The Prince of Wales quipped last night that it has taken him 64 years to attain "fashion icon" status. "I seem to have lurched from being the best-dressed man to the worst-dressed man," he added. "I don't know why. Perhaps it is to sell publications."
If fashion designers and rappers – including Tinie Tempah – were unsure of royal protocol, perhaps they could spare a thought for Prince Charles, who is not often seen at fashion parties. But the two cultures hit it off.
The occasion was a suitably grand reception, hosted by the heir to the throne at St James's Palace, to launch the inaugural London Collections: Menswear which will see more than 50 British designers take to the catwalk in London over three days to rival menswear collections in New York, Milan and Paris for the first time.
Dame Vivienne Westwood, Sir Philip Green, Tom Ford and Nicole Farhi were among the many established designers in attendance alongside the business brains behind such august British-born fashion companies as Savile Row tailors, Gieves & Hawkes, and heritage brand, Belstaff. The younger generation, for which London Fashion Week is best known, was all present and correct too. Richard Nicoll, Christopher Kane, Sibling and JW Anderson are names that light up the women's wear arena and manage businesses that, while small by international standards, continue to grow.
They all design menswear also, and clearly welcomed the opportunity, as Kane put it, "to celebrate something British... Our fashion is being taken really seriously now and that's because it is pretty damn good," he said.
Unlike his daughter-in-law, Prince Charles, dressed yesterday in lightweight navy double-breasted jacket, striped shirt, immaculately folded pocket square and polished brogues, is unlikely to be seen shopping for clothes on the high street. Instead, he famously favours tailoring made for him by Anderson & Sheppard, shirting by Turnbull & Asser , hats by Lock and shoes by Lobb. "I simply go my own way and things come round to me maybe every 10 years or so. I do my best to wear the best of British," he said.
In fact, British fashion – and menswear especially – owes much to the style of the English aristocracy and the monarchy in particular. Ceremonial regalia, military insignia and the strictly regimented workshops on Savile Row have informed everyone from the aforementioned Westwood (Harris Tweed, hunting jackets, mini-crinolines and cloth crowns) to Alexander McQueen, who was Savile Row trained.
In a similar vein, brands have been founded on creating well-made, functional garments that are as practical as they are dapper. The Burberry trench coat and waxed cotton jackets by Barbour, for example, are worn everywhere from the football terraces to the grounds of Balmoral and by many a well-heeled Anglophile overseas.
"I want to pay tribute to the best of tailoring, the best of innovation and the best of craftsmanship," the Prince of Wales concluded.