Someone has to tell the truth about fashion (… even if it does cost me that lovely olive greatcoat)
Stella McCartney (right) with friends Kate Moss and Rihanna at her London Fashion Week show
I write this still exhausted from the assault course that was London Fashion Week. And I do mean assault: the male bouncers at Vivienne Westwood shouted at me, and pushed and grabbed me. Promised a night of ‘dancing and cocktails’ by Stella McCartney, instead I was humiliated in a pen, some several hundred feet above the action.
While committed fur-wearer Anna Wintour was seated on Stella’s right at the six-course dinner, I – an animal rights activist for 30 years, and a huge fan of Stella’s work and ethics (she refuses to use leather) – was given a couple of almonds to chew on, unable to see the clothes. I had to smile at the irony, though, after my scathing review was published and I was couriered a fabulous gift of perfume, shower gel, body lotion and chocolates (vegan, hopefully), and a handwritten note from Stella herself. Was this an apology Or a bribe so I would play nicely next time
On Monday, I was called by Sir Philip Green, the boss of Arcadia. He told me he enjoyed my review of London Fashion Week, most particularly of his Topshop show, so much that he had instructed his assistant to bike me the olive greatcoat I’d liked so much.
‘Ooh, goodie,’ I said. But he went on to say that he’d immediately cancelled the order when he reached the last paragraph of my piece, which revealed how, every time Sir Philip sees me at one of his catwalk shows, he asks, without fail: ‘Who let you in’
Like a trend, you can be in one minute and a snow-washed denim pariah the next.
When I read all the other reviews of the McCartney love-in, I felt as if I was living in a parallel universe. ‘I was in the queue for the loo with Kate Moss!’ gushed one grown woman.
This is an example of why you can never dignify a person who writes about fashion or edits a glossy with the epithet of journalist – and most certainly can never utter their name in the same sentence as that of someone like Marie Colvin, the murdered war reporter.
I don’t really understand why people who write about fashion are so easily bought. It isn’t just the freebies, although these can be considerable. While editor of Marie Claire, I was given, among showers of other things, the following:
A trip to a medi spa on Capri, with a stay on a yacht.
A holiday at Goldeneye in Jamaica, the former home of Ian Fleming.
A monogrammed Louis Vuitton traveller.
About 50 handbags from brands including Prada, Gucci, and Tod’s.
Silk bed linen by Nicole Farhi.
A wicker lilo by Gucci.
Chamois leather trousers and a suede coat and silk dress by Alberta Ferretti.
So what, aside from the freebies, makes the fashion critic so, well, uncritical Editors of the glossies have no choice: each designer brand runs a points system. If a star they approve of wears their designs on your cover, you get ten points. If a star they don’t approve of wears their clothes – and by this I mean a black actress or singer, or a fatty – you get nul points. A fashion spread gets eight, a single page seven, a catwalk photo six and so on.
Anna Wintour and Sir Philip Green at the Topshop show. Are fashion editors living in a parallel universe
Glossies have few readers, given their sycophantic ‘reviews’ of skin cream and scent, and so are almost entirely dependent on this unhealthy relationship.
But newspaper fashion critics puzzle me. They have more autonomy, but still they will write that everything Victoria Beckham designs is touched with genius, not that she uses far too much python skin. For them, it’s all about status.
At a Burberry show a few seasons ago, almost every woman in the front row had a free Burberry bag at her feet. No wonder when the activists at Peta stormed the catwalk, fashion critics, to a maven, screamed, then cheered as the young girls were wrenched from the stage by their hair.
After I was sacked by Marie Claire, I tumbled to the bottom of the fash pack. When I was barred by Victoria Beckham last season, a writer asked her why – and she said it was because my criticism was ‘personal’. Well, if a designer shamelessly parades their baby and footballer husband front row and centre, then it’s kid gloves off. She made it personal.
Since writing about fashion for this newspaper, I have been given by Mulberry an apple bag, which I auctioned for a horse charity, and a pale pistachio (in fashion, green is also ‘leaf’, beige is always ‘truffle’, while white is, wait for it, ‘snowball’!) Bayswater Satchel, which I gave to Save the Children for a fundraiser. Can you believe my brand new bag, with a retail price of 695, not to mention enclosed goodies of 350 spa voucher, Acqua di Parma bath oil and books, went for 483
That pretty much sums up this shallow, stupid, badly read, nanny-oppressing profession. Once used to a 40 per cent discount card, it’s nigh on impossible to return to the real world.