Claridge's Hotel is a pillar of London society life. Known as a ‘Hollywood away from home’ – Spencer Tracy once declared that he’d rather go to Claridge's than to heaven when he died – the decadent interior has housed more than its fair share of celebrities, socialites and royals. During London Fashion Week, the building is awash with guests of this calibre, either staying at the hotel or attending one of the many shows held in the ballroom each season.
For Roman Proboziack, this bi-annual flurry of excitement is just another week on the job – as the Head Doorman of Claridge's for the last 25 years, there is nothing that phases him. As this season's shows draw to a close, we chatted to Roman about his memories of the hotel during fashion week, from Isabella Blow’s eyebrow raising outfits to the ever-changing crowd and their obsession with style (and sunglasses).
How busy does Claridge's get during fashion week?
It’s one of the busiest weeks of the year. As well as fashion shows taking place in our ballroom and private event spaces, we have many international fashion world figures staying at Claridge’s, not to mention top level fashion editors and buyers who use our bars and restaurant for meetings and cocktails with clients. This year we are also showing an exhibition by our fashion artist-in-residence David Downton, so the hotel is bound to be packed with fashionistas.
What was your first impression of fashion week when you began?
Twenty-five years ago fashion week was a much more subdued affair, not the whirlwind event it is today. I remember it being all about very chic ladies doing appointments, now you see all sorts coming and going.
"I remember it being all about very chic ladies doing appointments, now you see all sorts coming and going"
Have you encountered many bizarre characters during fashion week?
During fashion week there are always the most colourful characters around and you get some strange requests, but as the public face of Claridge’s the doorman has to take everything in his stride and remain discreet at all times.
What outfits stand out for you in your memory?
Over the years I’ve seen some weird and wonderful outfits... There have been lots of sunglasses worn at all times of day and night and some scarily high heels. The late, great Isabella Blow always caused a stir with the way she dressed, but with an inimitable sense of style.
Has it ever been particularly stressful or problematic?
A doorman’s job is always busy, but here at Claridge’s we pride ourselves on our friendly, unflustered service. We’re here to solve any problems that arise with a smile, that’s just what we do.
Can you guess which city a guest is from when you see them?
Not really, Claridge’s guests on the whole are always impeccably turned out, no matter where they originate from. The Londoners who use the hotel always have a certain edge; they’re a stylish crowd.
Do you prefer the fashion and style of certain countries to others?
The joy of my job at Claridge’s is all down to the variety and vibrancy of the things I see. It’s all exciting and invigorating and I really can’t say I prefer guests from one place to another.
Have you ever been particularly star-struck during fashion week?
No, after all this time and with the sheer number of famous faces we have coming in and out of the revolving doors of the hotel, I’m not at all phased by celebrities. We’ve made a name for ourselves treating every individual we come into contact with as if they’re a VIP – everyone is special.
Find out more about Claridge's and the David Downton exhibition here.
Text by Rhiannon Wastell