LEADING ARTICLE:The catwalks are due for a truce

The murder of Maurizio Gucci will perhaps prompt the fashion world to reflect upon vicious times. The designer's great rival, Valentino, may have called its perfume Vendetta, but the killing of the last member of the Gucci dynasty will shock even an industry that basks in mutual hatreds and intrigue. A spate of muggings for trainers was until now as close as the business got to actual bloodletting.

So how will fashion mourn one of its fallen heroes? Hopefully, Benetton will spare us the gory details of Mr Gucci's death in its next advertising campaign. Why not instead declare a brief moratorium on the backbiting that lies behind the silicon front of fashion?

It may be too much to expect models (babes and honeys to each other) to take on the manners of a Sunday school. But perhaps when the caravan draws into Manhattan this weekend for the autumn collections, the world's supersarcastics will water down their acid comments in deference to Gucci's memory. A bit less of "there goes a girl not afraid of the knife" as a surgically-improved rival skips down the catwalk. There might be fewer murmurs of "God, she looks pregnant," as Kate Moss develops from waifdom into a mere sylph.

Those attending shows could become a little less nasty to one another. Typically, the world's elegant women parade, expensively clad, only to be undermined by cruel mutterings about the ugly daughters they wisely left at home. Photographers might also cease their almost murderous competition for the best shot, and prima donnas among the press corps might give up battling for the front row.

The designers will find it hardest to change their ways. Ever since Coco Chanel sank her nails into Elsa Schiaparelli, a competitor in the Thirties, feuding has been fashionable. There was the memorable occasion when Pierre Cardin announced that he would not show his collection for fear of it being copied. Karl Lagerfeld sniped that Cardin's unnecessary precaution was like a loverless spinster deciding to go on the pill.

Of course the truce wouldn't last beyond a brief period of mourning. But why not give it a go in New York? Then we could all get back to fashion's real purpose: dressing to kill.

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