Swarovski Fashion Rocks for the Prince's Trust: The show must go on

As editor of 'GQ', Dylan Jones is used to dealing with the needs of celebrities. But nothing could have prepared him for the challenge of organising a glitzy charity pop concert
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The Independent Culture

The first Fashion Rocks took place at the Royal Albert Hall in 2003, a magnificent event that involved 12 of the world's top fashion designers, along with the likes of Robbie Williams, Beyoncé, Bryan Ferry, Duran Duran and Jane's Addiction. It was so successful, raising more than £1m for the Prince's Trust, that the organisers decided to put on another one, and were then invited to do so in Monaco. They asked me to help to ensure that it happened.

Was I mad? I soon began to think that I was.

Around the boardroom table that day were representatives from the Prince's Trust, Clear Channel (which was producing the show), Initial (which was producing the TV show), Talk PR, and about a dozen other people I'd never met before. I was overawed by the talent in front of me, but also rather apprehensive at the thought of spending 15 months trying to put the event on. Could we really get a dozen grade-A fashion designers, a celebrity host and 12 top entertainers all in the same place at the same time? I wasn't Bob Geldof, and I knew it.

Over the coming months, I was to have over 100 meetings like this, but the first was the worst. As I voiced my concerns, Graham, a Clear Channel stalwart who has worked on dozens of events like these, told me not to worry. "I know it sounds like a nightmare, but trust me, it'll be fine in the end. They'll all come together at the last minute, I promise you." Now, I liked Graham, but did I believe him? I wasn't sure. In fact, I knew I wasn't sure.

I was considering the logistics of organising a dozen fashion shows, each of which requires 15 models with their own hairdressers and make-up artists. And securing a dozen rock stars to perform, trying to figure out where to park two dozen yachts in Monaco harbour (all in prime position), as well as organising 2,000 rooms in the right hotels (not that there are any bad hotels in Monaco), hundreds of helicopter transfers, and where to seat 2,000 people, with every one of them feeling happy about where they're sitting. Oh, and getting Alain Ducasse, our chosen caterer, to feed them all after the show. How on earth was it all going to happen?

As the meeting ground to a halt, I heard from the back of the room another line that would stay with me over the next 15 months. "If you're not interested in Lionel Richie, I've got a number for Gwyneth Paltrow's personal trainer. Does anyone want it?"

We started with the fashion designers, since, without clothes on the catwalk, we were nothing, and it was the designers who made the first show so extravagant. And I had to be uncharacteristically diplomatic. We knew the designers we wanted and we went and got them - Armani, McQueen, Burberry, Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Cavalli, Hilfiger, Versace, Viktor & Rolf, Westwood - but when we were approached by designers we didn't want, it became more difficult. We were approached by at least six for whom we simply didn't have room. (Just a few weeks ago, we were approached by a British designer who wanted in, and as it was too late to secure her an artist, we said we'd only give her a slot if she secured her own. This resulted in a week of intense worrying, with the committee hoping that she wasn't going to have any luck. Thankfully, she didn't.)

The process quickly gathered its own momentum. Crucially, Prince Charles (or "HRH", as I was encouraged to refer to him) was incredibly helpful, as were the legions of people from the Prince's Trust. And when Prince Albert of Monaco agreed to be the guest of honour, we found him to be equally accommodating. As the meetings gathered pace, things began falling into place - the creative director, the stage producers, the stylists, make-up artists, etc. We had to organise flights, and began offering every agent in town the use of a private jet. I wasn't quite sure that we should be promising this, but it certainly seemed to do the trick.

Jerry Hall soon agreed to host the event, while every record- company chief and pop-industry mogul began making themselves known to us. Did we want X? Were we interested in Y? Would Z be able to do anything? Having never chaired anything like this before, I was bowled over by the level of benevolence and general good will towards the Prince's Trust. People gave time, money, expertise and, most importantly, phone numbers.

Mostly. The equally surprising thing about being involved in a huge charity project is just how dismissive people can be, treating it like any other party, any other fashion event. Could they get free tickets? Would someone fly them to Monaco for the weekend? Could they sit next to Elizabeth Hurley or Ozzy Osbourne? Could they get their photo taken with Prince Albert? I lost count of the number of people who expressed an interest in coming until I told them that it was going to cost them at least £500.

