Quite what the queen thought, at her first visit to LFW, of designer Richard Quinn’s models stalking past her, occasionally with their faces obscured by motorcycle helmets in black and lime green, is unknown. (Fashion newsflash: the motorcycle helmet has clearly taken over from the fascinator as the new headwear of choice if you're wearing florals and chiffon.)
In various pictures the queen looks happy, excited, and as poker-faced as Wintour and other fashion editors are inclined to be at such occasions. Black leather coats, polka dot tights, more crazy helmets, or heads obscured by bright scarves sprouting out of dresses: the queen saw it all, including a strapless dress with, yes, another motorcycle helmet topping it off.
After the show the queen presented Quinn with the first ever Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design.
The Daily Mail said the queen looked “somewhat bemused” at this style parade. Pah. The queen—and Wintour—do inscrutable like no other, and so the image of them both staring unsmiling straight into the camera must immediately become a T-shirt, fridge magnet, meme, gif, and screen-save, or whatever else you visually cling to.
If E! wanted to ever revive Fashion Police, I’m pretty damn sure Joan Rivers would heartily approve of this duo as co-hosts.
One thing is clear: Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton, for all the flashbulbs they command, cannot beat Britain’s 91-year-old monarch when it comes to delicious pictorial shock value.
Here, in merry-looking conversation, were two powerful and respected women, both icons (not a word to be used lightly), and both brands in themselves. They are also both having a visibly good time, when not staring stonily straight ahead, as they are both familiarly adept at.
The Daily Mail quoted an etiquette expert saying Wintour should have not been wearing her shades when she was with Her Maj.
Certainly, it takes a degree of bravery not to break character when accompanying the monarch. But both women are their own, very visual brands. Wintour’s shades are as much of her outfit as the queen is wedded to the succession of handbags she carries in the crook of her arm. Sure, Wintour takes them off on occasion, but wearing them is not a sign of disrespect. It’s just... wearing them.
Talking of the queen’s handbag, it adopted its own revolutionary stance liberated from its owner's arm. It sat, obediently as a Corgi, at the queen’s feet. She was wearing a duck egg blue tweed dress and jacket embellished with tiny Swarovski crystals by her favorite designer Angela Kelly, while Wintour was in floral Alexander McQueen.
Not for the queen a hard bench. She had her own chair (a Philippe Starck Perspex “ghost” chair worth around £200, according to the Daily Mail), as did Wintour, Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council, and Kelly herself completing the quartet.
Presenting the award to Quinn, the queen said, “It is a great pleasure to be here at London Fashion Week today. From the tweed of the Hebrides to Nottingham lace, and of course Carnaby Street, our fashion industry has been renowned for outstanding craftsmanship for many years, and continues to produce world-class textiles and cutting edge, practical designs.”
People reported that, as well as attending the Quinn show and presenting the award, the queen also checked out an exhibit by milliner Stephen Jones, then decamped to check out the wares of Harvy Santos, “a ‘new wave’ hat maker who had created a crown out of leather and studs based on Queen Victoria’s traveling crown.”
He told People, “She was just lovely and so softly spoken. She was interested in my crown and what inspired me. I also told her about my former career as a dancer and she joked, ‘That must have been quite a leap.’
“I thought I was the only Queen here,” Santos added, “but I have been dethroned today! I couldn’t have been happier about it.”
In a speech, Rush praised the queen’s sense of style. “Throughout your reign you have embraced fashion, using its power of diplomacy to communicate understanding between cultures and nations.
“Having visited the exhibition of your wardrobe at Buckingham Palace, we learnt that you had to challenge some of the norms, some of the dress codes that had been designed for men, making us in awe of how you have reflected the changes in our society.”
The queen, Rush added entirely correctly, was “a fashion icon.”
True, and just as Wintour has her shades the queen sells the queen and Britain at home and abroad through being a relentless, cheering ball-bearing of color.
As her daughter-in-law Sophie, Countess of Wessex, told the documentary The Queen at 90, “She needs to stand out for people to be able to say ‘I saw the queen.’ Don’t forget that when she turns up somewhere, the crowds are two, three, four, 10, 15 deep, and someone wants to be able to say they saw a bit of the queen’s hat as she went past.”
Today, at Fashion Week, those familiar bright colors were in abeyance, perhaps implying that when the queen comes to fashion-slay, she does so preferring muted color over vivid fuchsia.
The queen’s black gloves were an interesting choice, as polite fashion watchers might say, but they co-ordinated perfectly with her handbag and shoes, and perhaps were intended for strangling anyone who went near the cushion she was sitting on.
The cushion was the queen’s ultimate power-play. The royal cushion, which looked velvet, sumptuous and bluey-purple, was reserved for her majesty only, today at least. Just wait for the velvet cushion to become the new vital FROW accessory.