Friday, September 21, 2007

Window onto Another World

On Wednesday afternoon I went to a fashion show. Yes, that’s right – me at a fashion show! I was at the SmithSpence show at the Royal Academy of the Arts, part of the On/Off series.

I’m not really a fashion person. I realise I have written about fashion a few times here but that has mainly been my obsession with appropriateness – wearing the right thing at the right time (which might actually be the antithesis of fashion to many). I suppose I’m also interested in where fashion crosses over with other things - if life was a Venn diagram, I’d be interested in the bit of fashion where it intersects with music, film, art etc. But I don’t know anything much about fashion designers as it isn’t something that impacts on my life, having a resoundingly high street budget.

So what was I doing at a fashion show? This will blow my anonymity if anyone involved finds this, but I think I should explain – I wouldn’t want people thinking I’d gatecrashed. The designer Julian (the Smith) is the younger brother of my best friend (K) from university. K was in London for one day to see her brother’s show so invited me along so that we could meet up while she was here.

The champagne was free-flowing and it was great to see K and her whole family again. Parents, aunts and cousins had all turned up en masse to see the show - the father compared it to the end of Billy Elliot where the northern folk go to see him dance. Their mother was still an absolute star, fussing, probing and giving advice in exactly the same way she had throughout our university days and still comparing me to her old college friend. We were then invited back to the house of the business partner (the Spence) – a smart Belgravia house, the likes of which the likes of me wouldn’t normally see the inside of, which added a further surreal dimension to the day.

So what of the fashion show itself? Speaking as someone involved in the theatre and events organisation, I realised the immense pressure that putting on a show must create. Months of work all leading up to this brief show, this one chance to get it right, to impress. No wonder people were nervous. It started late (I believe this is common – unlike in the theatre where great pride is taken in getting that curtain up on time) but other than that it seemed to go smoothly. None of the model tripped coming down the staircase. And the dresses were amazing.

Every industry has its own vocabulary and in writing this, I realise I don’t really possess the right words to describe it as it isn’t my realm (perhaps Mrs Fashion might pop up to help?). The collection was dresses. I think it is what would be described as couture as they won’t be selling the dresses onto shops, but are individually handmade for each customer. On the whole, they were the sort of thing you’d wear at a premiere, although there were a few that could work as day dresses. Julian is obviously very talented and it was great to see someone having some success in their chosen field.

In the past, I’ve been sceptical of designer clothes and their price tags, thinking how much better can a bag/shoe/dress be (there is a book out now that is about the top designer names not using the best quality materials these days) but these dresses were entirely something else. Everything had been handsewn, the detailing was amazing, even down to how the fastening had been sewn on (I had the benefit of seeing them up close afterwards) and the cut of the material was so good that words like float and flow could be taken quite literally. And whilst I’m unlikely to ever have the money if I did have a spare couple of thousand, I think it would be better spent on one of these dresses than a couple of big name designer handbags.


Mrs Fashion said...

What do you mean?! Your writing is always totally eloquent! And it's always great to read another perspective on the sometimes very introverted world of fashion writing. My work here is done (well, it was actually never needed in the first place!) x

M said...

Lately, I've gotten a little insight into the art behind clothing and fashion. I have a friend who has quickly become very successful designing fabrics. She handpaints these unusual silk pieces and then turns them into her own designs. The local resort wear shops are clamoring for her stuff! But it's so expensive, I could never buy one. All hand-created, all pure silk -- quality deserving of the high prices, but I certainly can't afford them. It's like wearing art.

SandDancer said...

Mrs Fashion - thank you for popping up like a genie! Much appreciated.

M - I think seeing the work that goes into these things makes you appreciate them much more.