The Morris Winthrop Reports (Fashion Week)
“That’s lovely, okay, look this way, marvellous, hold it right there.” I look around me to locate the source of the words ringing in my ears as I approach the grand, stately venue of this year’s biggest event in the fashion calendar. It crosses my mind that I might be about to stumble upon a fashion shoot as I enter the piazza, only to discover a group of amateur photographers jostling for pole position to get pictures of anyone among the cluster of people crowding the entrance who might be wearing something vaguely fashionable or different.
I stop and watch with amusement the parasites with their rocket-fuelled egos, posing and posturing for the camera-wielding onlookers and their ever-extending and retracting lenses. Suddenly, I’m approached by a rather brassy-looking character who enquires as to whether I’d like to take their photograph after having observed the redundant camera hanging around my neck.
“Sorry, but, who are you?” I remark, which appears to strike a rather discordant note with the inquisitor who proceeds to scuttle off into the crowd in a somewhat subdued manner never to be seen again.
I tend to meet all kinds of people in my line of work. You see, I’m a journalist for the Fashion and Entertainments section of one of the more respectable tabloids. It probably sounds exciting to you, but in truth it can be a frightful drag – particularly when having to suck up to well-known personalities whose only interest is in protracting their own self image to get a mention in the fashion columns. Still, someone’s got to do it, so I guess it may as well be me.
But there are definite advantages to what I do, such as the complementary ticket to the catwalk show today in the VIP tent. Though why they call them VIPs I do not know as it’s more often a case of who’s that, than who’s who. Access to the show is by invitation only which is always guaranteed to bolster the ego of some of the expected attendees.
Journalism was never my first choice of career. It was an old school friend of mine who writes for a popular journal who managed to get me an interview after calling in a few favours. To my surprise I’ve found I’m actually rather good at it – ‘a natural born writer’ my friend says, although I’m not sure those on the receiving end of my critiques would agree.
I make my way to the VIP tent for the show just as the doors open. In recent years I’ve got into the habit of getting seated early so I can observe the arrival of the glitterati and plot my scoop. Nobody’s more aware of the fragility of celebrity than me with my remit to report on the latest trends in the fashion industry as well as the whims and foibles of celebrity social climbers and the associated hangers-on. An article involving a compromised celebrity can be a progressive career move for a journalist and guarantee maximum exposure when handled correctly, sometimes at the expense of the celebrities’ career and reputation for which a former colleague once coined the term ‘unfortunate collateral damage’. That part of the job doesn’t come easy to someone of my sensibilities, but I’ve learnt to accept it over the years as just part of what I do for a living. In any case, if celebrities compromise themselves in the full glare of the public eye, do they not deserve to be exposed?
I take my seat next to the catwalk stage just as the first VIPs begin to arrive with Giovanni Babarazzi and the youthful Mimi Karanova, dutifully hanging on his arm. Best known for his role as the mesmeric Enrico Moretti in the cult movie Dance Floor Fever released over 25 years ago, Giovanni’s promising career looked all but finished when the expected offers of work following his mercurial performance of high energy dance routines failed to materialise.
A chance meeting with award-winning director Francois Laurent, who directed the critically acclaimed docudramas Celebrity and the Modern Ego-Centric and Synthetic People, provided Giovanni the opportunity to reinvent himself and kick-start his career by playing the lead role of Monticello in the movie biopic of the same name about the famous Italian nineteenth century painter. Nominations and awards followed, securing his place among the elite of false icons.
Unfortunately, for Giovanni, the success of Monticello cost him his marriage of 20 years with the protracted divorce proceedings showing no sign of being resolved any time soon. Giovanni’s wife blames Mimi for the break-up following her well-publicised affair with Giovanni while playing the part of Alessandra Peron alongside him in the hit movie.
Next to arrive is the oil heiress Tiara Hamilton with her latest beau, Giles Oswald-Hughes. Anyone who has ever trawled through the endless columns of daily celebrity gossip will have come across Tiara doing what Tiara does best – beach holidays, endless parties and, of course, the ultimate rite of passage for the poor, wretched, neglected rich kid – drug rehab. Is it any wonder her father has chosen to add caveats to her inheritance.
Tiara’s attempts at respectability following her father’s protestations about his daughter’s very public inappropriate behaviour have led her to follow the well-trodden path of celebrity endorsement by adding her name to various products marketed by major cosmetics companies in return for publicity and a favourable income.
