Now that fashion editors are wearing flatties, perhaps they'll get to see all the shows. By Cayte Williams
IN SEPTEMBER the UK fashion press came into their own. It is the time of London Fashion Week, the most exciting five days in the calendar of any British style journalist. As the foreign press and overseas buyers flock to the capital, the British fashion doyennes are queens of their patch - the first to catch the eye of McQueen, the first to congratulate Berardi and the quickest to get to Andrew Groves's show in the back of beyond (if only because they know how to get there).

London Fashion Week (LFW) is a cross between the Japanese game show Endurance (have you ever tried to get into an Alexander McQueen show?) and The Krypton Factor (the fashion editor often has to run from one show to another wearing stilettos in the rain), but it is a time when the British fashion press can really praise home-grown talent that hasn't fled to Paris. There are 45 designers holding catwalk shows and an ever-expanding off-schedule programme where the most experimental young designers hold shows in far- flung corners of the city.

So who are the thrilling names this season? "Anthony Symonds and Andrew Groves are happy to oblige," said Susannah Barron in the Guardian, of fashion's new enfants terribles. "Rumour has it his [Andrew Groves's] spring/summer 99 collection has been inspired by the film Face/Off." There's even a defector from New York. "Betsey Johnson, who opened a shop in London earlier in the year," said Tamsin Blanchard in the Independent, "has moved her show here... Although now in her fifties, the designer is still youthful, and has a habit of cartwheeling down the catwalk after shows." I bet she'll give Anthony Symonds a run for his money.

So is LFW a rollicking good time for journalists or a really hard slog? "I think the British press look forward to it," says one fashion insider, "because we've supported and promoted it. It's only natural that you feel like it's your beat because we know all the designers."

Of course, it's not only what you write or who you know. What you wear is equally important. So what will the best-dressed fashion editor be wearing to the shows? "Grey, grey and more grey," said Tamsin Blanchard in the Independent, "Long skirts are also de rigueur. They have to be really long though - to the floor."

But do the fashion press notice what their rivals are wearing at the shows? "In Milan it is important to wear the right things," says an insider. "When editors arrive they go straight to the designer shops to buy clothes for the shows. In London, people are more laid-back. And you can always spot the New Yorkers, they are the most groomed, with perfect hair and nails. They're a bit of an army." Last week, British journalists experienced the US fashion army on its own turf as American designers showed before Europe for the first time.

The US fashion doyennes were their normal ultra-groomed selves, but the collections were a surprise. Not only did several designers show their spring/summer 1999 collections six weeks early, but the pavement grey we associate with the streets of New York vanished in a blaze of colour. "The collection, shown under Karan's DKNY label on Tuesday, heralded the return of paintbox colour," said Hilary Alexander in the Daily Telegraph, while the Independent's Melanie Rickey recalled "full-blown orange, grass green, aquamarine, yellow, aubergine and raspberry at Calvin Klein." Good grief. Has New York gone mad?

No. New York wanted to prove it could create proactive rather than reactive fashion. "Some commentators have even trashed American designers' collections as little more than a commercial take on European creativity," opined Grace Bradberry in the Times. "By positioning themselves before the London shows, designers ... have made such carping impossible."

Finally, Paris was not amused (is it ever?) American designers "are not creative," said Pierre Berge of Yves Saint Laurent in the Evening Standard, "and it has been a long time since they gave up on creativity. This move follows the logic of their marketing." It might be sour grapes for Paris, but New York could get drunk on success.

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OXYGEN

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"Have you seen The Generation Game? Sometimes you get three minutes flat to make a hat."

Philip Treacy on the pressure of working for Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld, Elle

"I told the guy on the door that I was here for the show and he said, 'It doesn't start till 10', and I was like, 'But I'm in it'."

Model Audrey Marnay on the difficulties of getting into the Metropolitan Hotel, even if you're in a fashion show there, Frank

"At one show, Naomi Campbell complained to Thierry Mugler that I was wearing a diamond ring and that it shouldn't be allowed. I had to go back to the hotel and put it away."

Jerry Hall on backstage divas, Vogue

"The frivolity of summer has given way to a darkly loitering Lady of Shalott, heavy with scent and swathed in sensuous velvet dresses and musty cloaks. The new temptress would eat summer's sweet dolly and her sparkly hair grips for breakfast, the baby-pink twinset burned as a sacrifice to her dark fashion god."

Luella Bartley on the new 'dark enchantress', the Sunday Telegraph

"I don't really care what people wear, and I certainly don't sit before the TV saying, 'That's a horrible dress' or 'What a terrible suit'. Although I'm surrounded by it, ultimately I don't think fashion's that important."

Nicole Farhi, the Times

"We all know that most women would like to be told where to find a fabulous trouser-suit, but the powers that be on this newspaper don't care about reality - they just want to see legs."

Kathy Phillips, former national newspaper fashion editor, relays an erstwhile colleague's comments, Vogue

"This fashion PR just said to me, 'Hello fruitcake!' How dare she? I felt like saying, 'Hello bitch'."

Fashion guru Isabella Blow gets furious at Chanel (even though she's wearing a jolly upside-down straw watering-can hat), Elle

"In the back of my mind, images of certain buffalo-girl eco-peasant skirts are beckoning, along with a Gujarati mirrored bag on a string containing a carrot; that macrobiotic/Lucien Freud look of translucent skin, hennaed hair, t'ai chi taught by a real spiritual guy who fancies himself, that shop in Weston-Super-Mare called Wierdie Nook and, if I'm really going to go purist, a baby conceived during 36-hour-long Tantric sex."

