Ready to Wear: Purists frown on celebrities taking to the catwalks, but they raise a smile

By Susannah Frankel
Sunday 23 October 2011 07:55

It's London Fashion Week's 25th anniversary and for anyone out there who has failed to notice... Where have you been? After all, here, there and everywhere pundits have been pin-pointing golden moments. These, though, are the Independent's personal best.

Among the finest fashion shows was Alexander McQueen, spring/summer 1999. The finale included former ballerina Shalom Harlow spinning on a pedestal as her white dress was sprayed with paint courtesy of two particularly menacing robots borrowed from Fiat. Paralympic runner Aimee Mullins (pictured) made her debut on the catwalk here too. Mullins, who lost both legs from the knee down in a car accident as a child, said that she'd always wanted to model but never thought, despite good looks, she would be given the chance. Requests came into the McQueen office following the show to order the cherry wood prosthetics worn by Mullins throughout – which were mistaken for a nice pair of boots.

Equal but different was Hussein Chalayan's After Words 2000 collection where the designer's by now famous table skirt was shown for the first time. Wear your own furniture? And why not? Chalayan is also known for having buried his entire degree collection in a friend's back garden to see how it would look half decomposed which surely gives new meaning to fashion's ongoing love affair with worn/aged clothes. Joan Burstein, the inspirational founder of the Browns boutique, gave up her entire South Molton Street window to it.

More recently, as an homage to disgraced athlete, Tonya Harding, designer Peter Jensen employed the services of a troupe of pre-pubescent ice skaters for an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza at no more predictable fashion destination than Queensway. Rosy cheeks, pigtails and frilly knickers rubbed shoulders with a particularly cute repeat fruit and vegetable print that included less than glamorous fodder from potatoes to turnips.

Fashion purists may frown upon celebrities taking to the catwalk – there's no better way to ensure an average collection attracts more than it's fair share of press, after all – but they certainly raise a smile.

The best of the bunch over the past twenty-five years came courtesy of Matthew Williamson who delivered a live performance on the catwalk by Prince and his backing singers, Twinz. Also in the running: Paris Hilton opening and closing Julien Macdonald's show and Victoria Beckham walking the walk for Maria Grachvogel at the height of the autumn/winter 2000 season. She wasn't very good at it, for the record. Only last season meanwhile, Jo Wood took to Dame Vivienne Westwood's catwalk. They're like astral sisters those two, really, they are – good-time girls dancing around their handbags together in another life. Marvellous.

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