After growing bored with promoting other companies’ products, Tiara decided she was talented enough to create her own brand and opened a chain of fashion boutiques that have allegedly been funded by her tycoon father. Though what he’ll make of the latest round of pictures parading the celebrity gossip columns showing Tiara flaunting herself on an exotic beach with her muscular and bronzed, airhead of a companion, complete with obligatory chiselled chin, heaven only knows.
The lights go down and a loud chorus of drum & bass generates an air of anticipation, initiating a flurry of media activity around a small number of empty seats in the front row that one assumes are reserved for the kind of VIPs whom protocol dictates should arrive with seconds to spare before the start of the show once the lights have gone down.
No sooner had the media scramble begun for best vantage point than the first of the VIP latecomers arrives. Abigale Delaney, actress-turned fashion designer, and her pop icon husband, Danny B, enter the venue amidst a frenzy of journalists and photographers. Famed for her roles in such movies as Luck, I’ve Had It All and What I Really Really Want Is Talent, Abigale is now regarded as a leading fashion designer by some media journalists who couldn’t tell the difference between a Vivenne Westwood frock and a pair of women’s jeans by Alexander McQueen.
Of course, Ms Delaney’s marriage to Danny B has not done her career any harm at all. Indeed, if anything, his reputation as an ambassador for his country has elevated her to almost superstar status in the minds of some self-proclaimed fashionistas.
So how does a former actress suddenly metamorphosis into a leading fashion designer overnight? We can all select colours and fabrics we like and get artisans to whip them into a beautiful product, but that doesn’t make us fashion designers. If I want to become a lawyer, I can’t just hire an office, place a name on the door and expect people to hire me.
OMG, look who’s just fallen through the door. It’s that wretched charlatan from some God-forsaken town on the coast that built an igloo from household cleaning products and called it an art installation. I knew they were struggling to find suitable high-profile names available for this year’s event, but that really is scraping the barrel.
He might have fooled some people with his futile installations, but he hasn’t fooled me, though I can understand why the art establishment fell under his spell, given its history for endorsing projects with zero artistic integrity. What can possibly be so stimulating about stepping inside an igloo and musing over the walls of familiar, every-day brands. Is there really something subliminal about the concept that speaks to us on a psycho-sociological-evolutionary level the artist would have us believe. In my opinion it’s nothing but a babbling smokescreen to distract the viewer from the absence of any kind of original thought or insight present in his work. And do we really need to know about his sexual promiscuity as an adolescent teenager, how the poor dear was mentally traumatised by the throngs of women apparently throwing themselves at him indiscriminately, citing his harrowing experience as the reason for his bachelorhood. In reality, I suspect it’s more the case they heard his self-pitying soliloquies once too often and couldn’t get away quick enough.
“Morris?” I hear someone yelp. “I say, Morris?”
I do hate surprises. One never knows what, or whom, to expect.
“Morris? Over here.”
I look over there, but see nobody. “Oh, for Heaven’s sake, show yourself, man.” I cry. “Who are you?”
“It’s Rupert,” he says, finally appearing before me. His tone infers surprise at not having recognised his voice.
“Oh, it’s you ... what are you doing here?” I enquire, trying to appear remotely interested.
“We’re running a supplement on Fashion Week in the Daily Snitch,” he replies, a little too cheerfully for my liking.
“Oh, really,” I venture. “And what do you plan on calling it, ‘A Week In Fashion’, by any chance?”
“Well, yes, actually, but, how did you know?” he replies, perplexed.
“You never were the most original thinker,” I quip. “Look, hate to be rude, but I’ve got a job to do here.”
“Oh, yes, of course,” he says, “I’m sorry. Good to see you again.”
“Wish I could say the same,” I mutter under my breath as I watch him disappear back into the obscure sea of faces from whence he came.
If there’s one thing I can’t abide, it’s hypocrisy. You see, Rupert and I were once, well, you know what I mean. Anyway, he started accusing me of being unfaithful with Sanjay, a friend of a colleague I used to sometimes meet socially after work. It was completely untrue, of course. One day I returned home early to find Rupert in bed with a model from the life drawing class he’d bizarrely started attending for reasons only beknown to him. Needless to say, I wasn’t best pleased.
