Darlings, we're back!

The wacky world of 'Ab Fab' returns this week. But the truth is even more bizarre, says a fashion writer.
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The Independent Online

Welcome back Absolutely Fabulous! Bring on the taste-free glitz! Revel in the tackiness, the lack of fashion restraint, the irony!

Oh, if only the fashion world were as gloriously appealing as the television series. If only we could feel confident enough to march around the office in a pastiche of eye-popping Eighties hits – Lacroix, logos and leather suits – with a fag hanging out of our mouths and a bottle of Bolly tucked into our Fendi baguettes. If only our fashion budgets would stretch to daily liquid lunches, chauffeurs, and monthly Botox injections.

Unfortunately, there are no real-life fashion equivalents to Patsy and Edina, the champagne-swigging, chain-smoking fashion editor and the mantra-chanting, fad-obsessed fashion PR who first lurched across our television screens in 1992. Despite the fact that writer Jennifer Saunders is alleged to have based Edina on a combination of PR superwoman Lynne Franks and Ghost designer Tanya Sarne, few such glorious eccentrics exist in the real world of fashion. (Unless of course you count Isabella Blow, the influential fashion director of The Sunday Times's Style section, who has been known to wear a Swarovski-crystal-studded lobster on her head.)

Absolutely Fabulous was derived from a sketch in French and Saunders. It became an immediate hit with the critics when it was transmitted on BBC2 in November 1992 but it was not until it transferred to BBC1 that it took off. Saunders and Dawn French, who co-write it, decided to bring it back after an attempt at a spin-off, Mirrorball, persuaded them that the original was too good to tinker with.

The new series, which starts on BBC1 on Friday, is again a perfectly over-blown reflection of the fashion industry in which celebrity is the new obsession. Everyone from Big Brother contestants and It girls to TV lottery hosts and Hollywood film stars now line the front rows of the catwalks and beam out from the pages of every glossy magazine. The competition to secure A-list names has become rife between the likes of Donatella Versace and Giorgio Armani, who have managed to turn their shows into celebrity feeding frenzies. Last season it was Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston at Armani versus Sir Elton John and Ronnie Wood at Versace. Yet for those of us working in the fashion world, celebrity obsession has become somewhat passé, darling. There are far more intriguing plot lines being played out in real life. Truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction.

Eddie could follow in the footsteps of Naomi Campbell and be charged with assault after allegedly smacking her assistant, Bubbles, over the head with a telephone. Or she could copy Christie Turlington and launch her own "ayurvedic" skincare line called Sanduri and a range of yoga-inspired activewear, after going on a mountain trek to "find herself".

Patsy's new magazine could feature a photo-shoot of a model with a needle in her arm giving blood – as seen in Dazed & Confused. Or she could be consoled by Eddie after being fired from her top job, in a plot resembling the real-life goings on at Marie Claire where Liz Jones was recently ejected from the hot-seat. Remember, it was Jones who laid her soul agonisingly bare in the confessional Single File column she wrote for The Sunday Times's Style section. In it she catalogued the difficulties of being an obsessively demanding single woman living in a forensically clean flat with two cats called Squeak and Snoop and a boyfriend more than a decade younger than her. Never mind fiction, Jones's character would make a perfect addition to the Ab Fab cast. She should send Jennifer Saunders an updated draft immediately!

But for the best Ab Fab material one need only visit the catwalks where gossip, intrigue, carping and competitiveness are always rife. Feuds between the likes of Donatella Versace and Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent and Tom Ford, and Hedi Slimane and John Galliano have long provided the fashionistas with ample ring-side entertainment. Fiction can't improve on the real-life, and very public, spat between Karl (the Kaiser) Lagerfeld and Stella (daughter of a pop legend) McCartney. It was Lagerfeld who claimed that McCartney had turned Chloe into a – shock! – "T-shirt label". And what about the tirade launched by the press when the Welsh designer Julien Macdonald was handed the reigns at Givenchy after Alexander McQueen vacated the seat? Typically, the French simply sniffed: "Mais, who is zis Macdonald?" Judging by the scope the fashion industry offers for inspiration, we could well look forward to another 30 years of Absolutely Fabulous.

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