One of the saddest moments involved a celebrated photographer who had agreed to introduce one of the fashion designers. After he had kindly consented to do it, we organised to fly him in (first class, obviously) and put him up in a suite in one of the swankiest hotels. We then started telling people that he was involved. However, two months later, when it transpired that he had a big advertising job that conflicted with the event, he suddenly became unavailable. A great shame, but I shall never forget it and will tell anyone who wants to know what his name is (although, obviously, not in print).

As the months dragged on, I began to sleep less and less, waking up at four o'clock in the morning to scribble some mad idea on to a piece of paper, or to remind myself that I had forgotten to call someone back. I began losing weight, drinking too much coffee, and - something I also never do - having a glass of wine with lunch. During two family holidays to Spain and Portugal, I was never without my BlackBerry, and once, during an especially boozy dinner at a beach bar in Cascais, I had an e-mail exchange with Jon Bon Jovi's agent that lasted 90 minutes, at which point my wife demanded that I give her Prince Charles's private number (like I would have it) so that she could call him up and berate him.

A particular low point was a committee meeting at which we were discussing what prizes we had been offered for the auction after the show. So far, we had been offered luxury yachts, a portrait taken by the top photographer Mario Testino, a dozen five-star safari holidays, and dinner with one of the guest presenters. But, as I worked my way around the table, a little voice said: "Well, we have been offered a lorryload of organic carrots by a farmer in Wiltshire." I must admit, I felt like giving up.

And then, just as things were beginning to gel and we were about to announce our first big acts, Bob Geldof announced Live8, and every act went quiet. For two months, nobody wanted to know about anything but Live8, so all of our finely calibrated negotiations had to be put on hold. This was my darkest time, when I was seriously worried that the whole thing was going to collapse. Not only had I and dozens of other people worked for over a year on this event, but the Trust desperately needed the money. If the event turned to dust, it would lose more than £1m, money that suddenly wouldn't be available for the thousands of disadvantaged young people the charity helps every year. Far from being worried about what people thought about the event not happening, my main concern - everyone's main concern - was losing the cash.

But just as one celebrity had managed to put the event on hold, so it was another who helped to kick-start it again. A few weeks after Live8, I was at a party at Elton John's house in the South of France (where, incidentally, I spent most of the night dancing to Ibiza house tunes with Des O'Connor and - gulp - Paul McKenna), and I bumped into Lucian Grainge, the head of Universal Records and one of the most powerful men in the music industry. We had a mutual friend in Philip Green, the Arcadia boss, and Philip had suggested that I talk to him. Suddenly, Bon Jovi were involved, then Jamie Cullum, and then they all came, just as Graham said they would. In the next few weeks, the team - many of whom were working 18 hours a day - secured Mariah Carey, Skin, Earth, Wind & Fire, Blondie, Roisin Murphy, Kasabian, Craig David, The Kills, Amerie, Ray Davies and Bryan Ferry, and everyone very quickly felt a hell of a lot happier.

And now we are almost there. The event is just three weeks away, and all the ducks are in a row. Swarovski is sponsoring the event. The clothes have been made, the sequins have been collected, the singers have stocked up on honey and lemon, and someone, hopefully, has ordered 5,000 bottles of vintage Moët. The yachts are slowly making their way into the harbour, the TV cameras are in place, Alain Ducasse is conjuring up several thousand soufflés, and Jamie Cullum is polishing his piano keys (he is playing during the after-show dinner as well as the event itself). Oh, and I gather that Nurofen is anticipating a rush the morning after.

Seriously, you really ought to be there. And as for Lionel Richie, well, for a small donation to the Prince's Trust, I'll give you his mobile-phone number. Or even Gwyneth Paltrow's personal trainer's.

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ' magazine and chairman of Swarovski Fashion Rocks.

Swarovski Fashion Rocks for the Prince's Trust takes place on Monday 17 October at The Grimaldi Forum in Monaco.There are still some tickets left for the event, ranging in price from £500 to £1,500. You can book tickets, hotels and flights for Swarovski Fashion Rocks for the Prince's Trust on the Fashion Rocks hotline: 0044 208 962 6747. Or go to the website: www.princes-trust.org.uk/fashionrocks/

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