Wednesday, 27 February 2013

London Fashion Week, London Buses, branding madness, civilisation and drunken London cabbies

Elena and I had tickets for London Fashion Week, so off we went by bus to Somerset House, the main venue for this year’s event.
The London bus service is a pleasure to use - we never seem to wait more than ten minutes for one to come along. They are bright, shiny and clean and they whine, whir and hiss reassuringly as they glide and jump through the traffic. 

Buses in London, were originally called omnibuses, which name originated in Nantes, France, where a man called M.Omnes punned on his own name in Latin for a slogan for his business, a shop in a terminus for public horse drawn carriages : Omnes Omnibus, which translates from Latin into ‘ all for everyone’
Londoners soon dropped the omni and it was officially dropped in the 1920’s to leave just the bus.
The London Passenger Transport Board - a bit of a mouthful, appeared in 1933 as the first regulatory body, and this name was replaced by London Transport some time later, which name was inexplicably and wastefully replaced by Transport for London in 2000.( perhaps an echo of its French roots or sheer pretentious brand consultant claptrap? - you decide.) )

Another bizarre example of wasteful rebranding is that of London Zoo, which has recently disguised itself under the new monika ZSL, which has to be translated by the stop announcers on the tube backinto the recognisable proper noun London Zoo!

Talking of names and their provenance, one that may surprise you is Hackney Cab, which is the formal name for the black cabs in London - it comes via horse drawn Hackney carriages in 16th century London and arrived there from France with the word for an ambling old nag of a horse ‘ haque-nee’ 
By the way, those little, green wooden houses that you sometimes see on London Roads that have a row of black cabs parked outside are cafes especially for the use of cab drivers - they were established by a mid 19th Century philanthropist who was concerned by the widespread and notorious problem of drunken cab drivers.

Only soft drinks are served, and there aren't many of them left.

C’est vrais!

Now what’s all this got to do with London Fashion Week and civilisation?

As we sat next to the catwalk, our hearts beating with anticipation, surrounded by the glitterati  and the fashionisti, many of whom stared at us as if we were creatures from a planet without the concept of fashion, the world around us was beatified by a sudden marching column of colourful cranes bedecked and arrayed more wonderfully than Solomon with all his riches could have been.

They appeared from the catwalk portico, behind which shone a heavenly white light, as an apparition from the clouds - “behold, these are my creations, in which I am well pleased”, seemed to sound as a sentence uttered by a disembodied designer God from somewhere skyward.
Each crane, each on its splendid and spindly crane legs, marched with eyes set rigidly ahead in military concentration, but each well sculptured face could barely suppress a smile at the brilliant irony of taking themselves so seriously as to march like a soldier and stare ahead as if heaven itself was just over the horizon, behind the camera at the catwalk end, upon reaching which they halted, wiggled their tiny hips, about turned, and marched back to the land of white light from whence they had mustered.
Each was indeed a thing of beauty, draped in crazy colours and patterns that would lift the hearts of the most wizened old cynic on a City of London street who had just lost a bonus of a million pounds.

And the civilising connection with London buses is that this fashion is rapidly available to everyone in Top Shop and Primark up and down the land, affordable by virtually everyone and worn by virtually everyone and virtually everyone travels on London buses nowadays.
So there you have one link.
And civilisation?
You need peace, industry and a big and prosperous leisured class to have a thriving fashion business that makes its benefits available for everyone.
And that means nearly everyone has to be in that class, and that means you will find them on the buses too if you invest in them and if you can stop governments from shooting at their own citizens or other governments’ citizens.

Which reminds us that one of the most important oxymorons in the world is an important pop song, and that there is one - it is John Lennon and Yokos’ ‘All we are saying, is give peace a chance’

In the week that a legless South African runner shot to death his girlfriend, for what reason we may never know, and in a world in which Russia’s Kalashnikov armaments company sells 80 per - cent of its famous machine guns to private individuals in the United States, we need to heed this message more than ever.

Good on you John, rest in peace.

Fashion is like the arms industry in that it has obsolescence built in, but even Vivian Westwood never killed anyone with her creations. Maybe Jimmy Choo did with some of his loftier heels.

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