London Fashion Week has got just seven weeks to raise its game. The opening ceremony had sartorial spectacle – the Queen as a Bond girl takes some beating, after all. And it had the all-important sofa-dividing controversy – seriously, don’t try to tell me you didn’t have at least one showdown with whomever you watched it with.
And if blindsiding the world with history was not enough, there was an embarrassment of riches in the showcasing of current British design talent. Gold, silver and bronze medals – in no particular order – were handed out to three London catwalk stars whose outfits got top billing. Memo to Beijing: yes, you’ve got a lot of flashy fireworks, but we’ve got Christopher Kane (who dressed the Duchess of Cambridge, in the VIP seats), Roksanda Ilincic (who dressed Samantha Cameron), and Jonathan Saunders (who scored singer Emeli Sandé).
The story of the night was that, despite the leaks and the spoilers, no one quite saw this ceremony coming. It was surely the most arthouse blockbuster media event ever staged, which explains why it worked so well as a fashion spectacle.
The rise of London Fashion Week over the past few years has been all about using avant garde visual codes to pique the interest of a bored mainstream audience, without losing their attention by getting too worthy. The Twitter wags, inevitably, nailed it early doors. To paraphrase Dizzee Rascal: “Some people think we’re bonkers, but we just think we’re free.”
It began slowly. Bradley Wiggins in yellow Fred Perry. Baker boy caps and grandad shirts for the men, milkmaid sleeves for the ladies. For the first 15 minutes the look could be summarised as The Hobbit meets It’s a Knockout. When Kenneth Branagh appeared as Brunel, it seemed – for a long, sad five minutes – that the dominant style takeaway from this evening would be sideburns.
But – and this, surely, is the greatest British fairytale of them all – along came Bond to save the day. Daniel Craig in his immaculate black tie, and then the Queen looking so very pretty in a fetching shade of apricot.
And thereafter, the fashion just kept on coming.
The rave scenes were a blend of the British flair for theatrical pageantry with the restless, endlessly curious remixing that makes our popular culture so vibrant.
The sartorial script of the night, as pre-written, was so much cheesier. The expected debate was around who would wear red, white and blue; who would wear gold, silver and bronze.
The joy of this night was that it did not insult the audience with those kind of cliches. Instead, we had nurses and ravers, Tim Berners-Lee and the Pankhursts. A very British reminder that there are many ways of winning.