It took an extended Beijing lockdown to make my daughter begin to truly appreciate the inherent style, class and quality of high-end fashion.
With Vogue China editor-in-chief Angelica Cheung as her mum, Hayley has, of course, spent her entire life in and around the fashion world, sitting on the front row at Chanel, Dior and Burberry shows with the kind of studied nonchalance that is de rigueur for prime-position regulars.
She regularly encounters designers Victoria Beckham, Jason Wu and Alber Elbaz, movie stars Zhang Ziyi, Vicky Zhao Wei and Zhou Xun (who taught her a few martial arts moves in our living room) and supermodels Liu Wen and Du Juan.
But it was a major tidy-up and clear-out of her mum's walk-in wardrobes, one of the many long-overdue tasks undertaken during our recent voluntary home confinement, that allowed Hayley to have a masterclass in appreciating just why garments by Gucci, Prada, Valentino and Alexander McQueen are so chic and sought-after.
Reorganisation of a Vogue editor's wardrobe involves dealing with a lot of clobber. My role was as an unpaid labourer, transporting dresses, coats and bags to an area designated for appraisal. Angelica has been editor-in-chief of Vogue China for 15 years, which is a total of 30 seasons, meaning she has a fabulous and extensive collection of duds, with some of the longer-owned items now qualifying as vintage by dint of their great (in fashion terms) age.
Perusing the collection proved to be an eye-opening education for Hayley, with Angelica offering a detailed explanation as to what makes each piece distinctive, whether it is the fabric, the cut or the colour. In many cases, she knows the thought processes of designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Huishan Zhang and Pierpaolo Piccioli from extensive personal conversations.
Hayley listened intently - not always the case with teenagers - asking pertinent questions, and was not in the least bit afraid of requisitioning prime pieces for her own use.
A post shared by Angelica Cheung (@angelica_cheung) on Mar 19, 2020 at 5:42am PDT
This is a significant development. Until now, our daughter has largely been ambivalent about high-end fashion, preferring, instead, high-street staples such as River Island, H&M, Brandy Melville, Claire's and Marks & Spencer - affordable brands with funky, age-appropriate styles. After modelling several times for the upscale French children's brand Bonpoint, she came to appreciate the quality and comfort that makes its clothes so popular.
Disney was also a favourite when she was younger which, as parents of young girls know, means paying ludicrously high prices for frocks made with flimsy fabrics and plastic shoes that last for only a few outings.
Young girls in malls seem to have a natural homing instinct for Disney stores, like those ocean-roaming turtles that return to the same hatching beach every year. On visits to Paris as a six-year-old, Hayley neither knew, nor cared, that the Arc de Triomphe is located at the top end of the Champs-elysees, but she was fully aware that the Disney Store lies halfway down.
She attended her first fashion show as a toddler, marvelling at Andrew Gn's sumptuous special-occasion dresses. In subsequent years she has witnessed numerous new-season unveilings in Paris, including some midsummer haute couture shows.
A personal highlight - for her and me - was an uproariously funny Jean Paul Gaultier show, where plump, extravagantly attired and gaudily lipsticked models sashayed down the runway to an accompaniment of pop classics by camp artists extraordinaire the Village People.
On all those occasions, Hayley regarded it more as entertainment than a fashion foundation course, an opportunity to see pretty girls in glorious garb, Barbie in the flesh with a thudding musical backbeat. As a guitar-playing kid who has grown up with music from the Beatles, David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Elton John and Queen, she was familiar with many of the songs so often plundered, or "sampled"; less so with the intricate procedures involved in making classy togs.
All that began to change during the lockdown clothing edit, an opportunity for her to appraise the incredible craftsmanship and inventive thinking involved in creating refined fashion. Previous attempts to engender curiosity had failed miserably; during a visit to the inner sanctum of the Valentino atelier, in Rome, the reaction was one of polite indifference, unmoved by our entreaties that this was a very special place, where few outsiders were allowed.
But the home-tutoring has finally piqued her interest in sophisticated style. Recent Instagram posts (@hayleygraham19) have taken a decidedly fashion-forward turn, with her posing in a commandeered Burberry trench, a Louis Vuitton coat and a Gucci dress.
A post shared by Hayley (@hayleygraham19) on Mar 24, 2020 at 4:48am PDT
Currently in progress is a stock take of Angelica's shoe collection. The rows of footwear on the entranceway shelves always astonish first-time visitors, fashionistas or otherwise. There is rather less fascination with my top-shelf collection of running shoes, muddy and battered items that have pounded thousands of kilometres of pavements and trails and finished scores of distance races in Beijing and overseas.
The shoe-sorting has already led to one rather devastating discovery for Hayley. When she began trying on the creations of Ferragamo, Louboutin, Prada, Miu Miu and Roger Vivier she found they all fitted perfectly, which is not great news when you are just 13 and growing rapidly.
It means there is only a short window of opportunity to strut around in the shoes - and in Beijing right now, it's a case of being all dressed up with nowhere to go.
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