I consider myself a London Fashion Week veteran. I’ve been attending shows for nearly a decade now, both as a buyer and a fashion editor, although perhaps I should put that in past tense, as I tend not to bother going now I’m not paid to, ho ho. But I thought I’d put my show-going experience to good use and reveal the TRUTH about London Fashion Week…
1. ‘And so it begins’
This will get tweeted approx 408598429609560 times on the morning of opening day of London Fashion Week, usually accompanied by a shaky picture of Somerset House hastily uploaded to Instagram. It gets more annoying with every passing season, and no less smug. While LFW can be gruelling, it’s not as if you’re slavin’ down teh mine pit, is it? I think I will actively unfollow anyone who tweets it this season. FEEL MY SOCIAL MEDIA WRATH.
2. Fashion Month wasn’t invented for the street style circus
It’s about selling clothes. That’s it. Way back in the day, the focus was on designers inviting fashion buyers to view their collection firsthand, so that they could place (hefty, hopefully) orders for their stores. Fashion editors were also invited so they could identify and relay the forthcoming fashion trends to their readers in order to whet their appetite for the season ahead, and boost sales further. However, in this digital era, things have changed – they’ve had to change – and now you find bloggers and celebrities in prime position on the Frow, as getting collective eyeballs on the collection as it’s debuted is just as – if not more – important. And also sells clothes.
3. It’s an old school event in a brave new world
Fashion weeks were around before the Internet took off. Before mobile phones were mainstream, let alone smartphones. As such, they were the only way to showcase collections en masse, to the people who needed to see them. They used to be pretty exclusive and aspirational, in that sense. Nowadays, everyone and their dog – like, liderally – can access the looks as they happen, via the social media channels of the brands themselves. One season, I covered LFW from the comfort of my sofa, in PJs, as I was able to stream the shows and write my show reports immediately. No queuing, no elbows, no lack of wifi and ALL THE CARBS.
4. You need to be helluva organised
Who says fashion sorts are fluffy/flaky? Attending LFW – properly; I don’t just mean turning up in a ridiculous outfit waiting to get papped by street style photographers – is quite the undertaking. You need to apply for your tickets four weeks in advance, writing to each fashion house or appointed PR company separately. With around 15 or so shows per day, that’s 75 separate application emails needing to be fired off (and that’s just for the official schedule). Then, if by some stroke of fashion fate, you are bestowed tickets to all of those shows, you then need to figure out how the faaack you’re going to get to them all, as they’re held in different locations around London Town.
5. Tickets tend to arrive fashionably late *cough* the day before *cough*
So you’ll have, like, five minutes to plan your entire ‘show schedule’. Unless you’re being chauffeured about in one of the official cars there’s no way you can make it to all of them, so you have to decide which designers are most important. Hilariously, there IS a shuttle bus service running between venues, but it’s like a much more stylish, much bitchier version of a night bus. I used it once; never again.
6. If you have to buy tickets, you’re not at the real deal.
London Fashion Week isn’t meant to be a consumer-facing ‘fun’ event ,like, say, the Clothes Show Live or even London Fashion Weekend at Somerset House – or any event where you have to buy tickets. Alternatively, if you just want to people-watch, you can bowl up and hang out on the cobbled stones of Somerset House and
point and stare take photographs but normally, the ones posing up a storm outside are the ones who haven’t got tickets for the inside…
7. Mulberry doesn’t do the official tote bags anymore
In fact, I don’t think there even is an LFW tote bag these days, which used to be the highlight for me, if I’m honest (and certainly the only Mulberry bag I’ve ever managed to get my hands on).
8. ‘On schedule’ doesn’t mean a show’s running on time
Rather ‘on schedule’ refers to the official schedule of shows taking place in the Somerset House tent, of course, as well as the Topshop venue, and Burberry’s glossy stand-alone greenhouse, and anywhere else a main-schedule designer chooses to show. Off schedule generally means up-and-coming talent showing at Fashion Scout and constellation of satellite presentations, hosted away from the main venue. Usually collections from designers who haven’t quite made it – YET; Gareth Pugh, J.W. Anderson and David Koma all showed off-schedule before making it to the ‘big tent’ at Somerset House.
9. You’ll spend more time queuing to get into the show than watching it
Queues are competitive and shows oversubscribed. Typically, unless you’re a famous face, your seat allocation means diddly-squat, and you just have to sit where there’s space. It can be more tightly packed – and just as sweaty – as the Central Line in a heatwave, although much more stylish. An advantage of all the slim frames of fashion sorts is that many bony bums can squeeze onto seats. If you don’t successfully manage to navigate the scrum or are running fashionably (heh) late ‘tween shoes, if the agitated PR still lets you in, you’ll have to file in miserably to the ‘standing only’ section at the back, and, unless you’re wearing McQueen Armadillos you’ll struggle to see much.
10. The seating hierarchy can be hurtful
Really and truly, the top dogs of the fashion buying and editorial world should be seated on the front row but that ain’t always so, especially nowadays with so many celebrities to accommodate. However, this pisses off a lot of fashion editors and I know of several for whom it’s a case of ‘no Frow, no go’ – there was a big boo-ha when Anna Wintour sacrificed her Frow spot at Valentino’s Paris Fashion Week show last year, but it was so one of her editors, who was covering the show, could actually see it.
11. Show seats are uncomfortable
They’re not like plush cinema chairs or stadium seats, oh no. They’re hard, wooden benches, designed for maximum uncomforted and awkward posturing. The lack of boundaries mean you’ll inevitably get sneaky sorts squishing on to secure a better spot than their ticket allocation. It’s like rush hour on the tube, only MUCH more bitchy.
