Just returned to Bloomsbury Towers after the Italian trip to Florence and Milan. You know one is back in England when you arrive at the Heathrow Express platform only to be told some poor stiff has thrown himself onto the tracks a la Anna Karenina hence all services suspended. We all sympathise and some have contemplated the ‘goodbye cruel world’ stratagem but you’d think even the most desperate human being would find a less selfish manner of checking out than making a thousand weary travellers curse your very name.
My Italian trip ended with a quick nip up Milan to attend the Canali show and spend the next day with the divine Elizabetta Canali for a runway show and factory visit. I love a tailoring factory visit, don’t you? How I followed up the fun and games in Florence with a relentless week of catwalk shows in days of yore is entirely beyond me. Weary wasn’t even in it. I was initially traumatised by Milan. I haven’t visited for many a year so was quite disgruntled to arrive at Milano Centro to find the taxi system as chaotic as Syria. Who needs sweaty middle aged Italianos offering their services for 40 Euros to be hustled into the back of a bone-shaker then blackmailed into paying more or worse?
I arrived at the Via Tortona hotel in the industrial/fashion district of Milan to be greeted by what can only be described as the architectural love child of Philippe Starck and a brothel in Berlin.If interiors could be diagnosed bi-polar, then Nhow Hotel would be it. Imagine hideous plastic post-modernist furniture, exposed steel girders, varnished concrete floors and bedroom doors painted with cod graffiti. I was too tired and emotional to complain. However, when shown my suite I discovered a marble bath, wet room, scads of muslin curtains and a flat screen telly on which to view the first day of Wimbledon.
Love a nice hotel suite, don’t you? In fact I could live in one. I unpacked what was left of the wardrobe, ordered a club sandwich and bunkered down in a hot bath with a bottle of Valpoliparrot. I have forgotten more about Milan than I will ever remember so felt slightly discombobulated. The hotel was clearly the billet of male models and fashion buyers from Saks and so forth. Male fashion models always put me in mind of the great Joe Keenan who said of GQ I cannot see the point of buying a magazine featuring clothes I cannot afford in locations I will never visit worn by men who will never sleep with me. That is the essence of Milan Men’s Fashion Week.
Am I thrilled that I am no longer a front row fashion journalist? I’m ready for the question, Noel. However, it was an absolute pleasure to make a guest appearance at the Canali show. As a Savile Row suffragette I’m not supposed to like soft Italian tailoring cut with wafer thin cloth any more. But I have to tell you three quarters of the Canali show was superb tailoring in exquisite taste that wasn’t over-styled and made me want to buy. When I was a cub fashion reporter I looked to trends. Now I look at garments I would like to wear. On that card, Canali scored.
Funnily enough, in another life I had visited the Canali factory in Milan before as part of a Bryan Morel press trip. You see the blue linen unlined blazer I was wearing in Florence when Better Half and I took the walk around the Boboli Gardens in ninety degree heat? It was a Canali that must be over ten years old. But back to fashion land.
When you get past twenty, you don’t want to dress like mutton or look a fool. This is sadly the proposition when I used to attend the Dolce & Gabbana and Roberto Cavalli shows. This season I saw some pictures from Calvin Klein. It was practical, it was pure and it was lovely. But the essence of the show was a pair of chinos and a denim jacket. Why would you spend hundreds of pounds on Calvin’s version of basics when Levi’s and Gap make a perfectly serviceable version for cheap?
I warmed to Milan on Monday night when I had to test my Knowledge and get to the historic centre on the Metro. It all came back to me like a bad dream: the Metro carnets, the muddle of streets, the panic that you’ll miss a show or more importantly the dinner afterwards due to a travel malfunction. So it wasn’t without irony that after a walk around my favourite Brera district, I high tailed it to Via Santo Spirito for dinner with the lovely Julian Vogel only to discover that the the palazzo where we were dining was once the press office for the Camera della Moda di Milano where I’d spent many a happy hour filing reports for the Independent, Financial Times and International Herald Tribune.
Who else did I encounter in Milan? I was sandwiched between Dylan Jones and Adrian Clark on the Canali front row. I am in awe of Adrian who has been in the saddle years before I ever was and is still such a runway show trooper. I asked him his prognosis of Milan this season. ‘Well, as my grandfather used to say it’s the same meat but different gravy doll’. Couldn’t have put it better myself. Same old queens, same old jeans.