Just one of the London boys for a day

Will Hodgkinson struts his stuff on a Parisian catwalk
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Indy Lifestyle Online
This is how I ended up going from office to a Paris catwalk and back again. NJ, my girlfriend, called me at the publishers where I work. My first thought was: what have I done wrong now?

"Hi, it's me," she said, "I got a call from Karen a minute ago. She's working for Comme des Garcons in Tokyo."

"So?" I was busy, no time for idle gossip.

"They're doing their winter '95 show in Paris next week, and they're after the `London boys' look. She suggested you."

My ears pricked up. Suddenly I wasn't so busy.

"Yeah," she continued, "Yuki, who does the PR for Comme des Garcons, will ring you in a minute. I'm going to phone up a few other people and tell them to go for it."

I went round to Yuki's house straight after work. She took a Polaroid or two and told me that if they liked the shots in Tokyo I would go to the casting in Paris, all expenses paid, even if I wasn't picked for the show. It sounded very promising.

So, a few days later, I found myself travelling to Paris with a couple of friends. In respect of tradition, we were drunk and abusive by the time we arrived. We were picked up and taken to a room full of 50 or so skinny, decadent-looking young men with lurid hair colours and pierced bodies a-plenty. It could have been a mini-Glastonbury - there was even some bloke croaking old Bob Dylan numbers while strumming a guitar.

Soon after arriving, we were paraded along in front of the Comme des Garcons designers, and 17 of us were chosen to do the show. A couple of the weirder-looking professional models were to take part, but the rest were just a motley collection of anonymous young men, chosen because we were deemed to fit in with some amorphous "look" which Comme des Garcons were after.

As I spent most of my teenage years as a spotty geek nobody fancied, the idea of parading in front of the glamorous fashion crowd was, if a little intimidating, rather attractive.

Throughout the afternoon wait before the show, I smoked cigarette after cigarette and pretended to be relaxed, while a couple of professional models fell asleep behind some clothes rails. How could they be so nonchalant? It was only during the dress-rehearsal I remembered it was the clothes that were to be scrutinised, not me.

Finally the time came. The chosen French nursery rhyme music began. The clothes were my only protection - thank God I liked them - and, most importantly, they were thickly layered, so there was no chance of my palpitating heart being visible through the jacket. After a painful minute or so of waiting in line, I was out there. All that tension was worth it - in what other industry can one get so much attention by doing nothing more than walking along? The only moment of danger came when I spotted someonein the crowd who was the spitting image of Curly Watts from Coronation Street. I remembered where I was - this was fashion, not fiction.

The whole show, which lasted for about 20 minutes, was over before I had the chance to wonder whether I looked a prat or not. There followed the warm glow of basking in the theatricality of the after-show festivities. Then, for us occasional models, it was down to a Left Bank bar to get blind-drunk, before returning to our London lives, with our egos just a little bit massaged.