It seems as though I have just been on some grand tour of the absurd. It helps that I work in fashion, quite possibly the most absurd of all industries. And the most magnificent display of this absurdity has reached London: the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Planes have touched down and disgorged their precious cargo, the ‘Angels’ (they’re more than just models, remember), who bounced onto British soil, all glossy and shiny and pristine. And where were they heading? To the unsexiest of all venues — Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre, home to those other stalwarts of glamour, the Ideal Home Show and the Professional Lighting and Sound Association Trade Fair. Never before will SW5 have seen so many sequins, so many kisses blown down the lenses of cameras.
But instead of sending me down the District line (with severe delays) to Earl’s Court, my whistle-stop itinerary whisked me off to Salzburg, once home to Mozart and the von Trapp family, and now the chosen location for the latest Chanel exhibition. It’s essentially a lederhosen-clad school trip, with busloads of Liesl von Trapp lookalike models shipped in from around the globe, ready to get boozy on glühwein. I was hoping to recreate a hills-are-alive moment with the cast of make-up artists and hairdressers singing into hairbrushes, but no such luck.
On the move again: back to the English countryside, to the South Shropshire Hunt ball, dragging my resolutely urban sister with me. There’s really nothing better than a hunt ball: the food is guaranteed to be unidentifiable, and will be washed down with jägerbombs; somebody will snog the huntsman’s wife, get knocked out, lie unconscious in a ditch, only to be roused by the wafting odours of the bacon butties passed around at 3 a.m. Olympia had never been to a hunt ball before, but embraced the distinctly Chaucerian festivities, made out with a whipper-in, and drove a quad bike home at 4 a.m.
My final — and unfortunately thwarted — trip on this absurd carousel was supposed to be Grozny fashion week. Another unlikely spot for a fashion show, Grozny is the capital of the Chechen Republic. It’s more commonly known as the site of genocide, conflict and war. But it’s done a little rebranding lately, a bit of PR spin, and now proclaims itself the capital of Islamic fashion. I’m rather disappointed that I won’t be able to take up their invitation. I was having visions of bumping into Sacha Baron Cohen reincarnated as a hybrid of Brüno and Borat, or getting arrested by the KGB, all while Swarovski-encrusted reinterpretations of traditional dresses were marched down the catwalk by thin-lipped, wide-hipped Chechen matriarchs.
Instead, I was forced to satisfy my craving for the ridiculous by trying to interview one of the world’s highest-earning models. A guard-dog agent sitting on an iPhone somewhere in New York reviewed — and rejected — all the questions I had planned to ask her. No, you cannot ask her whether she’s ever been arrested. No, you cannot ask her whether she’s shagged Harry Styles. No, you cannot even ask her if she’s scared of ageing. You know things have got especially odd when the content and subject of your conversations with other people are organised in advance.