August. For many, the seventh month of the year is the time for their annual seven days in the sun, not complete without a screaming child on a budget airline and a Sangria fuelled hangover.
However, in the fashion world, August means the bi-annual request for Fashion Week show tickets, individually typing up to 50 email over a seven hour period, pleading and charming our way into the hallowed ground of the show spaces. This week, I endured the task of sitting down with a bottle or two of wine whilst cross referencing times and dates, PR names with their corresponding designers, attaching the complimentary Media Kit and eventually, pressing ‘send’.
Though, like many questions I receive, people often wonder what it is like to attend the most important two weeks in the British style calendar. So, here is the Last Style of Defense (Satirical) Guide to London Fashion Week.
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation.
Long before Tony Blair quoted ‘Education, Education, Education’, journalists had the mantra ‘Preparation, Preparation, Preparation’ embedded into their creative minds. Applying early, at the beginning of the month before, is key. Emailing, calling and bribing a designers press relation for a ticket may indeed get their backs up, but no less so than a requesting a week before when they are ‘away from their desk’, meaning locked in a dark room to savour the calm before the storm. Further more, booking an Addison Lee (I’ve always wanted to book the bus, just for the luxury of space) early ensures that you have a driver for the week that will be outside the venue on time, holding an umbrella during a wet and windy September afternoon. Alternatively, rookies try to call said company before the show starts, only to have an engaged tone thus ensuring a mini-marathon of running frantically down The Strand bellowing ‘taxi’ at regular intervals. Many have been caught out, only to turn up at their next show looking similar to a wet cat, dripping like a f***ed fridge.
Know Your Place and Don’t Seat Jump
Having your seat number and ticket before arriving at a show venue ensures two things. One, it saves the endless and brutal wait, with 200 people behind you tutting and stomping their biker boots, whilst an ear-pieced organiser flicks through their hastily printed guest list. Secondly it just saves drama and embarrassment. A few seasons ago, at Basso and Brooke, tongues waged and eyebrows raised as one lady jumped her seat and refused to budge, only to be dragged by security kicking and screaming whilst the models stomped down the catwalk out of the venue. It’s not a hott look.
Further more, this conversation, or rather fit, aurally entertained those at a Vivienne Westwood show:
Are you fucking kidding me? You’re telling me I cant come in? Do you have any f*****g clue who I am? I OWN A F*****G MAGAZINE. I don’t give a s**t if you’re not letting these people in. Look at their tickets, they’re standing tickets, they’re nobodies, I am front row. I OWN A F*****G MAGAZINE! I OWN A MAGAZINE! Vivienne is a client of mine!
Though mistakes do happen. Fashion Week is chaotic and with hundreds of requests to deal with, so mix-ups do happen, and when it does, suppress the burning need to scream, scowl and burst into tears. Nobody knows the fate of this eager magazine owner, but it all comes back to ‘Preparation, Preparation, Preparation’.
Like A House of Cards…
…There is a hierarchy of who sits where and why on the table, or rather on the rows. Think of Anna Wintour as the Queen of Hearts – though more Alice in Wonderland than Princess Di, and the King of Clubs as Jefferson Hack. It goes something like this;
Front Row – Fashion magazine editors from Vogue, Harpers, GQ and i-D. Heads of Buying from Selfridges, Liberty and Browns. Fashion directors from influential publications such as Man About Town and Dazed and Confused. Bought in celebrities and celebrity brand ambassadors and models. Models. The Prime Minsters wife and Government Culture minsters ‘working’ on expenses.
Second/Third Row – Fashion magazine Associate Editors, regional department store buyers, merchandising managers and boutique buyers. Also, the odd person from standing who sneaked an empty seat. High viewed bloggers/websites – but lets hope a few more get to sit this season.
Fourth/Fifth/Sixth – Employees of the designer, friends of the PR’s (yes, we all know they slip a cheeky few tickets to mates ) and friends and family of the designer, though mums often get front row. B-list bloggers on the up.
