Toni & Guy: A cut above at London Fashion Week

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I have survived my second tour of duty at London Fashion Week (LFW) unscathed (unless you count a case of serious, possibly incurable, shoe envy). You may remember that my debut visit to the event, last September, proved somewhat draining – I just about managed to recover in time for Cannes. Nonetheless I jumped at the opportunity to return for the A/W15 season, courtesy of Toni & Guy. But this time I went prepared.

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The Welsh Chapel proved the ideal place to worship Sophia Webster shoes

Last November I hired a personal trainer who could teach E.L. James’s Mr Grey a thing or two about inflicting pain. Thanks to his tutelage I can now knock out a respectable number of sprint drills, execute five pull-ups (seriously hard!) and sumo squat 65kg (considerably more than my body weight). And if you think that none of those are useful skills at LFW, then clearly you’ve never been. Though in hindsight, agility training and some form of martial arts instruction would have been helpful too, in order to fight my way through the heaving crowds clogging up Chinatown that weekend in order to celebrate Chinese New Year.

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The Toni & Guy team prep the Webster wigs

My first event was a backstage rotation at shoe designer Sophia Webster. The location? The Welsh Chapel on Shaftesbury Avenue. Reader, I couldn’t have felt more at home if they’d planted rows of daffodils and sung me ‘Calon Lân’. Fabulous footwear, showcased in a building seemingly transported from the Land of My Fathers. It was as if St David’s Day had come a whole week early.

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Working the wig on the Webster ‘catwalk’
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A darker take on Toni & Guy’s angular bob
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Highlights of the A/W15 shoe collection
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Bending over backwards to showcase the shoes

Last season the Sophia Webster models rocked a “cyber-punk meets jungle” vibe, complete with bright cobalt dreadlocks. This year Toni & Guy’s Global Hair Ambassador Mark Hampton and his team worked with wigs to create strong, angular bobs – a look inspired variously by Karen Elson, The Fifth Element and the Triadic Ballet – quite a trinity.

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Ready to join the fash pack at the Criterion

I returned several hours later for Webster’s front-of-house ‘Freak Like Me’ show, which was more performance art than fashion parade. I am still drooling over the shoes (and already saving up for when a certain rainbow butterfly pair hit the shelves next season).

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A full house jockeys for position at Matthew Williamson
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Glam boho waves complement the designer’s zodiac collection

In between the backstage and front-of-house sessions at Sophia Webster I was lucky enough to watch the Matthew Williamson show at the Criterion in Piccadilly, a rather more conventional affair, but no less compelling. Here the hair was all about glam boho waves, accented with high volume and undone curls. And the clothes! Rich jewel tones inspired by the 12 signs of the zodiac, embellished with glorious prints and patterns. Devon Windsor’s hand-beaded horoscope gown that closed the show left me light-headed with frock lust. Dizzy with dress desire (or possibly hunger – ironically only the models seem to eat at LFW) I threw a handful of Haribo down my throat and hot-footed it to Kensington.

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Access all areas at Vivienne Westwood Red Label

My final session was a backstage rotation at Vivienne Westwood Red Label, at the Science Museum, where the Mane Man himself was demonstrating the various looks to his team, resplendent in a Westwood suit.

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The Mane Man Mark Hampton hard at work

For this show, Hampton and his team delivered a variety of different looks, all inspired by the designer’s youth. The general vibe was described, in fluent fashion-speak, as “real, rough-around-the-edges punk.”

Watching Hampton work is a proper privilege – and no matter how fast and frantic the backstage area becomes, he is unfailingly courteous and considerate, always finding time to graciously greet the media, explain show themes and hair methods, and motivate the models. He’s everything an Ambassador should be, and a very astute appointment by Toni & Guy.

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The actual Vivienne Westwood catwalk

The highlight of the day however, came right at the end, when I was ushered towards the exit via a second backstage area, which housed all the Westwood Red Label clothes, shoes and accessories. The final way out was via the actual show catwalk (albeit covered in plastic at that stage) which we were Actually Allowed To Walk On. I don’t think Cara Delevingne has too much to be worried about, but I thoroughly enjoyed strutting my stuff and posing à la Zoolander (Blue Steel! Ferrari! Le Tigre!). I shall probably stick to the day job, but that romp down the runway was a model end to a wonderful day. Many thanks to Toni & Guy for the opportunity and experience.

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