This article is from the (RED) edition of The Independent, guest-designed for 21 September 2006 by Giorgio Armani. Half the revenue from the edition will be donated to the Global Fund to Fight Aids.

The A-Z of fashion

From the boldface names to the unsung heroes, Susannah Frankel takes you on a trip down the catwalk - and beyond


A is for Armani (well, it would be, wouldn't it?), the most famous fashion designer in the world, godfather of modern minimalism and the man who rose to supremacy dressing Richard Gere in American Gigolo. Mr Armani, as he must always be known, is in London to show we cash-strapped Brits how a catwalk presentation might be done with the power of an unrivalled fashion empire behind it. He is taking over Earl's Court tonight, where he will unveil his spring/ summer Emporio collection and his autumn/winter upscale Armani Privé collection, and show everyone a good time. A is also for Anna (Wintour) of American Vogue, the most formidable glossy magazine editor of them all.

B is for the unashamedly elitist Balenciaga whose frostily fashionable largesse filters down nonetheless: since the dawn of the new millennium we have had Balenciaga to thank for luxe combat trousers worn with high heels, micro miniskirts, high-waisted trousers and the re-emergence of black opaque tights. It is safe to say that this influential name is busily informing the style of a high street near you as you read these words. Balenciaga is today designed by Nicolas Ghesquière, whose refusal to compromise his vision in an age when it's best to be bland makes the label's success all the more remarkable. B is also for Biba, up and running once more in the gifted hands of Ms Bella Freud; for (Christopher) Bailey, designer of Burberry, celebrating its 150th anniversary this year; for black - only a fool would deny its continuing supremacy and its scientifically proven thin-making properties; and for Blackberry - fashion would be lost without it. Finally, B is for bitchiness. No other industry does it better.

C is for Chris (Moore), the gentleman among catwalk photographers, and responsible for taking the runway shots that appear in the pages of any magazine and national newspaper worth mentioning including, of course, this one. At the grand old age of 72, Mr Moore - who's so popular with his peers that despite the very competitive nature of the breed they guard his spot in pole position at the foot of the catwalk on his behalf - is still working the shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris. His website, catwalking.com, is the most important research tool for fashion insiders in this country. Those outside the industry and with more than a passing interest in the current round of international collections, meanwhile, can visit the site and click on the "showbrief" button for access to edited highlights from the biggest shows. C is also for Chanel (still the most famous symbol of bourgeois French fashion), Central Saint Martin's (everyone who's anyone cut their teeth there), champagne (still the fashion beverage of choice), carbohydrates (or lack of them in the fashion follower's diet) and chauffeur (those with fashionable shoes must have one).

D is for Dolce (& Gabbana), fast achieving world supremacy - in particular, any self-respecting teenager would kill for the D&G label - and for Dover Street Market, owned by Japanese mega-label Comme des Garçons, and the most desirable shopping experience in London. D is also for diva, the ever-fabulous Naomi Campbell still being queen, and for dogs (the four-legged variety, please). Philip Treacy, Alexander McQueen, and Martin Margiela all love them. Kylie took her German ridgeback with her to the Chanel haute couture show in Paris in July. For autumn/winter 2006, meanwhile, Jean Paul Gaultier sent the world's most famous models down the catwalk walking afghan hounds. And D is for diamonds, forever fashionable.

E is for Erin (O'Connor), the face of M&S (one of the richest women working in fashion today, she's no dunsky) and also for eccentric: Anna Piaggi is a woman happy to wear a McDonald's waistcoat with vintage Chanel haute couture, Isabella Blow loves her Philip Treacy lobster hat. Then there's Andre Leon Talley, the larger-than-lifesize Anna Wintour sidekick, and more.

F is for fur, which has no place in the pages of this newspaper but is still fashionable. F is also for footless tights, formerly a self-consciously fashionable flourish and now for sale at every high-street store in the land although some might argue the variety with feet attached are more flattering. F is for flattery too, incidentally - as in "you've lost weight" (when you haven't), "love your dress" (when they don't) and "you look well" (when you're clearly sick as the proverbial dog). And of course, F is for front row - where everyone who's anyone must sit.

