Catwalk show kicks off Style In The City
Shahid Naqvi gatecrashes the Style In The City event in Birmingham.
Fashion. It's a word that is about as far from the average newspaper journalists' vocabulary as Mars.
Still, when the call came to go to Birmingham's first ever Style in the City event, there was no wriggling out of it.
Had I known this particular assignment was coming my way I probably wouldn't have chosen to put on my dog hair covered black trousers, brown DMs (black and brown's a fashion faux pas, my slightly more fashion conscious colleague said, helpfully) and that Fellini tie with the inner lining hanging out of the ripped seam.
Fortunately I managed to get past the fashion police outside a marquee installed in Centenary Square for the four-day event.
Before heading off to this "star-studded event" I thought I'd do a bit of research and looked up what TV fashion experts Trinny and Susannah had to say.
According to Trinny the biggest fashion faux paux for a woman is to copy the style of a celebrity while Susannah reckons its wearing the wrong sized bra. The telly experts also have six tips for men, but I couldn't track those down,
Roaming around the tent before the main event - a fashion show to be introduced by Kelly Osbourne - I was shocked to find several examples of women committing both of T&S's cardinal sins.
Orange tans were there in abundance, as were the dark shades. Obviously nice to see the mini skirt still retains its ever-lasting appeal.
As far as I could tell the current fashion among the ladies is a kind of baby-doll short dress with bright garish tights and heels as, if my tabloid knowledge serves me right, has been perfected by the likes of Paris Hilton and Amy Winehouse,
For blokes, it's a bit more difficult to assess. There were plenty of fellas sporting that silly lop-sided haircut. Designer shadow still seems de-rigeur. Tight grey suits with brown shoes also appear to be fashionable.
Looking at the stalls on display gives some idea of what the beautiful people are into these days.
There was a teeth-whitening stand, an ice lolly brand called Silly Cow which apparently contains less calories than an apple to maintain that anorexic look - 71 in total.
"It's aimed at females between 20 and 30 who buy ice cream," said the helpful PR man. "They love fashion, shopping, gossip and beauty."
Yeah, right. Also browsing the many stalls with names such as Pom, Lini, Tribu, Hooky and, interestingly, Nintendo, were healthily tanned Sutton Coldfield mother Sharon Griffiths and her 15-year-old daughter Sarah who, unlike me, had paid to get in (tickets prices range from £25-£65).
"I just thought it would be a lovely mummy and daughter thing to do and it is the start of the season as well," said Sharon. "It is not very often things like this come to Birmingham."
Sarah added: "I come for the names. Jack Wills is my favourite, it's a university prep look."
Elsewhere, hanging around a roped off VIP area where Top Gear's Richard Hammond was hanging out, were two young bucks one of whom had his jeans halfway down his legs and sporting a silver dog chain (wasn't that last year's look?)
His mate wore a tight dark suit with a narrow black tie and had a tilted haircut.
Next I saw a guy wearing black jeans with a zip running up each trouser leg and an orange coat over an grey waistcoat, which left me totally confused.
And then it was into a darkened room for the catwalk show, introduced by a corporate guy called Chris Hughes from Brand Events accurately describing himself as the "least stylish man you will see over the next few nights".
It was left to Kelly Osbourne, daughter of hell-raising Ozzy, to inject a bit of life into the proceedings.
Sounding slightly worse for one or two apéritifs, she asked: "If there is anyone from Jaguar in the audience, where is my free car?
"This is the fashion event of the year," she went on, before revealing she had bought the dress she was wearing from Selfridges earlier in the day and then told the crowd off for not being lively enough. Should have drunk more before, she said, in slightly more colourful language.
Fashion is shallow and largely pointless, as we all know. But perhaps the last word should go to Wendy Graham, a former journalist exhibiting at the event who now runs a business selling pearl jewellery.
"It is quite a sound premise that if you are well dressed you tend to feel good about yourself," she said. "One of the symptoms of psychological illness is you tend to neglect your appearance."
And for that alone, the fashion world deserves applause.