie Dahl may be there, although her fellow Storm model Carla Bruni will most certainly not be - joining in the fun; they often make the best talent scouts.

Storm's days of scouting at Clothes Show Live have paid off. They now have a long list of girls and boys who were spotted at the show and have gone on to find fame and fortune. Polly Robinson was discovered at Clothes Show Live in 1994. Now 22, her face has graced the pages of Italian Vogue, Marie Claire, and French Elle as well as advertising campaigns for Nina Ricci, l'Oreal, Rimmel and Vidal Sassoon. Newer additions include Adelaide Thompson, Caroline Cane, Chloe Webb, Liz Simpson and several others who are all still at school but who have the opportunity of earning "pocket money" (up to pounds 30,000 for a TV commercial) in their summer holidays before signing up for full-time work. Three Storm boys - James Heathcote, James Poulton and Sid Webb - were also Clothes Show Live discoveries.

The Clothes Show Live event is also a great opportunity for a bit of celebrity spotting. Many of the designers go, and it is a rare opportunity to buy your dress straight from the designer. Andrew Fionda and Ren Pearce of Pearce Fionda will be happy to give you some expert advice about what you should be wearing; Antoni of Antoni & Alison will be there too, offering fun and frolics and service with a cheeky smile. And over the weekend, Ben de Lisi will be playing shop assistant for the fourth time.

"I find it very exciting and enlightening," he says, ear plugs at the ready. "I'm always amazed that people know who I am. And they come to really spend."

The first time he sold at the show, he was astonished by the queues and the fact that his stock of T-shirts sold out before the end of the second day. As well as bargain-priced end-of-season and current stock, de Lisi will also be selling pieces designed exclusively for the show, including a "very sexy, very tight pencil skirt", and sequined dresses. They will sell between pounds 50 and pounds 100.

For most of those attending Clothes Show Live, however, the real thrill is seeing a catwalk show. These are nothing like real-life shows. These are more fun, more noisy, more brash, and more... well, just more everything.

And if all that makes you want to go and clear out your wardrobe to make room for your new purchases, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) is inviting the public to bring their unwanted clothes with them to add to a clothes mountain that will no doubt reach monumental heights as the week progresses. The clothes will then be distributed between BHF shops and sold to raise money for the charity.

The BBC's Clothes Show Live is at the NEC from 4 to 9 December. Admission times are 9am to 6.30pm. Tickets cost pounds 19 (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) or pounds 14 (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday). Tickets can be booked in advance with a credit card on 0121-767 4444

CLOTHES SHOW LIVE - THE SHOPPING HOT SPOTS

Antoni & Alison

According to Antoni, the show is like a week-long office party with lots of inter-stand romance. "It's a pop experience: it's quick, it's fun and it's full of energy," he says. "This year we have produced a souvenir piece for the year 2000." It's a T-shirt and a bag, but the designers won't say any more. Prices are "realistic".

Ben de Lisi

This is the fourth year that Ben de Lisi has been showing at the event. Last year members of the public elbowed Claire Sweeney (Linsey Phelan of Brookside) out of their way to get their hands on the merchandise.

Prices from pounds 50 for a skirt.

Ted Baker

Donald Browne of Ted Baker attends every year. "The CSL is an excellent way of meeting the customers and getting feedback," he says. Expect to queue for logo T-shirts for men and women. T-shirts usually sell for pounds 25 each but will be reduced to pounds 15. There will also be aftershave on sale at the special price of pounds 10 rather than the usual pounds 20.

Gash

Denise Van Outen, Bewitched and Zoe Ball wear this Sheffield-based clubwear label. The designer Julia Gash will be at the show. "It's a really good place to do research, meet the customer, and get reaction to the new lines," she says. Some 90 per cent of Gash's customers are young women and teenage girls who can't get enough of the label's signature Glitter Star Baby

T-shirts and their kitsch and colourful dresses. Also on sale will be its "depraved" and "corrupt" logo knickers and dresses at super knock- down prices. From pounds 5.

John Richmond

The designer might make an appearance this weekend. On sale will be this season's main line collection and a chance to have a sneak preview at a few pieces for spring/summer. The diffusion line and John Richmond denim are also available, with prices ranging from pounds 25 for a top to pounds 180 for a jacket.

Rise

This is the second time this clubwear label has had a stand. Last time they sold 3,000 pieces. They are making T-shirts and bags for the event. Stock will be Christmas dresses, feather boas and sequined boob tubes. Prices are from pounds 10. Amy Jones

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