Fashion Long Read

Club Couture

You've been subpoena’d by Anna Wintour! An inside look at London Fashion Week.

Anyone who’s anyone is in town and the events are trash unless someone is filming them and interviewing all the guests. I’m at Annabel’s, at Lady Gaga’s album launch, where my task is to ask Stephen Fry and now-forgotten indie-pop bands if they are ‘a Jesus or a Judas’ because the latter is one of Gaga’s songs.

‘Are you a Jesus or a Judas?’

‘Judas,’ The Hoosiers giggle.

I’m confused as to why it’s cooler to be Judas seeing as you don’t get a halo, but everyone seems to think it is – everyone except, who is not into the question. I apologise and say it’s stupid, but that’s what Gaga called her song, so here we are. He understands. No offence taken. As we talk, I notice Kate Moss has arrived but is immediately smuggled into a side room. My cameraman wanders off and I forget all about Kate as begins telling me some extraordinary things.

‘Have you heard about the millions of birds falling from the sky?’ he asks.

‘No? I didn’t see that in the news…’

‘The thousands of fish that are rising from the sea, dead?’

‘No, I haven’t heard about that either.’

I’m unsure if he is warning me about the second coming – and implying that I should stop asking this stupid fucking question – or talking about climate change.

Having recently smashed my phone, I’ve borrowed a friend’s pink and silver Samsung Pebble: an ancient, much coveted piece of flip-phone technology. I’ve carelessly laid it on the wooden bar we’re leaning against, as I’m pretty confident no one’s going to nick it. He notices it, and so unrecognisable is it to him in all its sublime obsolescence that he stops talking for the first time in about twenty minutes. He looks at the Samsung Pebble in silence for a second and then looks back to me, eyes narrowed, and says, ‘Is that a recording device?’

‘What, this?’ I laugh, picking up the Samsung Pebble. ‘No, I broke my phone, this is a Samsung Pebble.’ I demonstrate its flip technology, which is about all the technology it has. Satisfied, he continues, and seeing I am a connoisseur of modern technology, he divulges, ‘I’m investing in technology that is modeled on the mechanics of flies’ eyes – hundreds of tiny cameras all acting as one camera.’ I want to hear more but someone comes up to him and ushers him to leave. I continue acting suspiciously, asking people if they betrayed the Son of God.

It’s very late, Annabel’s empties itself of glittering bodies. Enviously, I eye the room Kate’s been in all night and wonder whether it’s time to leave her alone. Hanging around like this feels a little desperate.

‘We’ll wait a little longer’, my boss for the night informs me.

Kate finally lurches out of the room. There are whispers of excitement from the few people still here. This is pre-sobriety Moss, and I’d like to say Moss looks like we all look when we’re smashed, but she doesn’t: she glows like a celestial body, even if her eyelids are beginning to droop. I try to discreetly alert my boss that Moss may have partaken too much of the mead, but I’m nudged over to interview her anyway. Although she is very obliging and words definitely come out of her mouth, the enunciation is the same as the rest of us when we’re smashed. So it’s best for everyone involved that we don’t use it.

To kick fashion week off we are subpoenaed to the Royal Courts of Justice and served Anna Wintour. She is the most fascinating of the front row crew simply because she doesn’t appear to walk, anywhere. One minute there’s an empty seat on the front row – the unfilled space vibrating importance – and a split second later and she’s materialised in her single, unchanging stance, legs crossed, glasses on. She stays throughout the show, the show finishes, you look back, and she’s gone.

Oh well.

Next up it’s Giles Deacon. While I was interviewing front of house, Lily Allen has shown me all the swear words she can use, which is impressive but completely unusable. An A-list Hollywood actor arrives late, too late for me to interview him before the show starts. Afterwards I’m backstage to interview Giles but am distracted by the actor, who is standing around while the models change, his reason for being back there is anyone’s guess. I assume he is waiting to talk to Giles Deacon and this is the best place we could find to wait. Everyone seems content, no models seem bothered by his presence, so maybe I shouldn’t feel uncomfortable, but I do, and although the actor is happy to give an interview I end it after two questions. Back in the edit suite, the guys speculate about why the A-lister might have been there and I’m surprised to discover the most respectful cameramen at fashion week also work on Babestation.

Today, all the big boys are in town. Magazine editors are professionals. This is a business and they aren’t just here to pose. Suzy Menkes gives the clipped answers of a riding instructor. Alexandra Shulman gives astute no-nonsense responses, and I expect the same from Jefferson Hack, who I’ve met previously and had a perfectly civil conversation with. Life is good. Abbey Clancy sparkles like kunzite in the distance. I take a chocolate from one of the statuesque men positioned around the building and head over to get some real insight.

‘Hi, Jefferson.’

His face begins to contort. What’s happening? Oh, he’s trying to smile. Ok, that’s nice.

‘I’m looking to get an interview.’

‘Mmmm… how nice for you,’ his little hole interjects.

‘Yeah… it’s ok. Thanks,’ I laugh nervously. ‘Um, anyway, could we get your thoughts on the week so far, and–’


‘So, I should make the assumption that you don’t have time to do even a very quick interview?’

‘Yes, you should.’

The smile vanishes and the little hole on his face closes. His little blue eyes blink. And now, what’s this? Is this… a genuine smile? He is enjoying himself! That’s nice, because he reminds me of the kid in The Secret Garden who can’t be put in sunlight, except now the kid is old and embittered and sad all the time, and a part of me does feel a bit sorry for him. But him talking to me like that makes it impossible for me to interview any of his neighbours.

