Key Points:

First a word about the sponsors. The following sentences, errors of recall and lampooning are brought to you by this column's principal strategic partner: my employers. Without them, you'd be reading something much more worthwhile.

I would also like to mention that I'm dressed by a succession of chain store end-of-season sales, owe my indifferent looks to my father, ate something wholesome for breakfast and am buzzing, ever so slightly, from an extra large coffee I bought across the road.

While the sense of bewilderment and the champagne headache are the writer's own, I wish to thank all the fine people and businesses who made this column possible because, if I know anything from having blagged my way into the rag trade's annual lovefest at the Viaduct, it is how very important it is to thank those who make things possible.

I have spent the week inside a warm, sweetly scented bubble, being watered, fed, pampered and bribed. I have sat in Row A. I have, for some reason, been presented with a small collection of potions and lotions. I have been given many bottles of water. Someone had to pay for it all. And even if I can't remember who it was, they mustn't be forgotten.

Indeed, I was warned sternly by an old hand on day one of Fashion Week that the event's main sponsor, our national carrier, Air New Zealand, might get its trolley dollies in a twist if freeloading riff-raff like me should forget to call the thing by its properly paid-for name: Air New Zealand Fashion Week.

Frankly, I think having our national carrier as sponsor of Air Jordan Fashion Week is a stroke of genius. Who better to pony up for an experience so much like being stuck at an airport for four days?

Of course, by thanking the beloved sponsors so effusively - with so much love in my heart, but also so early in this column - I fear I may have lost some other key strategic partners. I believe they were once called "the readers".

I say lost, because evidently there are doubters and scoffers abroad who think Air Raid Fashion Week is nothing more than Mammon by the sea, and don't seem to believe the beloved sponsors when they tell us the event is the single most important thing on the calendar.

One whinger wrote to this paper this week complaining if the agricultural industry received the same ratio of media coverage (proportional to its contribution to the GDP) as Fashion Week does, we would see front-page stories about the ag sector all year round. To which I say: Fonterra.

How cheerless he must be, this angry fellow who wrote the letter. But also how ill-informed. If only he knew what I and the beloved sponsors know. Or should know. The trouble is, despite all the sponsored nosh and fizz, I'm not sure what I discovered after three days with the beautiful people.

I attended around a dozen catwalk shows and I am still unclear what hemlines are doing this year. I have sat across from Dan Carter, Ali Williams and Hamish Carter and I am still uncertain why they were there. I have rifled through goodie bags. I have watched models walk, stumble and refuse, like flighty cross-country horses. I had my nails done. And I consumed quantities of champagne, all for the sake of research.

Yet there are still so many mysteries. It is beyond me, for example, why so many of the undernourished sixth formers playing at being models appear so glum after achieving what they've obviously always wanted: to be given the chance to put one uncertain foot in front of another down a runway wearing a garment more expensive than their education to the accompaniment of ear-splitting music.

Perhaps - to get them in the right mood, you understand - the designers tell them they've had their mothers killed just before the young things step out into the flashing cameras. Or perhaps they're suffering from low blood sugar.

Certainly, when I ventured back stage once or twice, I discovered Air Bag Fashion Week isn't all cocktails and canapes behind the scenes. The closest thing I can compare it to are the horse stalls at Ellerslie on race day.

I am unsure, too, why labels like Zambesi and Stolen Girlfriends Club think it's edgy to show off their clobber in draughty, smelly warehouses. Or why so many designers think punk's not dead.

I am unclear on the economic worth of Emirates Team New Zealand Fashion Week. In an off-the-record chat with someone I thought would know, the only thing I discovered was she didn't.

But mostly I am uncertain of who attends, and why. The media room on the floor above the three runways seemed constantly abuzz with earnest endeavour. The models and designers fluffed and fussed before shows. And the sterling front-of-house staff sweated in the mid-week heat as they directed the worthy and unworthy to seats in Row A. However, the majority of those I saw seemed to have as little reason to be there as I did.

Some were certainly buyers for shops and department stores. Others were stylists and writers for various online publications, some real, some possibly not.

However, the mass of the masses appeared to be just like me: tourists in a country so strange it probably exists only in the imagination.

Sitting in the Air New Zealand Lounge, an airy, sunny room with giant cushions for chairs and where everything was free as long as you had a ticket, I wondered, over a beloved sponsor's wine, why I'd bothered to come. I wasn't alone.

"Are you Greg Dixon?" a woman sitting behind me asked at the Zambesi show on Thursday night.

It seemed she was a PR trout who'd once worked for a television network when I had once worked as a television reviewer. "What do you know about fashion?" she said with a contempt she didn't bother to conceal.

"Nothing," I told her. And after three of the longest, most sponsored days of my life attending Air Head Fashion Week, the only thing I'm truly sure of is that.