G is for Giles (Deacon), the hot ticket at London Fashion Week for the past two years, and designer of Converse shoes for RED, and for (John) Galliano, the most talented and successful designer to come out of Britain for years, responsible for Dior women's wear and soon to offer the world a younger, more affordable alternative to his upscale signature line. G is also for Gucci. In fact, make that the two interlocking Gs of the fashion house's logo - still reassuringly flashy after all these years. And of course G for gossip, the more scurrilous the better, and for grey, the colour of the autumn/ winter season.

H is for Hedi (Slimane), menswear designer at Dior and a man whose slender vision of masculinity has won him many loyal followers, male and female, and for helmets, yes, helmets, as seen on the catwalks at Prada (She Who Must Be Obeyed) although this is, admittedly, not the easiest of looks to pull off. H is also for hyperbole - no fashion commentator is immune - and for high heels. Yes, come rain or shine, the fashion fraternity will be tottering around in them. H, lastly, is for handbag, worn proudly in the crook of fashionable arms. The Burberry Manor, the YSL Double and the Fendi b Bag are all currently whipping up a storm. The Hermes Birkin and Kelly are always fashionable, even grand.

I is for icon, best in pairs - as in Kate and Pete, Victoria and David and so forth - and also for "ink", the shade used to describe anything that is not quite black, "nearly black" being the term used only for cheap tights and thus not in the least bit fashionable.

J is for (Marc) Jacobs, American fashion darling, whose past two seasons have heralded grunge's second coming - Jacobs gave the world this most unlikely of looks the first time round in the early 1990s. J is also for the Japanese design greats - Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, Junya Watanabe, Yohji Yamamoto and new kid on the block, Tao. Also Julien (Macdonald), the Welsh Versace and man responsible for closing London Fashion Week tomorrow. Last season Paris Hilton took to the catwalk for him. This season? Well, anything could happen.

K is for - no prizes for guessing - Kate (Moss), the most famous model in history and a woman whose iconic status is untouchable, however vitriolic the media's leers may be. K is also for (Sophia) Kokosalaki, who has recently taken the helm at Vionnet - that house's namesake, Madeleine Vionnet, being the godmother of the bias-cut dress and a name ripe for reinvention if ever there was one. She will be showing her debut collection for the label in Paris next month.

L is for Lanvin, everyone who's anyone in fashion is wearing it, particularly cocktail dresses and trench coats, and loves the fact that this is discreet luxury at its most accomplished. L is also for lunch (or lack of it) - the preconception that those with more than a passing interest in fashion rarely eat being, to a certain extent, true. The venue where those who care about these things must see and be seen pushing lettuce leaves around their plates is all important, however. In the British fashion capital these include E&O in Notting Hill, the Wolseley in Piccadilly and the venerable Claridges. Next week, in Milan, the fashion fraternity will install itself at the bar of the hotel Principe di Savoie for no food and for cocktails, finishing up in Paris everywhere from Dave (for old school Cantonese fare) to Brasserie Lipp.

M is for (Alexander) McQueen, the British designer who seduces Paris with his twice-yearly women's wear collections, Milan with his twice-yearly men's wear collections and has now added a McQ younger line to his empire. Then there are handbags, shoes, fragrance... Veritably, today with the support of the Gucci Group behind him, the man is a fully fledged brand - a rarity for our home-grown talent. Hats off to him. A double M is for Martin Margiela, the Belgian designer beloved by those who like their look understated but considered and for Manolo (Blahnik), purveyor of the most beautiful footwear in the world.

N is for Nick (Knight), a continuing inspiration to us all. Knight has produced much of the most iconic fashion imagery of the past 20 years, from his early days photographing skinheads and working with Yohji Yamamoto to more British Vogue covers than most of us have had hot dinners and the twice-yearly ad campaigns for Christian Dior. A tireless innovator, his self-funded website, showstudio.com, features both his own pioneering projects and those of fashion glitterati - from every designer worth his or her credentials to the aforementioned Kate (Moss).

O is for orange, the shade beloved of the fake tan fraternity which - to be fair - is more likely to include C-list celebrities twittering away on the front row than anyone actually working in fashion who will have let their summer glow fade by now, safe in the knowledge that an acquired year-round mahogany-brown tan is, in fact, far from fashionable.

