Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Suzy Menkes with Nina Garcia, Michael Kors and Heidi Klum at the Project Runway fall 2009 fashion show in New York.
Suzy Menkes with Nina Garcia, Michael Kors and Heidi Klum at the Project Runway fall 2009 fashion show in New York.

The real leaders of fashion's pack

So you think it's you who determines what you wear? Our correspondent takes a look at who really makes the decisions about haute-couture.

One down, two and a half to go... fashion weeks that is. The circus that is the spring/summer 2010 international catwalk season, which kicked off in New York 10 days ago, has pitched up in London. Today - day three - there are 10 presentations alone on the official calendar and twice as many going on in various locations dotted across town. Exciting stuff. And we're not just talking about fashions on the runways. Glancing at the audience, those stylists and magazine editors who between them set the very compass of fashion all gathered under the one roof, is by far my favourite part.

You find more trends among this lot than on any red carpet. Sure, designers make the dishes but it's the stylist or editor who works out what's going on the menu. Up close, fashion diagnosticians are fascinating. Not so much a soup as a salad bowl in terms of their individual looks. Let's just say no matter the season or what's going on trendwise, a tomato will always look like a tomato. Take Suzy Menkes, the formidable fashion editor of The International Herald Tribune. Today, she will be wearing the same quiffed hairdo and something fetchingly anonymous, as she has done for the past four decades. Remarkably, unlike the rest of us lemmings, the crowd responsible for fuelling our addiction to accumulation are immune to the very trends they promote.

Occasionally they might give a nod to whatever they have ordained fashionable - the vertiginous stacked heel, superfluous buckles, "body-con" - but most stick rigidly to just one style: one that suits both their figure and status as a style guru. This could be anything from "talking point" couture collector's items ("a gift from our beloved Yves in '83") to heirloom jewels. While they may love Balenciaga, they will be acutely aware of fashion's tendency to be ageorexic/sizest. They also face a political minefield in terms of whose products they are seen in. Too much Chanel? Too little Dior? Either could be devastating in terms of advertising in their publications. Nor must they be seen as shrinking violets.

At the core of the fashion It-eratti are a bunch of timelessly elegant (as opposed to "on-trend") women led by US Vogue's Anna Wintour, French Vogue's Carine Roitfeld, the Sozzani sisters, Franca, editor-in-chief of Italian Vogue since 1988 and her sister, Carla, the former fashion stylist who founded the legendary Milan boutique, 10 Corso Como, and Menkes. There is also a handful of guys at the hub of fashion's elite like Tim Blanks, who works for Style.com, a notable authority on all catwalk matters, and Andre Leon Talley, Wintour's statuesque and debonair sidekick who recently wore velvet heeled slippers ("man mules") to a show which no one dared question.

Until now the only people who got a glimpse of the most important style-makers on the planet were their peers. That's all over thanks to "hawkers", the latest addition to the fash pack, who, armed with a camera, have started to prey on professional trendsetters. Take Scott Schuman - the Canadian behind www.thesartorialist.com - for example. As well as blowing the cover on fashionistas, his paparazzi style is influencing fashion campaigns.

What I find miraculous about certain fashion editors is not just that they wear the same clothes year in year out but how they spookily all look the same age (or is this simply the sign of being innately a good stylist?). It is inspiring to see so many effortlessly stylish women looking fantastic, freakish and fabulous, working a sequin beret, a pair of sparkly Indian earrings or "glam grunge", not because it's fashionable but because it is their look.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Thoughtful tailoring at Asudari

The womenswear label Asudari showcased a collection that featured sharp masculine tailoring, but with feminine silhouettes.

Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games.

Designer Lamia Asudari says she was influenced by Delftware ceramics from the 16th century, as well as the imagery of weaponry and artillery. Indeed, pistols, grenades and guns were emblazoned over jackets and dresses.

 Several of Jo Baaklini's pieces featured fruit prints. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: At Starch, watermelon shirts, anyone?

“We need to cultivate our own fashion heroes — our own regional brands,” stressed Fashion Forward’s honcho Bong Guerrero in a press con two weeks ago.

Aptly, the slot for this season’s opening runway show was given to two newbies: Jo Baaklini and Timi Hayek, whose talents were scouted by Starch, a group dedicated to launching emerging Lebanese designers.

Between the two, Mr Baaklini had a stronger showing.

 Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece. Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Jean Louis Sabaji’s debatable debut

Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece, the floral crop top, and the radiant yellow pleated skirt.

But most of the time he went too far. There were bell-bottoms, separates that looked like costumes from The Jetsons, and a yellow dress reminiscent of Bjork’s infamous Oscars swan dress — several disparate elements in one multicoloured, multilayered show.

 Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all.” Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Kage pleases all palates

Did the designers of Kage aim to showcase every type of basic clothing on their latest show?

Because there were skirts, shorts, trousers, off-shoulder tops, short dresses, cocktail dresses, long flowy dresses, spaghetti straps, jackets, hoods — and even pyjamas, which with the incoming summer heat, looked especially appealing.

Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all”, they said in their statement.

 The standout was a grey hooded cape that created a tension between edge and elegance. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Polish, craft (and fur!) at The Emperor 1688

The best show of Day 1 at Fashion Forward was delivered by the three Golkar brothers behind The Emperor 1688.

The coats and capes were the clear winners: they came in all sorts of interesting colours and sizes — and featured exceptionally tailored proportions. There was a lot of volume, but also stiffness.

And whimsy: two favourites were a green double-breasted suit and a blue overcoat with a red clover pattern and gold buttons.

 Midway through Ezra's show, snow started falling from the ceiling. Ian Gavan / Getty Images for Fashion Forward

Fashion Forward: Ezra stuns in snow-covered show

Turns out the Filipino designer Ezra, known for his dreamy couture, still had a few surprises up his sleeve.

Midway through his show, snow started falling from the ceiling.

It created a starkly beautiful atmosphere for his intricately constructed gowns that seemed to be designed for an Ice Queen transported back to the 1950s.

He showed a collection that had a lot of technical firepower behind it: glittering iridescent fabrics paired with head and neckpieces that were moulded and stiffened to stand out in odd angles.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National