London fashion makes for strange bedfellows. You got that in snapshot form yesterday if you happened to be on hand to watch Vivienne Westwood pedal up to St James’s Palace on her bicycle for an audience with HRH the Prince of Wales. His Highness was on hand last night to preside over the opening of the London Collections: Men, a men’s fashion weekend orchestrated by Dylan Jones of GQ U.K. and the British Fashion Council (with support from just about everyone else in English fashion, including our own Tim Blanks).
Down to a man (and woman), the new guard of Brit fashion was on hand, looking slightly pie-eyed at the prospect of being in the palace. After passing through a royal gun-and-ax room, guests arrived at the appointed rooms, where ten leading lights of English menswear were represented by models on plinths in key looks from their Fall ’12 (or in the case of brave J.W. Anderson and Christopher Raeburn, Spring ’13) collections. It was cheering to see that none had toned down their usual theatrics for the occasion. Cozette McCreery, Sid Bryan, and Joe Bates of Sibling chose a skull-covered knit one-piece with a pompom hat for their look; halfway through the presentation, their model slipped on a black sequined S&M-style face mask, too. When the Prince—whom GQ called this month “the standard bearer for the way a gentleman should dress”—took it all in, he said only, with a wry smile, that his own version would need to be Fair Isle.
But the Prince won high marks all around. “He’s chipper,” said E. Tautz’s Patrick Grant, who had met him for the first time years earlier on a wool-related outing. (Supporting English wool is one of the Prince’s causes.) It might rankle a designer ever so slightly that the man is on record as buying a new suit only once every quarter century, but Grant was unfazed: “Well, he bloody well doesn’t need to,” he said, given their quality. After a few choice attendees got their moments with his majesty, for which they’d been dutifully prepped—”they made us do a whole run-through!” reported Jonathan (J.W.) Anderson—the Champagne flowed more freely and the Prince made his slow way around the room, offering greetings and shaking hands. (Point of etiquette: Don’t shake unless you’re offered a shake first.) “There are so many people here, it’s incredible,” Charles said as he worked the room, before joking quietly under his breath, “I do hope they’re from the right places.” They did seem to be. Editors from the U.S. and worldwide were well represented, and, while giving the welcoming address, the Prince said wonderingly that someone had even gone so far as to call him a fashion icon. “It only took 64 years,” he added with a chuckle.