Ready to Wear: Curiosity rarely extends to what the fashion fraternity might smell like

It stands to reason that anyone attending the twice-yearly women's ready- to-wear collections, currently in full flow, is likely to find their wardrobe scrutinised to a point more associated with fashion life than anything even approaching reality.

"What are you wearing?" are the words on everyone's lips, after all; from the snappers outside show venues, who dutifully record the world's most fashionable editors' every sartorial move, to interested friends. The exception that proves the rule? The too-cool-for-school contingent, members of which might not unreasonably argue that such a question suggests some sort of deficiency. We should know what people are wearing, surely, however obscure. That is our job. Admitting that we don't gives the more rarefied follower an advantage that it would maybe be best to resist owning up to.

Strangely, any curiosity rarely extends to what the fashion fraternity might smell like. Finding myself in the proximity of French Vogue editor, Carine Roitfeld, at the London shows, it immediately became clear that she pays just as much attention to her fragrance as she does her appearance. But while the fact that she is wearing Louis Vuitton ankle boots, for example, is plain for all to see, the sparkling scent of rosebuds that accompanies her everywhere she goes is more difficult to pin down. As a devotee of any scent that derives from this particular flower, the temptation to enquire where exactly Ms Roitfeld acquires her particular rose perfume is great. To actually pose the question, however, would seem nothing short of intrusive – even rude. What we – and indeed the entire world – choose to wear is blatant. What we anoint our skin with is, thankfully, more personal.

Smelling as gorgeous, confrontational or indeed simply clean as possible, one might think, is as an integral part of image as clothing; but that is not, in fact, the common view. And, here again, there is a divide. While the French press are particularly fragrant, the British are nowhere near so interested in a hard-come-by scent. They will indulge in a fashionable fragrance – the latest addition to the Comme des Garcons fold, say – on a good day, but less obviously identifiable perfume and, most of the time, any perfume tends to be conspicuous by its absence.

This mindset extends to the show venues themselves. At the Paris couture collections, the delicious aroma of Chanel's latest exclusive juice, say, fills the air – a marketing opportunity that the big fashion houses are unlikely ever to miss. At London Fashion Week the smell of fish pie is a more likely olfactory experience. While no one should complain that the sponsors behind the latter event attempt to feed invitees – food! How refreshing! – or that said food is invariably delicious – thank you, Topshop, for that – there are those who might suggest that such potent gastronomic delights are unlikely, ultimately, to sell many clothes.

s.frankel@independent.co.uk

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