Deborah Orr: Shamelessly seduced by the frivolity of the fashion world – and loving it

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The Independent Online

London's heady status as the most thrusting city in the world may have taken a financial knock just lately. But it hasn't fed through to the world of fashion. No less a champion of the velvet trouser than design god Tom Ford has declared London to be showing Paris a clean pair of clumpy wedges. The London critics, usually secure in the knowledge that a bit of bitching won't lose anyone too much in the way of advertising contracts, are falling over themselves to be upbeat. And Anna Wintour, she of the baby-eating rep at US Vogue, came and sat in a pleasing number of front rows at this season's Fashion Week. This is a bit like having Bill Clinton come along to your muddy country book festival, only much more significant.

Thrillingly, I sat in one of the front rows alongside her, and I have to report that all that stuff about her having a "special signature style all of her own" is much, much truer than one could ever imagine. I was absolutely transfixed by her. And not in a good way.

Wintour just looks arrestingly weird, like an actress who has wandered in from a gig reading the BBC news in the 1950s, but hasn't been given a script. Totally anachronistic, she's not so much fashion hysteria as costume drama, hair a bouffant feat of precision engineering, face so tautly feline that she could take to the stage in Cats, and dress and shoes so perfectly prim that you feel quite, quite certain that she must be conducting a deeply secret affair with John F Kennedy right now. She doesn't move either, which makes her seem like a hologram. Maybe she is one.

And those huge bug-eyed sunglasses – Wintour really does wear them indoors – which give her a faintly Roswell vibe. "Emperor" and "new clothes" are the words that spring to mind. People really must be petrified of her, and desperate to find favour with her, to keep on banging on about how great she looks, because she just looks completely unreal. Either that, or they really do just hate her.

The only more shocking thing I saw at the shows was a model whose eyes were bigger than her breasts. You could barely tell her torso from her head, poor thing, so maybe I'm simply not inured enough to the freakish excesses of fashion to be able to take Wintour, as I should, in my stride.

Stride, of course, being one of the other miracles of fashion. The girls sashaying around at the Jonathan Saunders show were so hobbled by their great big Louboutin cowboy shoe-boots that they could barely keep upright. One actually did crash into a wall as she exited stage left after her clump round a Barbican corridor, but everyone was too polite to acknowledge it.

While the Saunders clothes were an absolute miracle of slender elegance, I'm informed, perhaps scurrilously, that he makes a lot of his money by supplying very rich fat women with very rich fat kaftans. I'm for ever trying on narrow, sheath-like clothes from Saunders, and regretfully deciding that though I'm not too fat for them: they're just too heart-breakingly expensive to justify. So I find a lot of comfort in this. I did once actually buy one of his lovely tops, only to return it the next day on the grounds that I'd purchased it, by definition, while of unsound mind. I was given a full refund straight away, no further questions asked.

The truth, though, is that however silly you can see that fashion may be, up close it's tremendously seductive. A look at my notes from the Ann-Sofie Back show confirms that I have written, in all seriousness, "Shoulders, capes, skateboards, gloves", and that, even worse, it makes perfect, joyous, sense to me. What's more, when I left the show, I got driven home in a Maserati, by an Independent-reading chauffeur, for free and for absolutely no reason at all. It's the little details, as they say, that make a fashion moment.

* They definitely are funny about food in the fashion business, even the journalists. I heard one fashion editor say to another, at what normal people would consider to be dinnertime, that she hadn't eaten all day and was starving. Did her colleague have any plans for a meal that day, and if so, when? Her interlocutor confided that she was in the same position, and intended to look in at the John Rocha party in three hours or so, because there should be canapés. There may be a lot of hyperbole in fashion. But at least when they say "starving", they really mean it.

Bonuses preferred over blame

No wonder the bankers and politicians are so annoyed by Mervyn King. The Governor of the Bank of England has blown their cover. We're used to all that thrusting talk about how their dizzying risks deserve fabulous rewards. Now, though, one thing is clear. The money men feel perfectly justified in taking the lion's share of the spoils when all is going right, and Mr Brown is happy to stand by and let them. But the former also very much want the ghastly interventionist state to be the silent fall guy, picking up the bill when their risks turn out to have been a little too great, and keeping it all a cosy secret from the dumb old taxpayer.

King has the right instinct in his desire to build "moral hazard" into "light-touch" markets, and he is no doubt disappointed – and naive – to have learned so publicly and so belatedly that this isn't really possible. But what his critics are really angry about is that this uncomfortable fact is now so starkly out in the open. Indeed, King admits that despite his talk of moral hazard, a secret deal is what he too would have preferred, just like everybody else.

It is the takers, worldwide, of obvious risks, and not King, who are responsible for the chain of events that led to the run on Northern Rock, and there are plenty of people to share the blame for what has happened. But blame can't be parcelled up and handed over anything like as neatly as bonuses can, even if anyone was quite so eager to shout about how very special they are, and how very much they deserve the credit for the crunch.

* It's amazing the stuff you can get sucked into. Having been baffled by the Facebook phenomenon, I'm now feeling very popular and loved because my Facebook friends are wishing me a happy birthday. I've never had such a happy birthday, and it hasn't even come yet. At first I thought they'd all just had a collective attack of hyperefficiency. But now I realise there must be some birthday-alert thing going on. This, admittedly has spoiled things a bit. But only a bit.

And then there's gay best friend problem, with the law of diminishing returns decreeing that when you're young and foxy they tell you that you're the loveliest woman in the room, and when you're less young and less foxy they tell you that if you're too dumb to have plastic surgery, then there are always fillers.

You believe the stuff they say when you are 25, brushing aside the fact that you are in a club called Love Muscle with your gay best friend and 2,000 other gay men. But you believe the stuff they say when you are 45 as well, brushing aside all common sense once more. Which is why you find yourself in Harvey Nichols, while a woman calling herself Doctor injects hyaluronic acid into your nose-to-mouth lines.

She tells you that the hyaluronic acid will last six months, even though it actually lasts six hours. Guess what? Fillers are a waste of money. So glad I went to the bother of researching that one properly.

But I haven't been sucked into the controversy over the Blue Peter cats. What sort of a monster am I?

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