`I bare my soul on the catwalk'

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"It's Very nerve-racking," says Antonio Berardi, talking about the unveiling of his spring/summer collection at the Brixton Academy tomorrow evening. "You're presenting something which you've worked on for six months to people who are going to come and either love it or hate it. It's that simple. It's like completely baring your soul and you have to do it twice a year."

The 28-year-old designer shouldn't really be worried, because his show is one of the most eagerly awaited during the current London Fashion Week. Since leaving St Martin's College of Art and Design in 1994, Berardi has quickly established himself in the top rank of creative British designers and his super-sexy clothes for women, known for their intricate cutting and uncompromising imaginative flair, have made him the new darling of the fashion press. Berardi is hot.

It's a far cry from the family ice-cream business in Lincolnshire. His parents, Sicilian immigrants, were keen for him to become an accountant or a doctor, but he was determined to give fashion a try. He made it to St Martin's on the third time of applying. "I don't believe in `no'," he says.

There can't be many other fashion designers who have worked in a cafe making hamburgers and fries and cups of tea, but that's what Berardi did at weekends while he was a student. Another sideline, and one which was of considerably more use for his future career, was a job as a production assistant at John Galliano's studio. "That was fantastic," he says. "By working with John you understand the way a very creative mind works. It was like finding a soulmate."

Although this latest collection will be his fifth, it was only with the last one that he found proper financial backing. It meant that for the first time he had proper distribution in major cities and most of the stock sold out. The turnover was a million dollars when most designers at this stage of their careers would be expecting to make a loss. But he isn't in it for the money. Not long ago he turned down the chance of earning pounds lm a year for doing a label in Italy because "it was too soon".

Berardi doesn't go out of his way to court the fashion press and he's unlikely to be seen at the right parties. He's learning to live in the spotlight of fame, but as a private person it's something he's uneasy with. He's also learning to live with the fact that people assume he's gay, although he's not. His status has perversely made relationships with women more difficult. "It's quite lonely, because I don't know if someone is trying it on for the wrong reasons," he says. "And if I'm trying it on, is it because I think I'm great and I can?"

The women he finds attractive are headstrong and curvaceous and these are the women he designs his clothes for. They're clothes that make women feel good about themselves and ones that make men's tongues hang out. So in a sense, I suggested, he's doing the world a service.

"Yeah, I like to think so," he said with a grin.

Aah, does anyone want Edwina?

A Few weeks ago I did a short piece on Edwina Currie in this column. At the time, she was presenting the TV consumer show Espresso for a few weeks in Southampton, and I remember she was very keen for me to go down there with a photographer and then write a huge article about her, when all I really wanted was a quick chat on the phone about her nose job.

I can't say I took to her, to be honest, but I have to confess I think I'm beginning to feel quite sorry for her. Last week she announced that she was leaving her husband after 25 years of marriage and the news was roundly dismissed as a cynical publicity stunt for her new novel.

"The vilest lady in Britain," one newspaper called her. She was also said to be thinking of leaving the Conservative Party, and in private Labour and Lib Dem grandees were making it clear that they didn't want her, while her own party was apparently quite pleased at the thought of seeing the back of her. However, on Friday, it looked as if things might finally be turning her way.

"Edwina Currie: Just why is everyone so horrid to me?" it said on the front page of the Daily Mail, announcing an exclusive interview. One assumed this would be her chance to set the record straight at last. Certainly she did her best, but in return she received a sound kicking from her interviewer, Angela Levin, who praised the saintly qualities of Edwina's husband but didn't seem to have much time for Edwina herself. "Her manner is a cross between a trapped moth and a rather desperate premenopausal woman who hasn't known how to handle the loss of her looks, career, marriage and perhaps even her libido," wrote Levin.

Ouch! Let's just hope the book sales are going well.

Streetwise face

of couture

"In Fashion, you've got to mix and match," says Shami Ahmed. He's talking about his own taste in clothes, but he might just as well be talking about last week's announcement that he has rescued the designer Elizabeth Emanuel from bankruptcy. Ahmed made his fortune with his Joe Bloggs jeans empire, which has a turnover of more than pounds 50m, so this new marriage of haute couture and street fashion came as quite a surprise. But Ahmed is one of Britain's shrewdest businessmen and he can spot a good opportunity when he sees it.

"I think couture is good for a very limited market," he says. "But the ready-to-wear collections are the more practical money-making areas. Then you've got all the licensing opportunities of a brand like that."He's convinced Emanuel has the potential to rival Chanel. "As far as I'm concerned she's got the flair and she's got the design ability," he says. "Elizabeth is like a celebrity in the States."

He's already had approaches from major cosmetics companies about licensing possibilities, but he's biding his time. "I'm not going to rush into any of these deals because I'm in no hurry," he says. "But I know what the potential is."

Common scents

on the buses

It Seems you can't open a magazine these days without being assaulted by the pungent odours of various perfumes or aftershaves. Personally I'm not in favour of this kind of nose pollution, so I was naturally somewhat concerned to find that in a new advertising wheeze London's bus tickets are now being impregnated with the scent of Radion washing powder.

It's an idea that's already been tried in other parts of the country and now it's arrived in the capital for the first time. "Seven million bus tickets are sold every day in the country, so in terms of an advertising medium it's extremely cost-effective, not least because you've got to hold on to it," says Martin Henson, the marketing director of Image Promotions, a small family company in Hove, East Sussex.

For the company, the scented bus ticket is the latest landmark in a neat little tale of business success. For many years it simply manufactured blank ticket rolls for bus companies and supermarkets, but a few years ago competition was hotting up and it decided it was time to explore new possibilities.

Its first step was to develop a technology enabling them to put photographic images on the back of the rolls, allowing advertisers to print full-colour images on them. Another idea was thermal ink, which means an image can change while you're holding it. And then there's the scented ticket.

"It emits a very low fragrance just by itself, but to get a real impact, you just rub it and you get a nice noseful of Radion washing powder," says Martin Henson. But what about the conductors? Won't they get a bit fed up with it? "They're all right," he says. "The human body adapts very quickly to different environments. After five minutes they won't notice it. They'll just go home smelling a bit fresher."

Manhood under

the knife

This Wednesday's edition of Plastic Fantastic, Channel 5's series on plastic surgery, goes out at a special post-watershed time of 10.40pm. The reason is its delicate subject matter: penis enlargement. The programme features two men talking about their operations, which can be seen in all their gory detail. The technique involves severing a ligament to increase length and the injection of fat to increase girth. It's not a pretty sight. "It's horrible to look at," agrees "Colin, who is one of the men on the programme. "I think if I'd seen that before the operation, I wouldn't have had it done," he told me.

One thing the programme fails to make clear is why "Colin" (he prefers to remain anonymous) had the operation in the first place, since his penis was already a perfectly adequate size. "It was because I'm quite greedy," he says. "And actually the operation didn't make a great deal of difference," he adds, explaining that his former six-and-a-half inches is now seven- and-a-half.

He had his first operation two years ago and on the programme he's seen having his fat injection "topped up". Another thing the programme doesn't mention is that "Colin" is a porn movie star. A few months after his first operation he was sitting on a beach in Santa Monica, where he'd gone on holiday with his girlfriend, when he was approached by someone from a film company. Since then he's made nine or ten films and says his new career has proved to be "quite lucrative". So did the operation help? "I think it's helped me," he says, "although nobody's ever said: `God, you've got a huge dick' or anything like that."

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