Fashion. February 2018.

Dear Rowley,

As you know, I have been immersed in Savile Row bespoke tailoring for many a year. I am also very old so many of the editors today who look young enough to me to be in kindergarten, do not remember that I covered the women’s fashion and fine jewellery scene just as assiduously before the Old King died. I have, like Barbra Streisand in On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, had many lives.

I gave up on runway fashion many moons ago when it ceased to improve the way a man or a woman looked. I saw no point being the Grinch of the front row – and yes, darling, that’s where they sat me – and criticise the ugliness and pointlessness of over designed clothing. But recently I have had a change of heart.

It all began when I was archiving the cupboard under the stairs and found a file of thank-you notes from fashion designers: Tom Ford, Paul Smith, Miuccia Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Philip Plein, Nicholas Ghesquière, Hedi Slimane, Vivienne Westwood, Yohji Yamamoto, Ralph Lauren, Georgio Armani, Emanuel Ungaro, Victor & Rolf and Gianfranco Ferre to namedrop a few.

I will go so far as to say I was critiquing fash-iown before the butter dripped off Mr Chamberlain The Rake editor’s noodle. I don’t mean to crow but I will having read that file of thank-yous. My oldest friend Lee Brown, who is my go to when feeling up or down, came round with the latest issue of Harper’s Bazaar and I melted for the beauty of the fashion shoots.

I was a work experience at Bazaar when it was Harper’s & Queen and Jennifer still wrote her social diary. In fact I recall Paula from Country Living being so flustered to bump into Jennifer (aka Betty Kenwood) in the ladies’ loos at Nat Mags that she blurted out ‘going anywhere nice’ which suffice to say it was a pretty good bet she was. Betty used to share the company limo with Terry Mansfield the MD.

When I worked on Harper’s & Queen, the fashion editors were Hamish Bowles, Ian R. Webb and Liz Walker. Those were the days my friend. Hamish had just shot the most expensive shoot in Harper’s history recreating Murder on the Orient Express in about 500 locations. It was nostalgic but it was high, high fashion.

So what has piqued my interest? You might well ask. It was none other than Gareth Pugh’s masterful cuts for Spring/Summer 2018. Mr Pugh is of the Gothic weird school of silhouettes and I recall very well my mate Mandi Lennard launching him back in the Nineties. I didn’t get Gareth then but boy do I now. He is the natural successor to Cristobal Balenciaga.

I was a good interviewer in my time before I found what I had to say more exciting than a chat with the sprats who dominate fashion today like Mary Katranzou who I never forgave for trying to patronise Suzi Perry and I at Royal Ascot when we were giving her awful prints free advertising. I would love to interview Gareth Pugh now the time is right for him to elucidate his talents.

So what is new on the Rialto? I have taken to horticulture in a big way and my houseplants are as healthy as can be. I have also started sewing again and sketching fashion past. I could never have been a fashion designer in the 21st century because I think the best was left behind in the 20th. I might make an exception for Mr Pugh who is a tall, willowy thing with a thick Northern accent like Mandi and I when we get together. Incidentally, my nickname for Mandi is Cilla and hers for me Hartnell.

After a restless period during the troubles, I am sleeping again and enjoying watching all my movies, Last night it was the spectacular, sumptuous La Reine Margot  about Catherine de Medici and the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre. Catherine is played by Virna Lisi and Margot by Isabelle Adjani. Margot inspired one of the late Alexander McQueen’s most sensational menswear shows that I clocked in Milan.

I did interview McQueen once at his North London home. It was for the Financial Times and he was very non-responsive until I made friends with his pit bulls called – forgive my memory – Minter and Juicer or some such. McQueen was softer and more handsome in the flesh I recall…

So is the Sherwood going to go back into fashion journalism? I think I will. I had a lovely piece on antique stickpins that I wrote many moons ago in Country Life last week and I felt that rush of pride because it was so beautifully art directed. More please!

People still ask me how I am doing with the booze. I say I persevere. I am a functioning heavy drinker and I like it. Sue me. Booze is the one substance that gives me instant relaxation and calm so it is really medicinal for manic depressives like I. I have developed a taste for beer – Peroni to be precise – which doesn’t dehydrate or cause the headaches that G&T or Red Wine seem to.

I have been hibernating through the cold snap with the heater on full blast in Bloomsbury Towers. I loathe the cold and the slushy snow, don’t you Rowley? Give me Menorca any time. I might retire there but, then again, I’m not retiring and you can’t make me (salve Bette Midler). Until next time…