Tom Ford is a man who can bring glamour to the most unlikely of settings. The Hollywood mogul and superstar designer (once of Gucci and YSL) spent much of yesterday at City Hall, the headquarters of the Greater London Authority, near Tower Bridge. The Los Angeles-based Ford was in London to judge the final of the fashion fringe event, a competition for emerging talent which forms part of London fashion week.

The glass-roofed chamber, more used to hosting debates about the congestion charge, formed the catwalk area. Ford gave the venue his seal of approval: “It’s super-slick,” he said. Guests were welcomed to their seats with a note from Ken Livingstone, the mayor, saying: “London is a world-class cultural capital. The city is well known as a centre for fashion, film and design.”

In this respect, Ford was in full agreement with London’s mayor. Wearing an impeccable slate grey suit and carrying his trademark sunglasses, he explained his fondness for London. “I love London. I’ve had so many great design assistants from here. That’s why I feel the need to encourage young British talent – some of the strongest designers in the world are British.” Asked what it was about London that meant it was such a breeding ground for new talent, he said: “I think it’s the culture – there’s a freedom of expression here that I don’t find anywhere else in the world.”

Sweltering in the front row of the show sat a who’s who of fashion designers on hand to lend their support to the event. Phoebe Philo (formerly of Chloe), Roland Mouret, Zandra Rhodes and even Harrods heiress (and designer) Camilla Al Fayed waited patiently for the much-delayed show to start.

Ford is legendary among designers. At Gucci he invented the concept of mass luxury and rejuvenated the then struggling label. When asked whether he considered himself a role model to young designers, he said: “I guess so, but I think a lot of designers would like to be the opposite of me because I represent big corporate success. I never think of myself as a role model but then I notice people sometimes tremble when they talk to me.”

Gavin Douglas, who has recently set up his own label with the assistance of the Prince’s Trust, was the delighted winner. Currently exhibiting at the Black British Style Exhibition in Birmingham, he showed a capsule collection entitled Black Victorians, which nodded to his roots in Jamaica. Douglas received £100,000, free legal, technical and business support, and development grants from the Centre for Fashion Enterprise at the London College of Fashion. His collection will also be sold by

By: Imogen Fox