Standing – Everyone else. Bless.
However, there are chancers every season, but the most memorable was the student who sauntered from standing to first. She proceeded to sit down gingerly into the seat of a VIP when an eagle eyed PR asked her to move. Que an exchange of words resulting in her quick witted exit back to her rightful place, ‘OK, but I’m keeping the goodie bag’! She got away with it that time, but it’s a classic case of ‘Know Your Place and Don’t Seat Jump’.
Take It Easy
My first London Fashion Week was full of shows, parties, champagne before 12pm and a bag full of goodies. However, come the final day, I edged through Soho to my apartment in Covent Garden with every bone in my body aching, later laying on my bed which is where I stayed for a week with Fashion Week Flu.
After day three, without self-care, running on empty and just Red Bull can have its negative effect as one fashionista found out outside the former tents in Kensington, ‘I’ve drunk so much Red Bull, I feel like I’ve taken a pill’.
During the day, make a pit stop for some Tesco sushi and an uber sized bottle of water to sip during the day when the drinks run out at the bar, because they will when many suddenly grow an extra five pairs of hands and are ‘with friends’. Stuff an extra t-shirt/vest/shirt and a pair of sneakers into your bag, and nip into a Starbucks disabled toilet cubicle or an hotel restroom to change for the evening. Why? It’s good to look fresh, and by 3am, you will need the sneakers for the night bus home because shoes just don’t cut it after a glass or 6 of free Pinot Grigio. Don’t be shamed into eating the canapés or befriending the waiter for the whole tray as if you nip out for a Subway, you won’t be coming back in.
So you have had the drink and a bit of Rock ‘n’ Roll, but what about the sex and drugs? Overheard on the way to the House of Holland after show, one friend warned another on the perils of snorting; ‘Dude you’ve really got to stop taking so much Ketamine!’ And this conversation was overheard en-route to Vivienne Westwood;
Girl 1: Shall we go the Westwood party?
Girl 2: Yeah I guess so
Girl 1 : Why’d you wanna go
Girl 2: I want to get laid
Girl 1: You won’t get laid at a fashion party
Girl 2: Maybe she knows bands right – it’s her thing
Though like the fashion row hierarchy, the guest list to the after show is the same, just smile and be nice, if not you will be outside for a very long time, because even during the nights events it’s ‘like a house of cards…’
Wait, Look, Listen and (Don’t) Cross
Like the Green Cross Code, Fashion Week has its own code of practice. Waiting is expected as shows start around 15 minutes later than scheduled or more if a particular editor or celebrity is running late. At a House of Holland show, the photographers (more on them in a bit) started singing ‘why are we waiting’ and Hilary Alexander, Fashion Director at The Telegraph duly joined in, shouted something quite witty and received a round of applause. How do you stave off sheer boredom? After a exchanging niceties with your neighbour, take a book or catch up on your emails but what ever you do, don’t complain.
Looking around has its benefits and its negatives, and can work for and against you. Do not look around like a lost puppy in the middle of London or stare at well known editors and celebrities as your mother told you, it’s rude to stare. However, if you are standing, make for the front of the queue so when you enter the space, you can vie for any empty seats and take a sit down – no asking, no eye contact with your neighbour and certainly no conversing.
Listen to the photographers, who are a law unto themselves. If they ask you to move out of their way – move. If one screams to move your bag or foot behind the ‘line’ – move it. Why? Because this was once overheard, ‘Unless you want this f*****g soup on your f*****g face, I suggest you f*****g move’. Comprende?
And don’t cross the catwalk from one side to the other to have a chat with a friend, colleague or a thwarted attempt with a celebrity as it is a tripping hazard, which after some pre-show drinks is a dangerous combination.
Last of All
Prepare, don’t seat jump and know your place, remember the hierarchy is like a house of cards but just take it easy and wait, listen, look and don’t cross, but above all, have fun.