Lisa Markwell: Crazy for a piece of the fashion action


Wednesday 22 September 2010 00:00

It's been a significant week for British fashion, all in all. A-listers made a catwalk of the entrance to St Paul's Cathedral for Alexander McQueen's memorial service, and Z-listers made it on to a real catwalk for Giles Deacon's show. In fact, fashion has almost eaten itself. Socialite Daphne Guinness fell off her McQueen heels outside St Paul's in front of Naomi Campbell, who famously fell off her heels once at a catwalk show.

Meanwhile Abbey Clancy – wronged pregnant fiancée (I know, I know) of footballer Peter Crouch – and famed-for-being-pneumatic Kelly Brook strutted their stuff before the international glossy posse wearing clothes that they both would find far too modest in real life.

Ah, fashion. You know British fashion is having a moment when The Sun reports on it, although the paper seems to have shown attendees to McQueen's memorial from the ankle down, mainly to get in the headline: "We miss shoe so much, Alexander". It's a bit of a shame that the antics of the aforementioned celebrity models and the staggeringly inappropriate amount of décolletage that Kate Moss got out at the cathedral get more attention than the beautiful, wearable clothes seen on the catwalks, but 'twas ever thus.

Now Samantha Cameron, who bowed out of her role at uber-stylish stationers Smythson when her husband got the big promotion, is to take on an as-yet unspecified role with the British Fashion Council. "London Fashion Week is extremely important to the fashion industry in the UK and I look forward to being fully involved from next season," she commented. "We have so much young talent that needs to be supported and nurtured to ensure we are building brands and businesses for the future."

And, she might have added, I'm a bit bored with sitting in the flat with baby Florence (such an on-trend name, she's obviously still "got it"). Smiling at foreign dignitaries and listening to interminable speech rehearsals must be a lot less entertaining than bantering front-row with Big Phil Green and deciding whether this season's bag shape is hobo, tote or frame.

Who can blame her for wanting to get in on the action, when our designers, models and stylists are once more in the ascendant? It is desperately sad that such a mighty creative talent as Alexander McQueen has gone, but there are several names worthy to take British fashion to new heights. Christopher Bailey at Burberry, Marios Schwab and Erdem are just three. Mrs Cameron has chosen a good time to fly the flag. Just don't expect to see her wearing the relaunch collection of Elizabeth "Princess Diana's wedding dress" Emanuel. There are limits, even in fashion.

Step forward, the new Notting Hill

I know I'm going to regret this but I'm going to say it anyway: Notting Hill, "one of the capital's most sought-after districts" (according to this newspaper yesterday) is So Over. Now that the stucco'n'syringes streets are host to a Channel 4 reality show – Seven Days, which starts tonight – we can stop the pretence that this overpriced enclave of American ex-pat bankers and trustafarians is in any way trendy or important.

There's just no reason why viewers should be any more interested in the inhabitants of W11 than they are those of E14 or (insert your postcode here). Alas, the arrival of Seven Days has stimulated London dinner-party conversation in ways other than those intended by the programme's producers. It's time to play "Xxxx is the new Notting Hill". After Hoxton, Stoke Newington, and Peckham, the place of the moment seems to be north of Notting Hill, with a battle taking place between neighbours Kensal Rise and Queen's Park for the honours. Kensal Rise received a herogram in the pages of The New York Times last week – the article extolled the virtues of a florist selling chipped enamel pitchers – while Queen's Park has the nation's highest density of GWiz electric cars, making it an eco-warrior's theme park.

Poor old Notting Hill – it had only just got over the crushing embarrassment of the Richard Curtis film; now it is dead and buried thanks to a celebrity chef's daughter and an unemployed rapper. Of course, it might help that the aforementioned, vaguely suburban pretenders to W11's crown are where all the glossy journalists moved to when prices got too high on the Hill.

My type of debate (but beware of the typos)

In other statements of the bleedin' obvious: don't start a war with teachers with a misspelt missive. Kirstie Allsopp, doyenne of property porn like Location, Location, Location and champion of womanly curves (she was doing curvaceous before Mad Men's Joan Holloway was even thought of), is currently running a Twitter campaign/debate on the pros and cons of homework for primary-school-age children. She's anti-, believing reading, playing and cooking with little ones teaches them more than ploughing through textbooks.

I happen to agree, but it's the perils of using Twitter which speaks more to me. We've all typed "there" when we mean "their", in haste – as Allsopp did – but when those with the opposing viewpoint earn their wage by circling spelling mistakes in red pen, things get pretty scary pretty quickly.

The scorn with which that little error was greeted was terrifying (in fact, the responses were the written equivalent of the expression on the face of my son's teacher when I corrected her spelling on parents' evening...). One education professional commented that there were more anti- than pro-homework responses because "teachers are too busy to tweet". Um, say what?

Ms Allsopp's prolific tweets are testament to passionate beliefs, so it would be a shame if the Comprehension, Comprehension, Comprehension jokes overshadowed a potentially important debate which, if nothing else, allows parents and teachers alike to rant without reprimand from governors. Join the debate at #hmwk.

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