Kira Jolliffe from 'Cheap Date' on the joys of organic dressing, Frank

"Though I shouldn't say it, I once discovered a girl in church." Models One founder Jose Fonseca confesses her sins, Vogue

"I'm now working with young people together, not as their master. This is fascinating for me because we are not educated to work in this way in Japan. The young are waiting to be free. They want change. They are the future."

Issey Miyake on his work ethic, i-D

"Givenchy never made me dream. It was always a bit like Balenciaga and Saint Laurent, but less good."

Jean Paul Gaultier on why he turned down the G-spot after Galliano's departure, Frank

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BITS AND BOBS

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SIZE MATTERS:

Rumour has it that the gorgeous Sophie Dahl has been exercising and dieting (presumably so that some fat-phobic fashion editor will use her as a model). Sophie, a delectable meringue in a world of Twiglets, is said to have downsized considerably. But it's not all bad news for anyone over size 10. According to the Independent, Parisian couturier Edmond Boublil - founder of the Ronde boutique chain which sells flashy clothes to well- rounded women - wants to set up shop in London.

WHERE THERE'S MUCK THERE'S BRASS:

Louty lad mags FHM and Loaded have thrust themselves further into the fashion market. FHM Collections, the six-monthly men's fashion magazine, was launched earlier this month while Loaded Fashion hit the shelves earlier in the year. Meanwhile the battle of the sexes' dress-sense continues. According to the Independent, 81 per cent of British women are attracted to men with good dress sense while 44 per cent of FHM Collections readers enjoy shopping for clothes. Which means that for every builder's bum out there there's a fashion man not far behind. Ah bliss.

CATWALK QUEEN ABDICATES:

According to the Express, Sarah Thomas, the 18-year-old face of Covergirl, has quit catwalk modelling because she's sick of the sleaze and slimming. The 5ft 10in, nine-stone blonde from Norfolk said: "I remember trying things on a couple of times which were a bit tight and someone came up and slapped my hips... It is so personal and incredibly rude." Sarah 1, Cellulite Police 0.

ALL GREEK TO KLEIN:

Calvin upset the good citizens of Athens by proposing a fashion show at the Odeum of Herodes Atticus, one of the great archaeological sites. Greece's archaeological council rejected his request - which included a chorus of performers dressed in casual Kleins - but its protest was over-ruled by the culture minister. What next? A Three Kleins in a Fountain show near Rome's Spanish Steps?

TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF TOMMYGATE:

That other pedlar of Americanese, Tommy Hilfiger, has done something vaguely amusing for once. He's filmed a series of ads that use Oval Office film sets as a backdrop. In one shot an alluring model perches on the President's desk in front of an unfurled star-spangled banner. According to this newspaper, the ads caused the White House "to make a formal complaint". Hilfiger was forced to change the ads. Now we'll have to suffer those dreadful preppy shots again.

PRINTS THE LATEST FASHION:

Two fashion books hit the shelves this week. Vivienne Westwood: An Unfashionable Life by Jane Mulvagh got patchy reviews. In the Sunday Times, Janet Street- Porter commented: "a book of photographs of Westwood's clothes with references, and her notebooks (if they exist), would have been a much more rewarding project," while Charlotte Raven in the Evening Standard called it an "enjoyable read". The Fashion Book was a style bibliophile's delight, with the Sunday Telegraph describing it as "a must for every self-respecting and dedicated follower of fashion." If you can't be bothered to read Westwood's semi- authorised biog, just turn to "W" in this.

DOLLY FIXTURES:

The charity, Action on Addiction, ran its second annual auction of designer- dressed dolls at the Natural History Museum, with contributions from Westwood, Stella McCartney and Hardy Amies. And in contrast, big dollies worked the auction catwalk, including that life-sized Sindy, Sheryl Gazza.

GReS POWER:

Ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell flogged her Union Jack dress at Sotheby's for pounds 41,320, with proceeds going to charity. At Christie's, a far more civilised collection was under the hammer. Madame Gres' cocktail dresses were expected to fetch between pounds 500 and pounds 8,000. When you consider the latter were exquisitely made by the grande dame of Parisian fashion while the former was knocked up by Geri's sister, you realise it's not the designer but the wearer who decides the price.

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BUSINESS

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l Monica Lewinsky inadvertently caused a nine per cent increase in Stateside sales at The Gap. The famous blue dress with the infamous white stain and the blue suit she wore to testify were both from Monica's favourite shop. As soon as the American public knew the truth, sales shot up. Shares are hovering at about $60, close to the year's all-time high of $68. The Gap is astounded. "She doesn't fit the fresh image Gap is trying to project," said a confused advertising executive.

(Source: Evening Standard)

l Shares in the shoemaker and retailer Church & Co rose 10p to 280p, and the company reported an 11 per cent increase in gross profits to pounds 1.5m. The group recently opened a second shop in London's Covent Garden, and has others planned for Trafford Park, Manchester, and Oxford.

(Source: the Independent)

l Paul Smith, one of Britain's top designers, has reported record sales figures in Japan. His R Newbold brand has shot up by 37 per cent in a difficult economic climate. Smith opened an exhibition of his own work at the Mitsukoshi Museum this month, which sold more than 20,000 tickets in advance.

(Source: the Sunday Times)

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