12. Shows rarely start on time
This can happen for any number of reasons – a model arriving late from her previous show or the designer having a meltdown. Some designers are notorious for never starting on time because they like to build up the pre-show hype *cough* Pam Hogg *cough* so it’s always best to keep an eye on the official LFW Twitter feed to keep an eye on the running schedule.
13. Backstage pre-show is fucking insane
If you’re there to cover the makeup looks, you and the other journos will be taken on a strange sort of ‘beauty tour’ like a group of Japanese tourists, as the makeup artist rattles through her inspiration for the show. Once you’re backstage, wherever you stand, you’ll basically be in the way. You’ll see three people ‘working’ on a model at once – hair, makeup, nails – while the model miserably eats a sandwich or taps away on her iPhone. Depending on the designer, they might be running around screaming last minute adjustments at anyone that dares cross their path, or they might be a little less on edge, happy to do pre-show interviews. General rule of thumb is to press yourself against a wall and look like you’re meant to be there.
14. Only the Frow gets goody bags
The rest of us have to make do with some typed-up show notes and maybe a bag of popcorn/bottle of coconut water if we’re lucky.
15. The photographer’s pit is quite scary
Each photographer – typically male, with angry paparazzi vibes – seriously gets, like, a tiny 10cm-square space to stand in and it can get quite jostle-y. They get annoyed if people get in the way or the show doesn’t start on time or if a celebrity on the Frow won’t pose for them and they ain’t afraid to hurl verbal abuse.
16. Speaking of which, you can tell when an A-lister’s arrived when the camera bulbs start frantically flashing
The celeb in question then has to sit down – likely next to another random celeb, or Hilary Alexander, or a man dressed as a plastic woman – and then make idle chit-chat with their neighbour or pretend to look massively disinterested while watching the show. The celebs always look hilariously over-dressed in an ‘I’m clearly not here to work and have been dropped off by my chauffeur’ way, while all the hardcore fashion editors are in slacks ‘n’ sneaks combos for running frantically from show-to-show.
17. Watching them whizz off the catwalk cover at the start of the show is always fun
But I probably shouldn’t admit that. I’m meant to say it’s alllll about the clothes, dah-ling.
18. Blurry iPhone pictures are THE WORST
For the love of God, please everyone stop taking shitty pics at fashion week. If you’re a serious fashion goer, you should really be taking notes – maybe even sketching – for transcribing into show reports ASAP later. I’m not sure when being the first to get the opening look onto Instagram became an Olympic sport but I am SO over it. Unless you’re Frow or with a clear view DON’T BOTHER. Images of the looks are now usually available within minutes of the show closing on style.com and the like anyway, so just steal those (don’t do that).
19. You’re always intrigued by the catwalk soundtrack
But make sure you’ve downloaded Shazam to identify the songs as designers are often a bit mysterious like that. Some designers are renowned for their banging soundtracks; Henry Holland’s are always good, as are Felder Felder’s.
20. We shouldn’t laugh at models falling over, but we do
Although we’ve not had much tumbling action since The Great Fall of Burberry for SS11. Also, after watching a few shows, you’ll find yourself starting to do the horsey, leaning backwards-style walk models do, in the same way you inadvertently take on someone’s accent when talking to them (or is that just me?).
21. You know the show’s about to close when the lone model appears
The last model – usually the ‘big name’ of the show, or basically, Cara Delevingne/Kendall Jenner – is sent down the catwalk in the statement, ‘winning’ look of the show AKA the money shot for the photographers. Then, a bit like actors doing an encore at the theatre, all of the models will reappear for the finale, to restrained fashion applause because everyone’s too busy videoing it. After that the designer(s) usually pop out to say hello and depending on how shy/cool/mysterious/drugged-up they are, will either do a quick wave or a full circuit of the catwalk.
22. Anna Wintour is always first to exit a show
She’s speedier than Usain Bolt. I’m not sure if that’s an unwritten fashion rule, in the same way you’re meant to curtsey in front of the queen or not make eye contact with rabid dogs, but you just watch her sprint off as soon as the lights go up. And everyone’s OK with that. She also never removes her shades to watch a show, which, as you’ll recall, usually takes place in near darkness. She reckons it’s so we the public can’t see her reaction to the garms, but we all know better.
Actually, to be fair, she removed them for a couple of shows in 2014 and the fashion world gasped. She was even spotted S-M-I-L-I-N-G at a show once, I KNOW RIGHT.
23. New York Fashion Week is a slick operation
I’ve only been to New York Fashion Week once, but it was, as you’d expect, run seamlessly. No lines outside; PRs with iPads instead of dog-earred invite lists on clipboards you see at LFW. It was like the Subway compared to the Underground – we seem oh-so sloppy in comparison… but the collections in New York are almost too polished too; there’s something supremely cool, eclectic and invariably fresh about London style (but I’m biased).
24. The after parties aren’t as glamorous as they might seem
They’re usually more over-subscribed than the shows – and twice as sweaty – in teeny little obscure venues, full of cocky coke-heads and clingers on. I only used to go to try and get a celebrity story, but always ended up leaving after about five minutes. Usually it’s difficult to get a +1 on your invite but going on your own is THE WORST.
25. No, I can’t get you tickets
I get asked this all the time, like it’s an attraction. Like fucking Lego Land, or something. And after reading all this, do you really still want to go anyway?!
Talk to me: @NatWallers on Twitter