Associated Press Writer, London
Carla Bruni, where are you?
The French first lady’s sophisticated style was sorely missed Monday as London Fashion Week moved into its second day, with festivities capped by a Downing Street reception for fashion designers hosted by Sarah Brown, wife of notoriously rumpled Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Brown and his not-very-GQ Cabinet colleagues have been the object of some derision in the fashion world as magazines have used side-by-side photos to point out that French ministers are far more chic than their stolid British counterparts. Sarah Brown, for her part, has shunned the fashion limelight.
"Obviously we have some very glamorous examples of foreign ministers in France and Spain, and obviously the women in our Cabinet are not particularly well-dressed or sophisticated, but perhaps they are not aiming for that," said Nicola Copping, fashion writer for The Times newspaper in London. "They are not the best dressed women on the planet, but they are not trying to be."
Chic or not, the Browns planned the dinner in an effort to show support for London Fashion Week, a twice yearly event that is in danger of being shortened in coming years because fashion officials in New York plan to lengthen the Big Apple’s shows at London’s expense.
That would leave London with an ever more abbreviated week in which to show its fashion savvy. Milan comes next on the fashion calendar _ and no one is suggesting that Milan give way to accommodate London, which is not yet perceived as a heavyweight on the fashion scene, even though an estimated 5,000 journalists, buyers and models usually attend the shows.
"It’s not what we want," said Erin O’Connor, a leading British model who is vice chairman of London Fashion Week. "We are already crammed. But if that happens we’ll make the best of what we have."
O’Connor is also playing a major role in an effort to prevent the wafer-thin models at London Fashion Week from developing life threatening eating disorders.
Last year, the British Fashion Council announced plans to require models to obtain a health certificate to prevent them from developing and concealing eating problems, but that ambitious plan was scrapped last month because of industry objections.
Instead of checking each model for health problems, O’Connor has spearheaded an effort to introduce a so-called "Model Sanctuary" where models can eat and drink health foods for free, learn about the risks of eating disorders, and have access to a concierge who can provide information about London to make it easier and safer for them to enjoy their brief time in the British capital.
The facility consists of a comfortable three-bedroom suite in the elegant Mayfair Hotel, where much of the fashion brigade is housed. Outsiders are kept away from the suite to protect the models’ privacy.
Despite the raft of publicity in recent years about the dangers faced by "size zero" models, the young women on the catwalk Monday appeared to be just as super-slender as in years gone by.
The uncertainty over the future of London Fashion Week did nothing to dampen spirits Monday. Dozens of exhibitors displayed a wide range of accessories in the sprawling exhibit hall, showing everything from colorful bustiers made of recycled material to unusual one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces.
Festivities began promptly at 9 a.m. when the first flutes of well-chilled Moet & Chandon champagne were served just before the John Rocha show at the main catwalk tent on the grounds of the Natural History Museum, the central site for most of the shows.
A full breakfast was laid out, with bite-sized bagels stuffed with smoked salmon and cream cheese on one platter and freshly baked croissants, muffins and pain au chocolat on another. Guests who didn’t want champagne were given a choice of Red Bull or designer water.
Photos courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.