Fashion’s Night Out is dominating my week. It’s the second year that international Vogues have organised this massive late-night shopping evening in their capital cities, and we’ve got 259 stores in central London putting on events for the general public. I can’t help feeling responsible for the whole thing. Will sufficient crowds turn out? Will the predicted rain hold off? It’s a bit like being a hostess for a party with tens of thousands of guests, none of whom have to RSVP.
A couple of days before the big night, I’m still waiting to hear whether Boris Johnson can join us on the evening. In New York the whole event is held in conjunction with mayor Michael Bloomberg, but in London I have yet to get Boris’s office enthused. Giorgio Armani is hosting a party to kick off the evening and it would be terrific if we could get the two to meet and be photographed together.But we’re competing with Boris’s daughter’s birthday. Perhaps she’d like to meet Armani too.
Talking of Boris Johnson, this is the first week I have been able to make real use of my membership of the London cycle hire scheme, initiated by the mayor. The demands of my working clothes and the paraphernalia I carry around with me prevent me from cycling all the way between home and my office but for short hops the bikes round the corner are ideal. I’m particularly keen on the interactive map, which shows you how many free bikes there are in any bay at any time. It’s nearly as fun as my diversionary tactic, playing the Plants vs Zombies game on my iPad.
On my first bike outing to the London Library, I discovered there was no room to park in the nearest bay. Seconds later, who should cycle up but Chris Corbin, the immaculate, pale-grey-suited proprietor of the nearby Wolseley restaurant. We consulted our maps and headed in tandem on our search for a parking slot, moving further away with each pedal of the bike from the place we actually wanted to end up. When I got back to work I was greeted by four e-mails from people who had seen me on the cycle. It was only a 15-minute journey. Obviously my world is far too small.
I regard myself as an early adopter of very few things (the Barclays bikes apart) but I pride myself on being one of the first people in this country to have caught the Scandinavian thriller bug. About 10 years ago I became hooked on Henning Mankell’s dour detective Wallander, while I was staying in the Italian house where his publisher Christopher Maclehose (who brought Wallander to Britain) had stayed the previous week. He had left an early copy behind and I had run out of books.
It was the same Maclehose who discovered the now unbelievably successful Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson (of which I was an early fan). This week I went to see the film of the second of the trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire, which is a pitch-perfect reconstruction of the book. Noomi Rapace is Lisbeth Salander, the bisexual computer-hacking heroine of our time, and I can’t imagine how the projected Hollywood version could be anywhere near as good.
However, there was one mistake. As you would imagine of any right-thinking campaigning journalist, Mikael Blomqvist, the hero, drives a hybrid Toyota Prius. As the action unfolds and Blomqvist sets off on one car chase after another, tyres screech and the engine revs – noisily. But the Prius’s electric engine doesn’t rev. It’s completely silent, making the car more usually a threat to pedestrians and cats than it is to the kind of baddies encountered in the movie.
Four weeks of fashion shows approach and, ridiculous as it sounds, I don’t seem to have any shoes. Obviously I have shoes, but they are not the right ones.
I am extremely pleased that the kitten heel has come back into favour since clumpy gladiators are only for the leggy youth and I am too short for flats. I thought my shoe problem was solved when I found a beautiful pair in Prada but when I asked to try them on in a 39.5, I was told they were a limited edition that only came in Miuccia Prada’s own shoe size – 37. This strikes me as a bit of an own goal and mystifies even a fashion die-hard like me. I bought a lovely skirt there instead that will show I know all about the “womanly” trend – but will I have to wear it barefoot?
I got a hint of what it must feel like to be a dictator last night when I walked through the streets. Fashion’s Night Out had arrived, and it was extraordinary to see how Vogue had managed to appeal to all these people to come out on a dreary midweek evening. All around Oxford Street was one big party. Boris, in the end, was a no-show but another blonde compensated in the form of Gwyneth Paltrow. She was at the Stella McCartney store to help Stella launch an exhibition of work by Camila Batmanghelidjh’s Kids Company, the charity supporting vulnerable London children that was the beneficiary of the evening’s limited-edition T-shirt.
We had asked a few of her children at Kids Company to construct miniature dream wardrobes, given that most of the kids she helps probably don’t have any wardrobes – or clothes to fill them. I was shocked and moved by the dark visions of life enclosed in those small boxes – cupboards of fear and unhappiness, bang next door to Stella’s shoe room. Their visions of what they saw in their wardrobes were far from a collection of designer clothes. One girl painted blue walls that depicted the hope of a clear blue sky, and placed jars on its tiny floor that she said housed “a glass of tears”. It was a strange juxtaposition with the jolly shopping parties that were happening everywhere. But I thought it was one of the best things about the night, galvanising London’s celebrity and fashion scene to help the city’s underprivileged children.
Alexandra Shulman is editor of British Vogue