Proper, grown-up clothes courtesy of Burberry, the biggest (and yet very small) magazine editors in town, a posh new venue in Somerset House and heaving crowds at lavish parties: as a fashion capital London was punching above its weight this week. The city's financial sector might be in the doldrums but its fashion industry seems to be bearing up, particularly given that it's the least commercially hard-nosed of the bunch. But London designers have always pulled through the tough times; John Galliano, notoriously, spent the first years of his career in London and Paris living in virtual penury.
One sure sign LFW is having a good war is the presence of US journalists and buyers. However, if they do deign to fly in, they're equally as keen on spotting what the audience and the kids in the street are wearing as what's being shown on catwalks. Americans are useless at "street" fashion; for young Brits the decision to slip on, say, a Forties frock or chunky, brogued boots comes naturally.
I had a chance to spot the trends like a wide-eyed Yank by inveigling myself into two fashion parties: the first, on Saturday, was to celebrate the new issue of style mag Fantastic Man and involved impressive amounts of free champagne; the second, on Monday, to launch an exhibition of fashion site SHOWstudio.com, was equally well-lubricated. For any Americans who can't remember much of either, the trends boiled down to: full beards, 1950s-style black tie and expensive shoes for men; for women, form-fitting black dresses, bowl haircuts, sheer black stockings. Try pulling that off in your "downtown".
A brilliant detective story
Terry Herbert's discovery of a haul of Anglo-Saxon treasure in Stafforshire made me envious. In between the dressing-up-box years and the pet-rabbit-keeping phase, I spent many weekends with my metal detector. Giant headphones clamped over both ears, my hands gripping the mop-like extendable pole with the white disc at the end that looked like the USS Enterprise, I was kept out of trouble for hours. I never turned up anything but strands of silver foil and water pipes and garden wire, but, as I spent yet another afternoon sweeping the garden for treasure I'm sure my parents must have remarked more than once that silence is golden.
At Somerset House I met Antony Price, the legendary fashion designer who masterminded the arch-glamour of countless Roxy Music LP covers. We were discussing a sighting of Joan Collins (another of his clients) on a front row earlier in the week when he delivered a bon mot that should reassure those of us considerably older and fatter than the average catwalk model.
"It's all about the face, you know, with women like [Collins] – her and Camilla Parker-Bowles. It just doesn't matter what the rest of them looks like."