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Fashion Notes

England's Naughty Designer Gets the Royal Treatment

February 23, 2001|BOOTH MOORE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LONDON — It was the British version of the odd couple: the very proper Prince Charles and bad-boy designer Alexander McQueen.

The two were the star attractions at the Rover British Fashion Awards, held for the first time since 1989 during London Fashion Week. "They are the fashion Oscars," gushed an optimistic Nicholas Coleridge, the British Fashion Council chairman, surveying the red-carpet scene at Battersea Park, where the awards show was held Tuesday night. (And between the comedian-host, cheesy dance numbers and lip-synched musical performances, he wasn't far off.)

The Prince of Wales, dressed in traditional black tie, said he was honored to be invited, considering he has in the past been called "the world's worst-dressed man." He presented the British Designer of the Year award to McQueen, who now has three such awards from the group.

Bounding onto the stage, not in black tie, but in casual pants, coat and tie, sneakers and sunglasses, McQueen said he found the situation ironic because "I started out making his highness' suits and now I'm getting an award for it."

The designer with a reputation for mischief began his career as an apprentice tailor on Savile Row, where he claims to have scrawled "McQueen was 'ere" (and, some say, more crude anti-royalist messages) in tailor's chalk in the lining of jackets earmarked for the heir to the throne.

McQueen told the press here earlier this week that he believes the British government should subsidize young design talent. "It's up to you to put your money where your mouth is," he said pointedly during his acceptance speech.

At the show, Prince Charles announced a new partnership between his Prince's Trust (an organization founded in 1976 to aid disadvantaged youth) and the British Fashion Council to mentor young people interested in pursuing fashion careers.

Other awards were presented to newly shorn Kate Moss for British model of the year, Stella McCartney for new generation designer, Burberry for best contemporary collection and handbag designer Anya Hindmarch for best accessory designer.

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Designers are always trying to outdo each other with their show invites as well their clothing designs. The avant-garde label Boudicca sent out the most absurd invitation here. Designers Zowie Broach and Brian Kirkby had a poem engraved on a gold press-on finger nail that guests were asked to wear on their left thumbs to gain entrance. (Most opted to carry the nail in the little plastic box it was sent in instead.)

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A little sensitivity, please? When a music loudspeaker fell on the heads of two audience members, knocking them unconscious, at Matthew Williamson's presentation, amazingly, the show went on as if nothing happened.

Sophie Dahl, Alek Wek and other top models maintained their priceless pouts and soldiered on down the runway at Saatchi Gallery, looking unaffected as chairs were flung aside for the injured parties and concerned editors tried to make emergency calls on their cell phones over the blasting music.

Williamson took his bow at the end, and the crowd, which included Minnie Driver, Jerry Hall and Amanda de Cadanet, had started heading for the doors before a voice came over the loudspeaker and said, "Without sounding too alarming, is there a doctor in the house?"

"A doctor?" quipped one American journalist. "How about a lawyer?"

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