By the next day I’m subsisting entirely on freebies. In the past 24 hours I’ve exclusively eaten salty popcorn. The sole liquid to have passed my lips is presumably near-fatal quantities of Vitaminwater; there is no actual water at fashion week, just Vitaminwater. As we leave a show held in a townhouse on Portland Place my cameraman informs me the building is also hired out for swingers’ orgies. What finer way to admire the cornicing?

Now we’re at Christopher Kane. We’re high up in a lot of steel and glass somewhere above the city. It’s a beautiful sunny day and even Anna Wintour has retained human form long enough to talk with me. As I wander off I spot Kanye West behind a nearby wall. Yeezy is small in stature and wearing faded denim, ripped tastefully just below the penis. He looks a little lost. This bodes well, I think. I’ll go and save him with my questions.

I introduce myself and he replies with pleasantries. A few photographers arrive and soon Kanye and I are in a sea of flashes. We start walking and, as I’m holding my microphone, I assume we’re about to start talking. In fact, I’m about to witness an incredible feat of human weirdness.

Kanye is smiling. It’s an absolutely massive smile. He’s going to say something great, I can just feel it.

‘So yeah, Kanye, if you could–’

Kanye’s lips do not move. They remain in a smile, and through his fixed rictus come the words, ‘I don’t do fucking interviews, man.’

All that remains of this moment are photos of myself and Kanye West, grinning, seemingly having the most wonderful time.

The wrangling of supermassive egos continues at the Topman show, where I’m obliged to interview Phillip Green. He talks for a very long time, so I’m keen to wrap it up. I spot Ronnie Wood and make my excuses. ‘Thanks, Philip, byyyeee.’

Wood is full of gags and is incredibly proud of how skeletal he is. I nod along as he tells me he can still fit into the same trousers as when he was a teenager. I can’t really use this footage but it is at least entertaining. Then, an enormous piece of flesh in a grey suit with hair like Staffordshire pottery dogs just stands in front of me.

Philip Green has manoeuvred in front of me and the camera and started vomiting sweet nothings at Ronnie Wood. Wood, who was mid-sentence, becomes discombobulated. He’s seemingly held hostage by Green, stuttering in response to his pleasantries. There’s a horrible moment where he isn’t a Rolling Stone, he’s just a little old man. True to form, he swiftly returns to geezer mode and I breathe a sigh of relief.

I’m afraid Benedict Cumberbatch is as friendly and polite as everyone reluctantly says he is (even I was Cumberbitched), as is David Gandy, most widely known as the moody D&G model but today he’s here to bring smiling back into style. He’s launching his film night at the boutique cinema in the Hospital Club. Gandy’s screening Zoolander to the fashion crowd and it’s going to be hilarious because it’s going to make them laugh at themselves. It’s all very meta and there’s free drinks. Chic! Everyone says they’re going – celebrities, editors, hangers-on. It’s only a small theatre so I’ll be lucky to get a seat.

I arrive late and creep into the rammed theatre. The lights are down except for the ones near the stage where the drinks are. It’s very quiet for a rammed theatre, I think, peering into the darkness where people are supposed to be. But there’s no one here. No one has come except for a blogger and an obscure men’s jewelry designer. And there’s poor old David Gandy and his girlfriend. I want to pretend he’s not there, like a lump of broccoli in someone’s teeth, but I smile and wave and pretend not to have noticed only three of us have turned up. I came for the screenplay, anyway, I tell myself. Except, the film is not as funny as I remember. I watch the back of Gandy’s head emitting regular waves of embarrassment for 120 minutes. I can’t help thinking that if I must watch a man humiliate himself in front of me in a dark room, then really I should be charging.

After the trauma of Philip Green and David Gandy’s existential crisis to Zoolander, I’m looking forward to some Richard James.

Elton John arrives looking immaculate and we are alerted by his security that he’s not doing interviews with anyone. There’s a collective sigh of disappointment from the great unwashed. David Furnish and I smile the smile of mutual acknowledgement from years of fashion weeks as I prepare to lean against the wall and have a little snooze. But Elton John’s looking at me. The next thing I know I’m being nodded over by someone standing next to him. ‘Come!’ I whisper-hiss at my cameraman.

‘David tells me you’re very nice,’ Elton says. ‘So, would you like to do a quick interview? Very quick though?’

‘Oh amazing, thank you. Yes, please.’ My hands are shaking. My mouth is dry. Blood is pumping so hard around my head I have no idea what he says. Everyone is crowded around us seething with jealousy. I have to get very drunk to calm down again.

It’s the last day of fashion week. I’m running on very little sleep now. My blood is 99% Vitaminwater; names and faces are beginning to blur. I’m telling John Cooper Clarke how I was talking to Keith Richards yesterday, his best mate and infamous rebel, who not only snorted his father’s ashes but told me at length about how he absolutely loves Topman.

‘Really? Does he?’ Clarke says, surprised.

‘Yeah, yeah, he’s absolutely mad for it.’

Suddenly, I realise I’ve got two of the Rolling Stones mixed up. I sneak off to Burberry. In the monolithic clingfilm tent I interview Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. She says she remembers me from last year, which I think is nice until her assistant leans in and, like a Kray twin, adds, ‘Rosie never forgets a face.’ Paloma Faith is kicking things off with some feel good vibes. Unfortunately, this song has a lot of very high notes and the amplifiers are turned up to 11, which means the feel good vibes are excruciatingly loud. I try to maintain my Jeremy Thorpe-style unemotional façade while I contemplate life without eardrums. I look around the crowd and notice that everyone, and really, I mean almost every single person, has covered their ears. Like, the whole tent. It’s awful. One woman has covered both her ears and is shout-mouthing to her neighbour what looks like ‘why?!’

And here ends another fashion week, where for every Jesus there is a Judas, shopping the nearest famous person out. Thank god for the Judases. It wouldn’t be the same without us.

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