ANOTHER London Fashion Week, and another young designer makes her first appearance on the catwalk, full of wide- eyed optimism. It is a familiar scene, so why is the fashion world going mad with excitement over this young debutante? Perhaps it's because debuts are few and far between at a time of widespread uncertainty in the fashion industry. And perhaps it's because the designer is Bella Freud, daughter of the artist Lucian, sister of the novelist Esther, and great- granddaughter of Sigmund.

Freud, a former assistant to Vivienne Westwood, wants to make her name as a fashion designer, and she launched her bid on Thursday afternoon at the Arts Club in Dover Street, Mayfair. This is how it went:

4pm: Deep in the basement of the Arts Club. Models are smoking, reading and playing snooker on the club table, conveniently located next door to the changing room. Two of them smoothly thrash the manager of the club restaurant. He is not amused. Bella Freud's fashion show is scheduled to start at 4.45pm, and everything is behind schedule. She went to bed at five in the morning and slept for three hours before receiving an unpleasant wake-up call. 'The woman who makes my denim hadn't finished it,' she says. Now she is rejigging the running order of the show, working out what one of her models, Amanda de Cadenet, a former presenter on The Word, will wear on the catwalk instead of denim.

4.15pm: Freud, a slight figure with short, cropped hair and dressed in a red sweatshirt and cotton trousers, sits with John Walford, the show producer, while they go through the running order. She has 13 models, including the one everyone wants, Naomi Campbell. The supermodel, also sporting a new cropped haircut, is sitting in a corner where she can concentrate on her make-up. 'You're not from the Sun, are you?' she asks. Then she relaxes. 'I'm doing the show because I felt like it. I like supporting British designers.'

4.30pm: Lucian Freud is having trouble getting through the front door of the club. The security women let him in after he explains that he is 'Bella's father'. Down in the basement, the latest arrival is Philip Treacy, the milliner, a striking figure in electric blue. He has designed the hats for Freud's debut - small berets and baby bowlers. 'People associate me with big hats,' he says. 'But not for Bella.'

In three short years, Treacy has risen to the top rank of international milliners. This season alone, he is designing hats for the catwalk shows of Dolce e Gabbana, Gianni Versace, Rifat Ozbek, Chanel, and Edina Ronay. So why has he agreed to do Freud as well? 'Her clothes have a great spirit. She's one of those designers who has a very definitive style, her own personal handwriting.'

4.45pm: The show is scheduled to start at this time, but there are few signs of urgency backstage. Freud's models are dressing: frosted pink velvet jackets, tweed baby coats in charcoal and red, ankle-length knitted dresses, mohair trouser-suits. Freud tells me she has always been inspired by the comic The Beano. 'I love the proportions of the characters, their agility, their littleness. They wear mini- clothes that never seem to go wrong.'

5pm: Astrid Munoz, a 21-year-old Puerto Rican model, sits to one side reading a book, Think Like a Winner] It is her first show since she moved to Europe two months ago. 'I read all the self-help books, all the books that tell you how to change your method of thinking.' She is reading a chapter entitled 'Reprogramming your Mind for Success'. 'You have all the power within yourself to change everything,' she says. 'Don't you agree?'

5.15pm: Philip Treacy's dog, a four- month-old jack russell called Piggy, is running wild among the models. Naomi Campbell thinks he is adorable. Amanda de Cadenet is going to cradle him in her arms on the catwalk. Treacy says: 'He's a bit nervous. It's his first catwalk.'

5.30pm: Three-quarters of an hour late, and the audience is getting restless. Everyone wants to ask questions of the designer. 'Bella] Bella] Bella]' A young Scottish male dresser screeches: 'Has anyone seen the pink velvet shoes? The black suede boots?' Freud admits she is nervous.

'But good nervous, not bad nervous.'

5.40pm: The show starts. Campbell, looking a million dollars, moves on to the catwalk with that deceptively lazy, swinging motion that has made her into a star. Astrid Munoz, mind fully reprogrammed, looks as if she has been striding the catwalk for years. Amanda de Cadenet and Piggy send the photographers into a frenzy of camera-clicking.

6pm: Freud is showing her first signs of excitement. She has to go out front to receive the traditional bouquet, but first she has to change into something respectable. 'For God's sake, sandals. There must be a pair of sandals]'

6.05pm: The show is over. The audience is filing out, swapping opinions on the new designer's debut. The models are ripping off their clothes and queuing at a telephone to call their boyfriends. Freud is standing backstage on her own, smiling weakly. 'You liked it? Really?' She is shaking ever so slightly. 'You get worked up about it for so long, then 20 minutes of fiddling about - and it's all over.' I want to hug her. Who ever said fashion is fun?

(Photograph omitted)