'I'd envisaged Bryan Ferry slaving over a sewing-machine to all hours'


That's Bryan Ferry," whispers the lady in front of me queueing for the unisex toilets. And the whispers go frontwards and backwards, and pretty soon the whole queue is jabbering about nothing else. Bryan Ferry is at the back of the queue, wailing for the toilets - just like us - and together we are united in our combined quest to perform toilet activities. This moment of harmonious rapture lasts exactly 30 seconds, at which time Bryan Ferry storms elegantly through the throng - as is his unquestionable right as a personage of celebrity - and takes his place right at the front of the queue. We allow it, of course: we grin and part. There is absolutely no doubt in anyone's mind that Bryan Ferry deserves to go to the toilet before us. He is, after all, Bryan Ferry.

And then - a moment later - the spell is broken.

"Did you see what that bastard just did?" mutters the lady in front of me.

"What a bastard," replies someone else. "Who does he think he is?"

"It's only Bryan Ferry, for God's sake," says another. "He'd go to the opening of an envelope!"

"Bastard," we all agree.

And then Bryan Ferry emerges, elegantly, from the toilet, and we all smile benignly.

We are at the Saatchi Gallery, St John's Wood, for the War Child Fashion Show - an event star-studded with Bryan Ferry and Bjork. The "concept" (organiser Bryan Eno's term) is for pop-stars to design clothes which are subsequently catwalked and auctioned off to other pop-stars. And it's all for charity! So: David Bowie designed a jacket, Jarvis Cocker from Pulp designed some shoes, John Squire from the Stone Roses designed a pair of underpants, and Lou Reed designed an elegant - if slightly impractical (for washing purposes) - leather hankie.

Having never been to a fashion show before, I had no idea what to expect, especially when it comes to modelling a hankie. Will some beautiful, waif- like model swish to the centre of the catwalk and blow her nose? In fact, the waif-like model does appear, clutching the hankie, and she waves it around just like a bull-fighter. Everyone cheers and claps. At the auction, it goes for pounds 1,200.

Tickets for this event cost a lavish pounds 120 a head (all for charity, all for War Children), which entitles one to have a generous supper and sit on tables near the catwalk. Press tickets are absolutely free, which entitles one to eat a vegetarian spring roll (handed out by a semi-naked Australian man wearing rubber horns, thrillingly), and stand at the top of the stairs near the toilets. Actually, I am being disingenuous. We don't have to stand at the top of the stairs - we are allowed to go all the way down to three stairs from the bottom.

When Lou Reed's hankie appears, however, I'm afraid that I become swept away with the excitement of it all, and accidently stumble down an extra stair. I hold my breath. Nobody stops me. Nervously, I take one more step down. Again: a perfect crime! I take another step: and suddenly three huge and hugely apologetic bouncers descend from nowhere and make me go to all the way to the top of the stairs again.

It isn't, I soon discover, only journalists who have to stand on the stairs. There is a large group of 2nd-year fashion students here, too, who, it quickly transpires, actually built the costumes. It is a disappointing moment. In my mind's eye, I'd envisaged Bryan Ferry frantically slaving over a sewing-machine until all hours - with only the vision of a gaunt and emaciated War Child to spur him onwards. But no.

"Are you telling me," I ask a student "that the pop-stars didn't really design this stuff?" "Of course not," she replies. "They just phoned their ideas through. We did the work."

"Bastards," I say.

"I know," she replies. "And here we are up here with the spring rolls." She pauses. "Still, I got to meet Bryan Ferry."

"Did you?" I say.

"Yes," she replies. "He walked past me on the way to the toilet."

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