Media Types: The raving mavens of couture: The fashion editor

NO ONE knows just why the fashion editor goes mad, but there are plenty of theories. The seeds are sown in Paris, the high point of the fashion calendar. Four times a year (March and October for ready-to-wear; January and July for couture) she joins the fight for seats; jostling and pushing her way into catwalk shows. Fists sometimes fly; two years ago, one editor punched a security guard. Another regularly faints when the crush gets too much.

But the crowds are not the worst of it. The awful truth is that the fashion editor - or maven as she is known in the business - is a mere mortal, and is brutally reminded of it four times a year. She gets older while the models on the catwalk remain eternally young. This season, the models are skinny waifs barely out of their teens. So a journalist who's reached the grand age of 24 feels over-the-hill because she's five years older than the supermodel Kate Moss.

The fashion maven is visually, rather than verbally, literate so don't expect her to have read any of the words in the magazine she works for. It's the pictures that count. She pores over the photographs in rival titles, passing comment on the styling of the clothes and accessories, the model, the hairstyle and make- up. The words? Well, they fill up the space in between.

In the fashion maven's life, there is no room for grey, for lukewarm enthusiasms. She's 100 per cent grunge; she's head- to-toe hippie. She's crazy for Prada, for Herve Leger, for Martin Margiela. And that new young designer who makes thousand-pound frocks in downtown New York? Why, he's absolutely fabulous.

Her job is to remain ahead of the pack, so she's analysing all the time. She switched from short skirts to long skirts months before they reached the high street. By the time everyone in the high street is thoroughly converted to long, she'll be back in short, and condemning long as frumpy.

She suffers from migraines, which is why she requires regular naps in the fashion 'cupboard', the room where the clothes are stored before photo shoots. The causes of these migraines are: she's discovered another grey hair; it's her birthday; she's overweight; Jasper's jackets haven't arrived; Jasper's jackets have arrived but they are the wrong colour. Her wardrobe is another constant source of anxiety: walk into Vogue's office and you'll see a dozen women doing their best to outdress each other every day of the week.

She consoles herself by reminding herself that she knows the designers personally. They send her thank-you notes, flowers and gifts at Christmas (if the gifts aren't big enough, she sends them back). The notes are pinned up around her office to remind visitors that dear Christian, dear Karl, and dear Rifat are dear friends and she will plug their collections heavily during the forthcoming season.

She's worked hard to get where she is. She went to fashion college, even considered designing, then landed a job as a fashion assistant, ordering couriers, packing clothes and making cups of tea. Now that she's made the grade, she wants everyone to know. Fashion PR people feel the lash of her tongue. Fashion assistants collect her dry-cleaning.

The fashion maven in full cry is a terrifying sight, eyes ablaze, bangles jangling, hands flailing. She lost her sense of perspective years ago. She knows her way around the globe and the location of every decent hotel and restaurant, but don't question her too closely on current affairs. Isn't Boris Yeltsin a new Russian designer? Wasn't Somalia that place Iman came from? And besides, she's got something more important on her mind: which model to use for next month's shoot in Thailand?

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