Its fashion credentials are a source of some pride to London; these streets have been a catwalk for punks in Vivienne Westwood's bondage trousers and skinny Sixties girls in Mary Quant's mini skirts – not to mention Beau Brummell's immaculately furled cravat.
And today, the young designers trained by our fashion colleges tend to be both iconoclastic and quite brilliant. But commercially mighty they are not.
All the same, for the past 25 years London has scraped by, somehow managing to be counted as a fashion capital (with New York, Paris and Milan), and staging a week of designer shows as part of the biannual, four-stage event. The spring 2009 shows are due to start on Sunday at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington and in cafes and car parks across the capital.
But there is trouble afoot. The organisers of New York's fashion week, which opens the season, want to push back its dates next year – overlapping with London's prized slot and reducing a week to a mere three days.
As a journalist who has reported from the catwalks in all four cities, I just can't believe it has taken this long for London, bloated by middle-ranked designers with none of the spark that draws talent-spotters, to slim down.
It's true that a truncated event would cause many industry professionals to skip directly from New York to Milan; with few exceptions, most fashion editors and buyers are only interested in the big status brands.
But even London's decision to scrap health certificates for young models, a cynical attempt to curry favour with the body fascists of Milan and Paris, won't help them in times as tough as these. The Americans will no doubt get their way (and keep Victoria Beckham too, who launches "her" collection of dresses in Manhattan today). And if only the best young stars of tomorrow make it on to a shorter London catwalk, well, that's surely not such a bad thing.
A pulse, or a throb?
So, a "hockey mom" could soon be "a heartbeat away" from the presidency. I leave dissection of the former stereotype to others; personally, I find the latter figure of speech fascinating. It's a synecdoche both heartily rude – this old dude could peg out at any second – and yet romantic, bringing to my mind Buddy Holly, PC Nick Berry and the Wham! album track of the same name. Further, is that "heartbeat" a continuous pulse? Or a single, faltering, final throb? (The second sense making a beehive in the White House seem rather more likely than the first.) I lie awake at night wondering about this, as I am sure the Governor of Alaska now does, too.Reuse content