I ask you, is Rottweilling really a career?

My daughter's been trained to hang around playgrounds looking for the future Kate Moss
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The Independent Culture
UNDER NORMAL circumstances British Fashion Week - we've just had it - would have left me unmoved. I've pretty much given up fashion. The last designer garment I bought was not a success. How can I describe it? Quite easily, in fact: it's a knee-length, V-necked, dark grey tubular cardigan, austere to the point of astringency save in one respect. Instead of cuffs it has long, shaggy, drooping woollen tendrils variously knotted, looped and frayed, sprouting at each wrist. "An amusing little detail, typical of this particular designer," said the shop assistant knowingly as she disentangled one of my fronds from her earring with a bitter expression.

And amusing they probably are when I make expansive Gallic gestures and my woolly toggles bounce waywardly at will. But they're a nightmare anywhere near food, particularly sticky food, to which they are attracted like slugs to lettuce. Most of my dinner ends up in my sleeves. Once, in a restaurant, signalling to the waiter for another bottle of wine, I counted linguini, two peas, half an olive and a toothpick embedded most unamusingly in my cuff.

But back to fashion week which this year did not pass unnoticed because, like it or not, I have become unwittingly involved in the glossy world of supermodels. Throw another log on the fire, if you like; this is a long story. I have this friend called Melissa who, when all my other friends were carving out important careers in the media, the City and Tupperware, started her own model agency, called Take Two, which the rest of us, working for Thompson Regional Newspapers, Coopers & Lybrand and Tupperware, thought terribly trendy. So was her office in Covent Garden where, if you went to meet Melissa for lunch, you might easily bump into Jade Jagger on the stairs.

Working for Take Two in school holidays was the dream of my three daughters, especially the youngest who, despite perfectly respectable grades in A- level theology, classical civilisation and English literature, said she would rather be a booker at Melissa's than go to university. A booker? It sounded vaguely erudite. Maybe you needed three A-levels to be a booker. Had I had the opportunity to sit down and discuss my daughter's future at length with Melissa, things might have been different; but alas, Melissa was never around. Trendy Take Two had metamorphosed into the far more serious and forbidding Take Two Management Limited and Melissa was always in Paris, Milan or New York signing up new models and staying in impossibly trendy hotels with black walls, no lights and rude staff. I know because she once recommended one of them to me in New York, and I bear the scars on my chins and the bruises on my amour propre to this day.

What I did learn from the fledgeling booker was that you don't get to book overnight. You have to be trained. First, you have to learn to scout. This, as far as I can make out, entails hanging around school playgrounds at half past three looking for the future Kate Moss. The goods, as we all know, are getting younger. In the old days, Melissa would sign up Welsh nannies and Polish au pair girls she'd spotted making sandcastles with their charges in Battersea Park, but these days, when girls peak at 13 and are over the hill by 18, you have to get in there quick.

By the end of last summer my daughter was a fully trained booker, which meant sitting round a table with very young, strangely dressed people, shouting into the telephone about options, go-sees, castings and outs. Stranger still were the models themselves: wasted and never, to my mind, wearing enough warm clothes. "They've got attitude, that's what counts," explained Melissa.

There were the usual crises last week. Three models got food poisoning at a fast-food noodle bar in Soho and couldn't make the knitwear show at the Natural History Museum. "Mum, Melissa is sending me to Milan next week to look after Jacquetta Wheeler, our top girl at the Italian fashion shows. Everybody wants her. She was on the cover of The Face, and Mario Testino says she's the face of '99. I've got to stop people trying to steal her from our agency."

How? And who's Mario Testino anyway? "Why don't you go over to Milan for the day and see how it all works," suggested Melissa. "You'd be very proud of your daughter. She's a regular Rottweiler."

But is Rottweiling really a career? Something inside me still wishes she were studying Jane Austin at Warwick University under the beady eyes of Professor Germaine Greer, who, I bet you anything, was not at the knitwear collection at the Natural History Museum. I wonder if it featured any slug-and-lettuce cardigans.