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Melanie Morris: Fashion frenzy

WITH Electric Picnic over, summer 2010 is now officially done and girls must pack away their floral frocks and denim hotpants for another year.

It's time to embrace autumn and start thinking of winter wardrobes. I know. No sooner are we out of our wellies than we have to don skyscraper heels, grab 'It' bags and throw ourselves into almost back-to-back catwalk shows.

September isn't just about 'back to school', it's also the start of a new fashion season and the heat is on for department stores, high-street chains and boutiques to impress us -- writers and consumers alike. All have rails of clothes, begging to find owners and the most active sellers are putting their best foot forward.

Lunch

The season kicked off in style on Friday when Brown Thomas hosted their annual charity ladies' lunch, showcasing everything from Hermes handbags to Victoria Beckham dresses.

Tomorrow, Harvey Nichols celebrates its fifth birthday with a high-voltage show. Like their launch in 2005, it's the hottest ticket of the week. They may not have Dita Von Teese performing in a Martini glass, but they will have Irish artist Helen Steele directing the show, her paint-splattered work displayed as a backdrop and on limited edition accessories.

Women clutching glasses of champagne will be trampling over each other to sit in the front row, hoping the Xpose cameras will pan over them, and that there might be a goodie bag to brighten the rainy journey home.

Then, the rest of the week will involve a quick change of outfits for fashion writers, bloggers, stylists and big spenders as the shows keep coming.

Penneys and Seagreen -- the posh 'lifestyle emporium' in Monkstown -- also have events this week. Arnotts follow shortly after, as, most likely, will House of Fraser, Kilkenny and AWear. Each store wanting to outdo the competition with inspired venues, adventurous cocktails, beautiful clothes and funky little points of difference.

One year Marks and Spencer pitched a massive pick'n'mix stand outside their venue for guests to indulge post-show. The unit was completely cleaned out in a matter of minutes -- who said fashionistas don't eat?

Designers like Louise Kennedy and Richard Lewis do upmarket, intimate shows for a small coterie of Ireland's most influential movers and shakers.

Crystal

Louise hosts salon-type shows in her elegant Merrion Square residence, where guests are served champagne in her signature crystal glasses. Irish models are joined by girls flown in from abroad and the stunning clothes are enhanced even further by twinkling jewels courtesy of John Farrington (famous for Naomi's engagement ring from Adam Clayton).

Richard Lewis's biannual outings have recently been in the RHA gallery, where the rows of ladies seated represent a broad cross-section of Ireland's Who's Who -- and I wish for an invisibility cloak so I can have a proper snoop at all around me.

Fashion shows aren't just a chance to see the new season's stock, but also how to wear the clothes and what make-up and hair styles work best. They can be quick or, more excitingly, the start of a big night out.

Where charities are concerned, the shows become part of a day or evening's entertainment, with lunch or dinner, a celebrity MC and fundraising auction. Then, the rubbernecking becomes irresistible as Ireland's social butterflies turn up, dressed to kill.

Alpha

I've sat at a table where a woman's diamond jewellery was passed around for all to admire at close range. Nothing to do with the show, but rather with asserting her role as Alpha Female -- the Celtic Tigress.

Regardless of the show, the fashion faithful will scavenge for invites, wanting to see and be seen. Some are so dedicated, they'll manage a few events in one night. The real hardcore will even change outfits between venues -- I've seen the proof in the photographs that land on my desk the next day.

In fairness though, these are the people that add excitement and buzz to the shows; they're who the models play to. Otherwise it would just be tired old hacks like me. So it's good... as long as they don't dare take my front row seat.


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