What makes a ‘fashion designer’?

I wasn’t going to comment on Sarah Mower’s scathing critique of Henry Holland’s show but in light of the hullabaloo* surrounding the Lindsay Lohan/Ungaro debacle, I couldn’t resist.

Question: what is a designer? Is it someone who has an understanding of the entire design process, who cuts their own patterns and pins their own toiles? Or is it someone who has an eye, is good at styling and can tune into the zeitgeist despite not having a design background? What I’ve learnt from the last few weeks is that fashion is subjective and there is no cut and dried answer. I sat through the Kinder Aggugini show, non-plussed at what I was seeing – ‘derivative… Galliano…not quite there’ went my scrawls while post-show I listened to Hilary Alexander and Michael Howells praise him as the next big thing. Henry Holland’s show (below) was pretty much laid into by’s Sarah Mower which was weird as she also has a role at the BFC to promote emerging British talent and Holland is one of her fledging designers. Mower’s beef with Holland was that his shows have become media circuses that revolve around his celebrity playmates and his design skills are little more than jumbling up a few eighties references without much finesse. Her concluding line was, “perhaps it would be cleverer to quit the runway altogether and throw parties instead.” Ouch.

Can a ‘designer’ who didn’t study design or train as a designer rightfully call themselves a designer? Well, that brings me to Luella. She came from a similar journalism background to Holland (although hers was Vogue to his Sneak) and if truth be told, it is the styling and clever pop culture references that keep her brand at the forefront of British fashion. There’s really nothing new in terms of design innovation at Luella and yet she is considered a real designer against Holland’s marketer-posing-as-designer.

And so to Lohan. Where to start with this? The girl is an actress who has made music and then decided she wanted to have a go at fashion. And who could blame her? The celebritisation of fashion means that everyone has had a play at ‘fashion designer’ and from what I know, her leggings line has sold well. But to install her as creative director of Ungaro, a luxury house of forty-odd years standing. Really? I didn’t buy it from the beginning and I’m glad it failed. According to WWD, it was “quite simply, an embarrassment“. Yikes, don’t hold back WWD!

A designer has to take the job seriously, they have to live and breathe the role and if they don’t it shows oh-so-clearly. Where do things go from here? I am really hoping this will be the end of the celebrity-as-model, celebrity-as-designer, celebrity-as-author trend. It won’t happen overnight but this could be the catalyst.

*new fave word

LFW – Day three

Another day of running around and hitting the shows to ‘hoover up’ stories for The Daily. Betty Jackson was first where I snapped some cute little almost-flat shoes with fabric pompoms and tried not to stare at Peter Blake and Tracey Emin (two of my favourite artists). Mulberry at Claridges was a very classy affair but tempered with candy-coloured balloons to make it less formal and more fun. Clothes-wise is was very commercial. I’d say it’s all about those fringy boots…

Topshop Unique was also uber-commercial and very derivative. I saw shades of early Luella crossed with Bananarma and Courtney Love. There were so many ideas there though – XXXXL oversize mens shirts with the sleeves sliced off and fluoro spray paint as a print. And still the mega high heels continue. At Jasmine de Milo, I liked the simplicity of a long, eau de nil long-sleeved gown and the leather cocktail dresses with pockets. Why can’t all dresses have pockets? Tomorrow, the Americans arrive (by which I mostly mean, Anna W), although one American is here already. I made friends with Britt from Fashionista, who was also filing copy for The Daily. Britt loves London, having interned for Stella McCartney back in the day. I also caught up with a record number of bloggers including Frassy, Bish Shops, Magazine Machine, That’s Not My Age, Torfrocks. Wee Birdy, Aindrea, Susie Bubble, Rebekah Roy and Discotheque Confusion. Did I forget anyone? Crikey, no wonder I’m so zonked out and my eyes are closing as I type.


Today has been a complete whirlwind so I’m speed-blogging to get it all down.

Breakfast with Tiffany
9am Brekkie at Automat with a very blog-savvy PR. Lots to discuss including the importance of brands to have a two-way conversation with consumers online.

First look at APC
1030am Love that familiar signature candle scent on first entering the new Dover Street store and I immediately eyeballed all the shirts, wedges and belts. Welcome back to London APC!

Murdock opens store no 3
1045am Just a stone’s throw from APC in Dover Street was the latest Murdock luxury barbers (5B Stafford Street, W1). These guys have cornered the market in high end (but not poncy) male grooming. Alongside the trad barbers service, they offer a lovely retail experience, especially if you’re a girl gift-buying for a fussy discerning guy. When I asked to have a nose round, I was invited to have a look upstairs, even though ‘it’s not finished yet’ and my host also revealed that Scott Schuman had recently enjoyed the Murdock experience. Didn’t surprise me one bit, this place is a must-visit for all sartorialists.

Falling back in love with LK Bennett
1130am: As I was in Bond Street, I decided to give Fenwick the once over including a mini- tour of LK Bennett. Wow, it’s suddenly totally right for now. I liked the high-on-the-instep Mary Janes (Selina, £155), roundtoe courts in an array of heel heights (Sabira, £130, Shilo, £140) and red low-heel pumps (Samedi £125) to go with crop skinny jeans and ankle socks. Nice work LKB.

Short Cuts
12pm This Uniqlo window caught my eye – same-day instore alterations. Me likey.
Daily Candy and arm candy
3pm After more meetings and lunch I headed to Fashion Business Club to take in an interview with‘s London editor Malika Dalamal. Daily Candy is looking into encouraging feedback from its readers via comments which I think is a very good thing indeed as it harnesses the community spirit and keeps the punters coming back. Post-interview I caught up with a number of fashion people including accessory designer, Quentin MacKay. I first met MacKay years ago when he had designed some very simple black leather wristbands and I had bought one (I think it was when Browns Focus had just opened). I still have it today and was pleased to discover that following successful stints at Tanner Krolle and Samsonite Black, MacKay has now launched a luxury accessory line under his own name – it’s the real deal, have a look here.

Canape-watch at The BFC NEWGEN winners announcement

A delightfully British spread was laid on for guests at the announcement of the BFC NEWGEN sponsorship winners at Somerset House. A proper cream tea feast awaited us on a table groaning with crustless cucumber sandwiches, home-made lemonade and a particularly fine mini scone.

Info gleaned:
NEWGEN sponsor TopShop is collaborating with ‘a renowned image-maker’ on a short fashion film!

Louise Gray’s laptop is as arty as her dresses!

Feathers PR Violaine has a new haircut!

Henry Holland’s flight was delayed meaning a no-show for Henry!

One of the designers had a mini-strop!

For the serious NEWGEN news, go here