By dint of their very nature – the glamour, the excess, the personalities involved – fashion shows always generate a lot of stories.
Once, during fashion week in Paris, a hoity-toity fashion editor arrived at a runway show in the Louvre just as it was about to start. Seeing that the editor’s seat had already been taken, a greeter seated her in a phenomenally famous pop star’s place in the front row. The star hadn’t shown, and frankly there’s nothing more embarrassing than an empty front-row seat. And so the editor sat down, waiting for the lights to dim and the models to come rushing up on to the stage. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, as the room was plunged into darkness, what looked like an ageing gymnast in a shawl came pushing along the aisle and stopped in front of the editor.
“That’s my seat,” she said, in a barely audible growl.
“No, it’s not,” snapped the hoity-toity editor, turning away from her.
“Yes, it is,” said the shawl.
“No, it isn’t,” repeated the hack. “And who are you anyway?”
“I’m Madonna,” said Madonna, “and that’s my seat.”
Now, if you find yourself in London today and you turn a corner to see 500 overdressed men and women trying to push through a very small door, then you’ve inadvertently stumbled upon one of the hundred-or-so fashion shows/presentations/parties/dinners that comprise London Collections: Men, the city’s very own men’s fashion week.
Three years ago, the British Fashion Council asked me to help set up London Collections: Men, and all of us have been flabbergasted by the industry’s enthusiasm for it. This is our fifth season, and over the next three days will play host to the likes of Burberry, Alexander McQueen, Tom Ford, Moschino, DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Dunhill, Hackett, Jimmy Choo, Samuel L. Jackson’s One For The Boys fashion ball and more.
LC:M was designed to give British menswear a proper domestic platform, rather than having to show their clothes in Paris, Milan or New York. However, we knew that in order to attract the right kind of buyers and journalists to the city, we’d have to make it fun. Which, in the fashion world, means giving everyone a variety of intense, immersive, non-returnable hangovers.
Along with Vertu, we have also launched the British Fashion Council/GQ Menswear Fund, which will provide one British-based designer with £150,000 and access to high-level business mentoring and professional services. The first winner, Christopher Shannon, was announced last Monday.
Initially, I don’t think LC:M endeared us to the industry bodies who organise similar fashion weeks in Paris and Milan, but we always felt that there was room enough in the calendar for all of us.
Of course, there will always be those who call Milan the ugliest city in northern Europe that isn’t actually in Germany, in much the same way that there are those who still call Paris the most bourgeois city in Europe; but both cities have such a rich sartorial legacy that we would have been foolish to try and usurp them. All we’ve done is quietly slipped in behind them in the queue, nodding respectfully in the process.
A few weeks before each LC:M, I’ll occasionally be sent an email questionnaire from one of the many biannual fashion magazines that seem to pop up these days with increasing regularity. I’m always pleased to participate as it means more publicity for our project, although, as they nearly always ask me what my “style regime” is, I’m usually at a loss to know what to put because I know they’re going to be disappointed. What I usually end up saying is that I get up every morning and put on a navy blue suit (unless it’s the weekend, of course, when I get up in the morning and don’t put on very much at all).
How different my answer would have been if they had been asking me the same question 30 years ago. “My style regime? Well, at the moment I’m wearing a black velvet bomber jacket with fake fur talons on the collar and ‘Gigolo’ stencilled on the back in silver leather.”
And I’m not joking.
Dylan Jones is editor of GQ and chairman of London Collections: Men