The style tyranny of the front-row at London Fashion Week.
Anna Wintour wears heels and the rest toe the line
Being in a room full of some of the world's most powerful taste-setters is fashionating. Perched on a bench (tiny gilt chairs have gone the way of the dodo) at the Christopher Kane show during London Fashion Week, I found myself exactly opposite Anna Wintour and was able to scrutinise the American Vogue editor close-up.
Dressed in a spotty Proenza Schouler coat worn slightly open to reveal an impeccably cut A-line skirt and polo neck, she looked effortlessly stylish.
Topping and tailing her look were the bob, thick, gold and newly blow-dried, and, of course high heels. Slightly to my left was the newly installed Paris Vogue editor, Emmanuelle Alt, wearing boyish Topshop black skinny jeans, T-shirt and a Balmain navy pea coat several sizes too big, emphasising her tiny size six build.
Alt's hair was fashionably tousled, although, I noted, curled softly, framing her pretty face, which was devoid of make-up. She looked flawless, like a French film star. On her neat little feet were pointy leather ankle boots with extremely high conical heels.
I wondered if they had agonised (as I had) each morning about what to wear? Does having a signature hairstyle or signature style (Wintour's is fitted top plus knee-length skirt plus bare legs and heels; Alt's is drainpipes with glamorous jacket) make it easier? Or are their perfect get-ups something to do with the fact they wear extremely high heels 24/7?
During showtime I can just about manage the early morning blow dry and put on a show uniform of fairly smart Jil Sander grey or navy slacks and Armani cashmere T-shirts. One thing I can't do is heels.
My first proper job was at British Vogue as a trainee fashion hack. I never quite mastered heels. Working on a newspaper became my next best option. There, to my relief, I found wearing high heels plus the wobbling that goes with it got you funny looks.
The tale about some Vogue fashion editors being hired for their slight figures, coltish legs and Coutts bank accounts (or family trusts) I can't confirm or deny. But what is undoubtedly important is their ability to walk and work, day or night, in fashion heels.
Wandering through Kensington Gardens following the Burberry show, I witnessed one middle-aged Vogue editor doing what can only be described as a sprint in clompy boots with a wooden heel that made one heck of a thud.
During last week at the London shows, all women besides the Voguettes seemed to be wearing chunky-soled wedge ankle boots or flat Bloch pumps with the toe cap in patent. Other trends included wearing a lot of camel (a perennial fashion favourite) offset by a highlight pop of colour, such as cobalt blue, yellow or red.
Another front-row look was wearing fine knits in cream or white under camel or black coats or floorlength honey-coloured shearling gilets (London was draughty, even indoors), in nude shades with a pair of skintight trousers. As for the bag of the moment? Three words: Celine envelope clutch. Wintour and Alt seem to agree on this.
There's often an anti-fashion movement going on during showtime, especially during London Fashion Week.
One minute you spot a certain "look" being worn by fashion students or trendy stylists from magazines such as Love, the next it's on a front cover. Then it's being worn by the person next to you on the street.
During London Fashion Week, Love, which is edited by Katie Grand, threw a party at the department store Liberty to celebrate the arrival of Alexander Wang's new range. Wang partied with London's grooviest, many of whom were sporting the latest London trend: dip-dyed hair.
The model-of-the-moment, Charlotte Free, is rocking purple dip-dyed ends (and dark roots). So are the designer Louise Gray (pink/yellow), the fashion illustrator Julie Verhoeven (pink/white), the stylist Richard Sloane (purple/black), the fashion PR guru Mandi Lennard (blue) and several trendy stylists including Nura Khan (purple/gold/blue).
Interestingly, although the neo-punk style looks DIY, to get the correct chameleon effect requires a professional colourist.
"John Vial dyed my hair pink/indigo about six months ago," Verhoeven told me, adding shockingly that her transformation occurred not in funky East London but Chelsea, in the go-to salon, Real Hair. Clients there include Elle Macpherson and Drew Barrymore when she's in town.
The obvious dip-dye destination in London is Dalston. The session hairstylist Alex Brownsell is the co-founder of the aptly named Bleach, where fans come from as far away as Tokyo to get their ends (but not their roots) done. Which is odd. I thought Harajuku girls wrote the book on hairdye.
To see more of London Fashion Week click here