Philip Hensher: What would we do without Dame Viv?

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The Independent Online

The developing depression in the global economy is having many disastrous effects. But surely one of the lesser ones is that the inhabitants of Moscow are no longer going to be able to buy the mini-crini, the ripped pirate-style jacket, the safety-pinned T-shirt or any other of Vivienne Westwood's creations.

Along with some other British designers, Dame Vivienne bowed to the inevitable this weekend and closed her shop on Boulevard Ring in Moscow. Enormous rents and small sales could no longer justify its presence there.

A Russian magazine editor called Olga Zaretskaya put the boot in with her reflection that "If someone who works in an office buys a D&G bag, people will know it cost €3,000. If she buys a McQueen bag, it will cost her more than €3,000 and no one will know."

They really don't get it, do they, fashion people? Years of maintaining that a £2,000 bag of deeply eccentric design must be worth it, it being a classic, have clearly been discredited. To move on to say that, of course, an Alexander McQueen bag turns out not to be worth the money, but a Dolce and Gabbana bag goes on being worth it – that, I am afraid, is to take everybody for fools.

This recession is exposing the real worth of things with considerable efficiency. The bags, belts, accessories, perfumes and marginal products with which most fashion houses make most of their money are being exposed as stuff that, really, we wouldn't mind paying, say, fifty quid or a hundred for. Pay £3,000 for a handbag? What, exactly, were we thinking? And that goes, too, for rapacious Moscow landlords. How much per month to rent a shoebox in one of the world's least enchanting capital cities? Who, exactly – you can hear Dame Vivienne inquiring in her no-nonsense Lancashire tones – agreed this crap?

Lights are going out all over Europe and the world. Roll up the map of Dubai's shopping quarter; it won't be needed again in our lifetime. One overstretched and over-promoted British business after another is stopping, thinking twice, and retreating to see what can be rescued. Gordon Ramsay's restaurants in Prague, Berlin, Los Angeles have dried up or moved on. There have been some mutterings among the public about Ramsay's name being a mere franchise operation. What do you get, exactly, in a Ramsay restaurant? Why would you go there rather than Bocca di Lupo?

The recession is going to be hard and will lead to much personal misery. Anyone can see that. But it is going to be hardest on lazy businesses which have taken too much for granted, over-expanded, asked absurd and fantastic sums of money for gestures of random opulence. Some people will go under undeservedly; others will be burnt very deservedly, complaining that they can't get credit from the banks. What would they do with the credit? Go on ripping off the public, I expect.

A really good, quality business will ride out a recession, because people start to approach services as customers, and not as supplicants. I think we can start to see an end to all talk of waiting lists for handbags, for instance. And Moscow, and its commercial landlords, are just going to have to do without Vivienne Westwood. I'm sure everyone will be able to cope, somehow.

Regius Professor Petal Blossom Rainbow Oliver

Jamie Oliver makes quite a point of never having read a book. So I don't suppose we should be at all surprised that he has called his latest daughter Petal Blossom Rainbow.

It's a charming name for a baby girl, or possibly for a perfume made by a monoglot Japanese toiletry manufacturer. But it does rather display how limited Mr and Mrs Oliver's ambitions for their new daughter are. Could you imagine Dame Petal Blossom Oliver, Regius Professor of Chemistry at Oxford?

So best wishes to Petal Blossom Rainbow. I hope she grows up plain, clever, funny, articulate; I hope she doesn't give a toss about food or celebrity, and never has her nose out of a book; I hope she wears the same soup-stained grey cardigan from one month to the next, and makes an important breakthrough in a field where the word "molecular" is not automatically followed by the word "gastronomy".

I hope, to be honest, that she gets to 16, grows a moustache, and changes her name to Gertrude. Let's hope she meets up, one day, with kids whose parents called them Bluebell, or Princess Tiaamii, or Apple, and laughs at the preposterous lack of ambition those parents revealed on day one.

The clothes horse and the real achievers

Naomi Campbell, right, pleaded guilty last June to charges relating to the assault of a police officer, disorderly behaviour and offensive and threatening behaviour towards British Airways staff. This was not a one-off incident, but only one in a long line of reported incidents of rage and violence perpetrated by Miss Campbell. Last week, the world's leaders came to London for the G20, and Miss Campbell was a welcome guest at the dinner for the visitors and their spouses.

We should probably feel considerable shame that our Government could think of so few distinguished and significant British women that they had to include someone like Naomi Campbell, whose personal failings are so well known and publicised, and whose achievements, as far as I can see, consist of putting on clothes and walking up and down, and paying someone else to write a novel on her behalf. What must real achievers like J K Rowling and Dame Kelly Holmes have thought, when they saw the company they had found themselves in?

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