Shrieks of excitement from some members of the audience trigger a sudden rush of photographers to the entrance where a group of brawny security guards appear, jostling with paparazzi and anyone else who gets in their way. With all the hysteria, one could be forgiven for thinking it was an official Royal visit, but I’m pretty certain there’s no Royal attendance expected today. I catch glimpse of a wave of blonde hair among the chaos of animated bodies and flailing arms as the mystery identity of the self-styled queen of popular music mediocrity is revealed. Yasmin is escorted to the last remaining empty seat, much to the delight of her fans and the chasing paparazzi clambering for photo opportunities. The scale of pandemonium at her entrance is testament to the way in which she has masterminded her career. But that’s about the sum of her abilities as far as I’m concerned. Yes, she’s had success, but that’s solely down to her masterful skills in the art of manipulation and having surrounded herself with the most talented individuals in the industry that money can buy. I’m just surprised how many people have been deceived into thinking she actually has any talent. And Heaven forbid anyone who has the audacity to question her authority as the unadulterated queen of pop in front of her disciples. Their outrage is often characterised by a sudden, sharp intake of breath followed by a right Royal snub – trust me, I’ve been there.
I’m not entirely sure what she’s doing here, anyway, unless she’s looking for outfits for her upcoming tour. Just as long as she doesn’t wear any more of those ghastly ski pants she sported last year for her pop video, then I’ll be happy. I have no particular issue with anyone flaunting parts of their anatomy in public if that’s what they choose to do, but there comes a time when you should dress more appropriately for your age and Yasmin clearly falls into that category. I’m still squirming at the memory of that awful, embarrassing outfit, made all the worse by the enduring image of her bumping and grinding with a co-star half her age.
The whole unseemly episode is indicative of her shallowness and obsession with physical beauty, not that I think she’s remotely good looking, though it’s never ceased to amaze me how many men actually do think her attractive. I guess there’s no accounting for taste. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate beauty just like the next individual, but it’s the real person inside that interests me. Outer beauty alone is a meaningless facade which inevitably fades over time, whereas the inner life, well, it’s what makes us who we are. Architect Moshe Safdie once said ‘he who seeks beauty shall find vanity’. The person whose values and preconceptions are based on the superficial and who abstains from intellectual inquiry is a desolate wasteland of human consciousness, a hollow shell ... and I should know, I’ve interviewed a few over the years.
The catwalk show finally begins and the latest seasonal collections of overly-embellished garments and accessories are paraded by a succession of androgynous models pacing the catwalk, bringing together months of hard work by the designers and their dedicated backroom staff. Many of the outfits on display will probably never find their way onto the high street in their current form, but a selection of modified versions might be found in certain retailers. For purists like me, the catwalk show represents a visual playground of raw creativity with few rules where anything and everything goes and is open to interpretation. It’s events like these which make my job worthwhile, but sadly it’s all over too soon. While the participating designers receive a deserved rapturous applause from the audience, Yasmin and Abigale depart under cover of darkness, along with their collective entourages, subsequent destinations unknown.
With the main event now over, the attendees have an opportunity to network and wander the grounds of the historic building. This is the chance to enhance existing relationships, build new partnerships and, for some of the more opportunistic types in the media, trash reputations. It’s amazing what leads one can find if you know where to look. The biggest challenge nowadays, of course, is trying to determine what is newsworthy and in the public interest and what is just gossip. You see, in my experience there are two types of celebrities – those who seek publicity and those who don’t. The former model whose notoriety is the consequence of an aggressive campaign of self-promotion and who stops at nothing to maintain her presence in the celebrity gossip columns holds no interest for me. However, the celebrity who inadvertently falls from grace following the kind of indiscretion that would normally be deemed out of character is the type of story I’m really interested in, although this kind of exposé typically comes around only once in a journalist’s working lifetime – if they’re lucky. But every good story still needs an angle to provide context and perspective, without which there is a danger the narrative will be lost.
As for my own story, which I admit is still in the embryonic stage – well, you’ll just have to wait until it’s published. But, rest-assured, the machinations of plot have been firmly mobilised as I’m sure has the reader’s curiosity. Have I uncovered evidence of scandal? Maybe. Would the reputations of those involved be irrevocably compromised? Probably.
© 2020 James Pitter