Chandeliers April 2011

Dear Rowley,

Isn’t it marvellous that everyone looks more attractive in the sunshine? London has been glorious the past few days and even the feral cyclists don’t look as menacing. So what better conditions to spend the best part of Thursday in a Notting Hill fashion boutique basement with the air con switched off filming a Royal Wedding telly programme for Sky Living? The call came a couple of weeks ago from my mate Gill Wilson who has recently crossed the floor from Endemol to Spun Gold productions. The programme in question had the working title How to Marry a Prince and I was booked initially to be a royal style pundit.

So Mrs T and I packed our flack jackets and headed for a film studio in Waterloo where I answered various questions about how the 21st century Sloane Set – the Boujis young royal set – dressed and how Miss Middleton’s style had evolved from girlfriend to fiancee. Mrs T, no stranger to a twinset and pearls, had briefed me rather brilliantly and the answers surprised the film crew who were amazed that aristos don’t really give a toss about big brands. Duh.

Anyway, that all went rather well so Gill used her charms to persuade Sky to book me as the royal style critic for the fashion elements of this three one-hour series. The brief was to style a ‘personality’ in the manner of Kate Middleton. You know me, Rowley, I’ve never really been a stylist. Can you remember that column in The Independent on Sunday when the editors set me and Peter ‘Sloane Rangers’ Handbook’ York up as the male Trinny & Susannah? It got us on Richard & Judy but what a load of old cobblers that turned out to be.

I was understandably nervous about being involved another time in anything vaguely resembling a make-over show. It always gets right up my goat when you put a girl in Chanel and some bright spark asks how to get the look on the high street. Their little faces fall when you reply ‘one can’t’. Lowest common denominator TV with lots of tips about short cuts and well-meant advice is not my bag. But I went with this show because Gill assured me the tone would be appropriate.

It was with consternation that I learnt the presenter and aspiring Kate Middleton was a former Atomic Kitten, Liz McClarnon, who looked more like Chelsey Davy than Miss Middleton. We were shooting at Ledbury Road boutique The Merchant. This too I had never heard of so worried it wouldn’t be up to snuff. Shows how wrong you can be. The Merchant had only opened six months ago by a bright, cute German lady called Vanessa who was wearing a fabulous pistachio green and cream boucle wool Chanel A-line with chiffon panels.

Anyway, The Merchant had one of the best edits of new season I have seen in many a boutique: Balenciaga, Tory Burch, Marc Jacobs, Balmain, Jimmy Choo, Stella McCartney and Temperley. I will slip it into the Vuitton Guide to London 2012 if there’s still time. Surprise number two was Kate the actual stylist – fashion producer for Mr Wan – who had prepped the Kate Middleton looks with tenacity and skill. It was left to me to make the final cut and use pieces from The Merchant should it be necessary.

The biggest surprise was Miss McClarnon. She reminded me of a comment about Marilyn Monroe: her tragedy was that she wasn’t blonde and she wasn’t dumb. Miss M is blonde but dumb she most certainly ‘aint. She plays polo, she’s got the smarts and she is a terrific little performer to camera. We put Miss M in an outfit for the Kings Road and a Boujis nights gold sequin disco shift with a Balenciaga black dinner jacket. I have to say Kate did an excellent job, Miss M carried the clothes beautifully and I avoided the ‘get the look on the cheap’ tone almost entirely.

Another day’s shooting saw us in Fultons – the hunting, shooting, fishing emporium on Pall Mall with the Prince of Wales’s Royal Warrant since 1982 – and Miss M was being dressed for a weekend at Balmoral. I think she looked hot but appropriate. You’ll have to watch the programmes at the end of this month if you want to see whether we got away with it. The final look was the bridal gown chosen sat Caroline Castiglione’s shop on Berners Street. Berners Street was the location of my darling friend Judy Bennett’s PR company. Lost loved ones aren’t really gone if they live in living memory.

The bridal shoot was a hoot even though the three frocks we chose veered more towards Disney Princess than Princess Catherine to be. Speculation about ‘the dress’ and Prince William’s wedding attire is now becoming ridiculous. The FT ran a piece this weekend about Prince William asking everyone from Ozwald Boateng to Harold Tillman. Unsurprisingly, all the tailors polled suggested the Prince wear a three-piece suit. Not surprisingly, the real tailors in contention for Prince William’s uniform/morning coat were not mentioned. Similarly, the insider bets for Miss Middleton’s dress have escaped press attention. All of this pales, however, next to my lead crystal chandelier installed at Bloomsbury Towers by the Bedford Estate while I was out showing off for the cameras. Until next time…