You know the one about London Fashion Week

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The fashion season has started again. Ah, the glitz] The glamour] The pitter-patter of tiny feet as gazelle-like models run between shows]

Not quite. 'Don't you hate these chairs? My bum doesn't fit,' says the fashion hack next to me. So we must be in London. No Milanese fashionite would admit to broad buttocks. No Parisienne or New Yorker - for whom to live is to diet - would possess them.

Ah, the celebrities] 'F*** off, you c***,' Lucian Freud snarls as a photographer dares to snap him at the show by his daughter, Bella. Elsewhere, we spot Duggie Fields, the artist, Boy George and a shoal of those Sloane Street blondes with identical highlights and identical noses. No one takes pictures.

Ah, the excitement] A slow clap begins, then a Mexican wave, which has the Telegraph, the Observer and Jeff Banks from The Clothes Show jumping up and sitting down again as we wait and we wait for Bella Freud's show to start. 'Any one want a ginger snap?' asks one hack cheerily.

House lights down, music up and out comes modelling's micro megastar, Kate Moss, back in Blighty to support Bella. 'Hey, Christy]' shouts a wag from the photographers' pit. The reference is to that other model star, Christy Turlington. It makes Kate giggle, and so do we.

London Fashion Week itself is a bit of a giggle. There's lots of beating of breasts, lots of wails about government support and the big names - Westwood, Ozbek, Galliano, Hamnett - deserting their home turf in favour of the brighter lights of Paris and Milan. But in truth, London is funny little affair, where the clothes can be weird, wacky or absolutely wearable for tea in the Home Counties with Mummy.

There is an attempt at seriousness, with a worried-looking Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, turning up at the launch breakfast and only wanting to meet designers, not the fashion press who always berate him about money. Arriving at 8.30am exactly proves a shrewd tactic - 99 per cent of the British fashion pack are still in their nighties.

Dubbed 'Fashion Five Minutes' by insider cynics, London Fashion Week is actually three and a half days of amiable chaos. It simply refuses to lie down and die - and neither should it. This time problems with funding were overcome, as they always are, close to the eleventh hour, when Vidal Sassoon, along with Harvey Nichols, Harrods, Liberty and Perrier pitched in.

Good old Vidal. He sat and he smiled in the front row of most of the shows, and on the steps with the students at one event where there wasn't a seat for him. For the benefit of those who think Vidal's life began with shampoo commercials on prime time television, he and Mary Quant, who has just turned 60, started right here when London swung. All credit to him for being prepared to sit on the steps and sling out money in the hope that it might swing again.

Perhaps it will. But London's curse - and its blessing - is that the minute designers get big they move to the world stages of the Continent to be judged against the very best. And so they should. Their absence may make London something of a backwater, but it also gives new names a chance to grow.

Witnessing this is not always a glamorous experience. 'I am Bitch. Come on, let's f***' goes the soundtrack at yet another sex-ridden subterranean show. The fashion pack is clearly not made up of shockable Tories. None of us flinch at the sound or the sight of raw sex. Out come zipper rubber knickers; micro minis that start at the pelvic bone and end, well, at the pelvic bone; thigh-high vinyl boots and bare breasts. Heigh-ho, just another young British designer doing his thing. 'Psst, anyone want a Polo?' asks the writer next to me as pink buttocks, pink bosoms, a slip of sheer chiffon and a spangled hand print go by.

'Jewish mother's sweater warning,' says the writer next to me, as a snow bunny fluffy sweater is revealed to be opened up the back like a hospital gown. 'That poor girl will get a chill in her kidneys,' I mutter back. For we like things to be practical. Leather bras, leather knickers? Fine, but a sweater is a sweater and serves a different purpose.

If you want to dress like a cute kitten, try Bella Freud, clothier to the kind of girls I suspect accept the sweeties proffered by sugar daddies. And, of course, if you like your sex dressing more direct, how about rubber knickers, vinyl knickers, knickers that zip right from front to back? You will be spoilt for choice in London. Something to go over your knickers, madam? How about a jacket from Alexander McQueen, radical but tailored to Savile Row standards? Or, if you're feeling glamorous, a damask maxi-coat by Helen Storey? .London Fashion Week never has one seasonal 'story'. For, unlike in Milan, Paris and particularly New York, no one cares what anyone else is doing and no one tries to adapt. Long? Short? Waif? Amazon? Only in London can you see aristocratic girls in long, lank shifts, strumpets in rubberwear and novices in nuns' habits, all up on the catwalk in the space of one afternoon.

I did think for a minute that a conspiracy theory was emerging. It seemed too many designers were doing micro-mini skirts and floor-length knitted second-skin dresses - both utterly unforgiving - for a nation of 23.5 million women, only 0.01 per cent of whom could look comfortable in them. But then I saw lots of kinder, snug clothes; innovative but not scary clothes that I can say with confidence you could wear, even though I do not know what you look like.

But what if you are not 18 or not a size 10, if you want to be elegant, but not overstated? Betty Jackson, whose collections were once a little too 'Happy Hands at Home', was right on target this season with commercial, wantable clothes, including big sloppy joes over little chiffon dresses. Sonnentag Mulligan offered severe, rigorous tailoring. Paul Frith went puritan and daringly low-key in the face of others' shock-factor collections.

If you are not urban? Try John Rocha, whose woman is any age, any size, but lives somewhere draughty; a beaded blanket skirt and a lame T-shirt with cosy, woolly collar and cuffs are necessary for an evening in the sort of country house where there is a windchill factor indoors. For a grand evening with central heating, try Amanda Wakeley, whose velvet sheath evening dresses deserve to go to the ball.

Hoards of foreign buyers and press do not come to London any more. Those who do, come for what we are traditionally good at - evening wear, knitwear, tweed and tailoring and utter eccentricity - and that is what they get.

So what should we do to lure more international buyers and press - and thus more international orders - for next time around? The word 'palace' is being muttered, and certainly these - for we have several - are one thing we have that Paris, Milan and New York have not.

No one is whispering 'Buck Pal' but wouldn't that be Ab Fab? Proven to withstand the onslaught of tourism, what greater challenge than the onslaught of fashion? Think of it. That would bring the Americans, the Japanese, why, even the French to look at our crotch-level mini skirts, our rubber knickers and our regal evening wear. And we British, used to seeing shows in every squalid night-club, would love it. Why, we would even promise not to eat ginger snaps in the front row and solemnly swear to stop in its tracks all attempts at another Mexican wave.

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