I RECEIVED a rather unusual invitation just after Christmas. BMW called to see if I’d be interested in going along to the Richard James show as part of London menswear fashion week.FRONT-ROW CENTRE-More Features, WOMEN Intrigued – and being a big fan of the Savile Row designer despite the lack of any women’s clothing in his collection – I accepted the invitation.
It was a frosty January day as I made my way down London’s Regents Street to the Café Royal Hotel. The catwalk was being held at this stunning newly re-opened building, which admittedly made this invitation doubly exciting. Having read so much about the history of the hotel and the redesign it would be a real treat to see it up close and personal.

This was, after all, a famous haunt for some very cool, and some very notorious, artists and writers. Conceived in 1865, by the end of the century it had become the place to be seen and spotted, boasting the greatest wine cellar in the word. The likes of George Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf, James McNeill Whistler, Aubrey Beardsley, not to mention most famously Oscar Wilde, were frequent diners here.

The Café Royal Hotel closed its doors in 2008 – the furniture sold off in auction. Thankfully one of today’s leading architecture practices, David Chipperfield Architects, has come to the rescue. The team have redesigned this 16-bedroom five-star hotel, and restored its Grade I listed Louis XVI interiors. The result is a magnificently opulent and decadent building that turned out to be the perfect set for the Richard James show. Fashion, after all, needs a little bit of theatre.

Celebrating 23 years in Savile Row this year, Richard James is best known for the clean silhouettes of his tailoring. He calls it: ‘Contemporary Savile Row tailoring and modern menswear.’ The designer says: ‘Our philosophy is to produce classic clothing of unsurpassable quality and to push the boundaries through design, colour and cut.’

The theme for his Autumn/Winter 2013 collection was ‘Park Life’. Inspiration came from the capital city’s many green spaces described in the press literature as ‘the place to promenade and find peace, for exhibitions and exhibitionism and for encounters both innocent and illicit’.

Contemporary fashion shows are partially judged on who sits in the front row and BMW had certainly gathered a worthy group of celebrities. The mix included ‘The Hobbit’ Martin Freeman, the hottest male model today David Gandy, petit-sized rapper Tinie Tempah, former rugby union player and coach Sir Clive Woodward and Nick Rhodes of legendary 80s group Duran Duran fame – all adorning BMW’s first row. It was hard to focus on the tailored suits and autumnal colours with such a star-studded cast a row in front of us.

BMW has joined a small selection of premium brands – most notably Mercedes-Benz who sponsors women’s fashion week – in sponsoring major fashion events. This is a smart way of subtle product placement (guests were chauffeured and snapped in the 7-Series) and a great way to align itself with one of the most respected names in men’s fashion today, Richard James. -Referred from Nargess Shahmanesh Banks.

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