First Night: The Festival of Fashion: Dream package is short on content

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The Independent Online
IT SOUNDS a dream package for a holiday weekend exhibition: lots of fashion on display, designers appearing in person and supermodels strutting the catwalk in Battersea Park.

The Festival of Fashion, which runs until Monday in a pavilion in the south London park, is doing its best to cash in on the public enthusiasm for anything connected with the high-glamour world of fashion.

But the reality is less promising. This is the first Festival of Fashion, and it deserves to be the last. The event claims to show the public the 'pick of British fashion'. However, with the exception of Vivienne Westwood and two or three other names, top-notch designers are non-existent.

The event boasts a line-up of supermodels but there were none at last night's opening show and none are scheduled to appear over the next three days. Naomi, Christy, Linda and friends have stayed away. Even if they had been paid enough to show up, one suspects they are not the sort given to mingling freely with the great British public, kissing babies and signing autographs.

Last night's opening show, however, was unexceptional. Ms Westwood staged her own 'spectacular', which amounted to a run through her spring-summer collection. The tickets were ludicrously overpriced at pounds 25. Ms Westwood, fashion's version of the Queen Mother, did her bit at least. Her clothes are presented in such a way on the catwalk that they might appear outrageous to an inexperienced eye. Better pay less attention to the theatrical presentation and concentrate on the classic cut of the garments beneath.

The pity of the festival is that the idea is not even particularly original. The format is similar to the Clothes Show Live, an annual exhibition at Earls Court linked to the BBC television show. Last year, the event had 250 exhibitors and drew 200,000 visitors paying pounds 15 each.

The festival is charging pounds 17.50 for a tour of a few dozen exhibitors, a fashion show unlikely to be a patch on the Clothes Show Live's in-the- round event, and the curious Welsh designer of the year awards. The best names in the fashion show (running four times daily, Saturday to Monday) are Joseph, Antony Price, Pascale Smets, Sarah Sturgeon, Marion Foale and Red or Dead.

If there is a redeeming feature, it lies in the inclusion of new designers such as John Crummay, Abe Hamilton, Paul Frith, and Sonnentag & Mulligan. These names may be the future of British fashion.

(Photograph omitted)