P is for Prada, Miuccia Prada being among the bravest, boldest and brightest designers of them all. Where she leads, others will surely follow and while the brand she presides over has international recognition. Both Prada main lines (for men and women) and Miu Miu (also for men and women) continue to seduce the more adventurous fashion follower. Prada is beloved by those who favour more thoughtful clothes as well as those who simply want something beautiful to wear. This is one woman who is never afraid to take a risk, from her love affair with brown - "because it is the least commercial colour" - to the often dowdy (for her) and geeky (for him) silhouettes that still dominate. P is also for parties, obviously - Armani's being the hot ticket tonight, although we fashion folk have been spoilt for choice (only this week, Zandra Rhodes, Vogue, Mulberry and more have played host).

Q is for queuing. If you have to, you're nowhere. The A-list sashay past in their Manolos while the hangers-on stand outside in the cold.

R is for Raf (Simons), who quietly revolutionised menswear and is now whipping up a quiet storm for men and women at Jil Sander. R is also for Rochas, the French fashion house recently closed by Procter & Gamble. RIP. Its designer, the much feted Olivier Theyskens has moved to (Nina) Ricci. R is also for Roland (Mouret), who, following a much-publicised split with his former backer, has signed a business deal with Simon Fuller (of Spice Girls fame) and is launching a new label, R19.

S is for sweater dresses and for Stella (McCartney) who designs some of the best. Knitwear is the fashion phenomenon of the season, which is good because it's warm to wear and fashion rarely stoops to such practical considerations these days. S is also for stylists, the men and women who work hand in hand with designers and photographers to create the imagery that sets the mood, for Suzy (Menkes), the most hard-working and accomplished fashion journalist in the world, and for style.com, American Vogue's website, where entire shows, show reviews and, more recently, videos ensure that anyone can see the collections no more than 24 hours after they have been on display. Play the fashion editor in silly hat, black dress and talon heels - in the comfort of your own home.

T is for taxis, public transport being a little too, well, real for this particular portion of the population at this particular time of year. Or at any time of year, come to that.

U is for Isaac Mizrahi's Unzipped, the best fashion film ever made (apart from Zoolander, which is, in fact, more accurate), and for umbrella - forget to carry one and be damned.

V is for Vogue, still the most powerful fashion magazine in the world. In England it is presided over by Alexandra Shulman and in the US by Anna Wintour, both of whom prefer a less flagrantly elitist mindset than their French and Italian counterparts. French Vogue, in the hands of Carine Roitfeld, is the most fashionable of the titles just now and Italian Vogue is still home to some of the most epic fashion stories in the universe. V is also for Vanity Fair, where the legendary Michael Roberts has recently taken over as fashion director and is in the process of showing the rest of the world how it might be done. Finally, V is for Versace, back in the black and not a minute too soon, for Vuitton (as in Louis) status luggage par excellence and with a killer clothing collection courtesy of (Marc) Jacobs to match; and for vodka, the alternative to champagne which has the added bonus of containing not a single gram of carbohydrate. Drink it with soda water and fresh lime and fashion decrees that it's even quite healthy. Deluded? Quite probably. V is also for Vivienne (Westwood), still the grande dame of British fashion and rightly so - remember: it's punk's 30th anniversary this year.

W is for, well, for W, probably the loveliest fashion magazine of them all, today owned by Condé Nast, and for Women's Wear Daily the trade paper that breaks every story worth its fashion credentials, reviews every show the following morning and has a website to match. W is also for water. We must drink gallons of it, very publicly, to ensure blemish-free skin at all times.

X is for X-ray. Love it or loathe it, fashion's obsession with slenderness seems impossible to shift although the current voluminous silhouette - big for autumn, even bigger for next spring - allows for at least a little more secret chocolate eating than is usual.

Y is for Yves (Saint Laurent), presided over today by Stefano Pilati and restored to its former glory, and for London Fashion Week's young(-ish) designers. Ann-Sofie Back, Emma Cook, Giles Deacon, Roksanda Ilincic, Peter Jensen, Christopher Kane, Todd Lynn, Richard Nicoll, Jonathan Saunders... the list goes on. They work every hour God gave them to come up with twice-yearly collections that - without the power of a heavyweight advertising budget - fight to be seen. For an industry that thrives on the shock of the new, they are also the future. Respect is most definitely due.

Z is for Zandra (Rhodes), the fuchsia-haired, Technicolor exotic of British fashion who's back on the London catwalk with a bang, and also for zebra, animal-print handily being what is known in the trade as a "major trend" this season. Prada decrees that it expresses the wild woman - or indeed man - lurking at the heart of all of us. Grrrr!

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