No sooner had we waved goodbye to Prince Charles on 15th February, than Joanna Hashagen (Curator of Fashion and Textiles) and I set off for a reception to celebrate Commonwealth Fashion at Buckingham Palace on Monday 19th February during London Fashion Week.
The invitations had arrived before Christmas and with so much else to do, such as preparations for Catwalking, we hadn’t given it much prior thought. It was a great privilege to be invited to the Palace and although we had little idea what was in store, we looked forward to name-dropping Prince Charles into conversations with other guests.
The evening turned out to be such a wonderful surprise, starting with a red carpet ascent into the Palace, queuing behind Justine Picardie (editor of Harpers’ Bazaar) for the cloakroom and bumping into international fashion commentator Suzy Menkes in the royal powder room, for starters. A little later, we were chatting, champagne flutes in hand, to a curator from the Royal Collection, when one of Her Majesty’s Ladies in Waiting joined us with a smile of recognition when we mentioned The Bowes Museum.
From then on, you should have seen Joanna ‘work the floor’, surrounded by designers, models and fashion editors. She was on a mission to tell everyone about Catwalking. We spoke to Justine (from the cloakroom), Edward Enninful, the new Editor of Vogue, Anna Wintour of American Vogue, Patrick Grant from the Sewing Bee programme (while Arizona Muse, the model of the moment – you’re thinking, I don’t know her, but curiously, you will have seen her face on the high street – looked imperiously down at us from her lofty heels and six foot plus height), Christopher Kane and more! Oh, and did I mention that Joanna was also presented to the Duchess of Cambridge and the Countess of Wessex?
At one point during the evening (having temporarily lost Joanna), I retired to watch from a quiet corner of the room, only to find myself standing next to representatives from the Dominican Republic and Tonga, who were friendly. “Do you come here often?”, I blurted out. “As a matter of fact”, they answered, “ We do”!
Little did we know that the event would be covered on television, on the front pages of the newspapers the following day and in Hello! magazine the following week. I turned the pages, trying to spot two medium height ladies (everyone else, being fashionistas, were tall) darting amongst the fashion royalty, but Joanna and I were studiously omitted! You wouldn’t know that we were there. But, I hug myself with quiet glee, we were!
Text by: Jane Whittaker, Head of Collections for the Friends of The Bowes Museum Magasine
©image Yves Saint Laurent, Spring/Summer 1974