115. Fashion

Tapehead no 115

The vagaries of fashion continue to bewilder us all, and none more so than Network First.

Making a film about the horror that is Harvey Nichols without being funny, frank or scathing must be fairly difficult, but for some reason, Network First contrived to try.

From the first carping words of the commentary – “Some people get very excited by fashion” – you sense the level of observation will indeed be truly mundane. (Loyd Grossman produces and Nick Lord directs but, fittingly, no-one owns up to having written the script.)

The voice-over (by Graham Nown) is appalling, sneering snidely about everything obvious.

“Everything has to make the mouth water.” 

What’s wrong with that ?

Fashion people may be funny (planning spring-wear in autumn), but what else can they do ?

When it comes to the individuals, Modern Times or Cutting Edge would have stuck the knife into someone like Mary Portas far more fabulously. Mary (Harvey Nichols’ marketing services director) has taken the rather strange marketing decision to appear on national television looking as if she’s dressed in clothes from C&A. 

Her most recent masterstroke was the Harvey Nichols Barbie Doll. 

“Lots of what Barbie stands for, we believe our customers stand for as well,” she beams. How the customers will feel about this is anyone’s guess. 

“She’s about glamour, sex…She’s also extremely timeless.”

(She’s made of plastic…)

In fact, customers like Amanda Wilson-Barrett are neither as charismatic nor intelligent as Barbie.

“Yah, that’s gr-eat,” she says, admiring one garment. “You wouldn’t look stupid in it, d’you know what I mean ?”

Actually, Amanda, I’m not sure I do. 

(And by the way, grey really isn’t your colour. And cover those arms up.)

Mind you, even Amanda understands fashion better than Network First.

She patiently explains to them why not all of us want to buy our T-shirts at Mr. Byrite.

Instead of simply sticking with sticking the knife into the customers, the programme aimlessly whizzes past menswear, and goes (fleetingly) behind the scenes in the kitchens, while the launch of a branch in Leeds (a gift) is totally wasted.

All in all, this is a programme with far less substance than its subject, which is saying something.

Nicola Roberts’s film of the photographs of Guy Bourdin called Dreamgirls at least acknowledges and understands why fashion can be exciting.

There are only fragments of biography (mainly the influence on his work of his relationship with his mother), but Bourdin’s fashion photographs are expertly used to illustrate the elegant decadence and strange eroticism of the seventies.

The senior director of Sotheby’s sees Bourdin as “a kind of dark genius”, but it was more noir than dark, with the echoes of murder and a dazzlingly cinematic style. His photographs, someone says, were “about the problems of desire, the problems of connecting.”

Following this S&M contest with Helmut Newton’s work in the pages of French Vogue every month would have been a hobby worth having.

Now that summer is over, at least Georgia from Brookside is no longer allowed to pursue her fashion faux pas any more (ie, those denim shorts that make her legs look fat). Nice chunky winter jumpers are a much better look. Not exactly dressing to kill, but still…

“Why do you have to be so intolerant?” she pouted last week, accusing Max of forcing his morality on everyone else.

Has anyone worked out if we are meant to sympathise with her and Nat ?

This week: worries that Georgia might be up the duff, and about to produce the first two-headed baby on the Close. 

Another Brookside breakthrough ! 

At least it won’t be as gormless as its father, even when it’s born.

Still, an incestuous pregnancy: how fashionable is that ?!


Dreamgirls: Sat, 9.30pm, BBC2

Network First: Tues, 10.40pm, ITV

Brookside: Tues-Weds-Fri, 8pm, C4