At the end of this week it is the turn of London on the merry-go-round that is the bi-annual fashion month. While there are many less fashiony cities across the globe now boasting their own fashion week (Dubai, anyone?) it is still the four major players that get the press coverage. And that’s really what it is all about because the London, Paris, New York and Milan shows are not intended for those who don’t do dark glasses inside and bare legs in sub-zero temperatures*. To make London fashion week alone even vaguely do-able you need a chauffeur driven car and an ability to plan four weeks’ worth of outfits in advance. For magazine editors, the daily schedule of shows is merely the tip of the iceberg. They have a raft of after-show parties to navigate often whilst having to file copy, pose for street style photographs and interview designers backstage. It’s a hard job but somebody has to do it. No really, it is, for those four weeks at least.
For most of my twenties, one of my ambitions was to attend a fashion show, any fashion show. I probably envisaged sitting on the front row, the guest of someone fabulous. I have a similar yearning to be a tennis pro girlfriend, just once, so I can sit in the players’ box during Wimbledon fortnight with fabulous hair, making oo and ahhh faces.
By the early nineties I found myself freelancing for Sky News covering London Fashion Week for their online department. I was given my press pass and an email address to send in copy and the rest was down to me. I spent weeks contacting designers’ PR people in a bid to secure invitations to shows. It was surprisingly easy, with the Sky name to bandy about I found myself an official guest at Nicole Farhi, Ghost, Paul Smith, Preen, Maria Grachvogel and Pringle to name but a few. It all sounded impossibly glamorous and I couldn’t believe my luck.
Don’t get me wrong, on many levels catwalk shows are glamorous. They are parades of beautiful people wearing incredible clothes watched by a fascinated and knowledgeable crowd who live for fashion and the next big thing. But if you are a journalist or stylist who is there to watch, take note and report back, then the pace is something else. If you needed or wanted to, you could attend ten shows in one day but bearing in mind these are mostly in different locations across London, the logistics are challenging. True, a fashion show that starts on time is a rare thing but sit back and rely on that fact and you can guarantee a show will be prompt and you will miss it. Fashion shows last for a matter of minutes after all. Inevitably something has to give and if you have to actually turn in some work before the end of the day then at some point you have to switch on your brain and make sense of what you have seen. What trends were trending? Who were the front row regulars? Which designers were championing which decade? Who got standing ovations?
Because actually, at the end of it all, what we really want to know is what are we all going to be seeing in the shops and eventually buying a year from now? There are probably those who can spot a design classic as soon as it poses at the end of the runway, but for those of us who rely on Vogue and Grazia to fill us in, the shows are made up of a lot of crazy stuff we wouldn’t be seen dead in, let alone pay thousands of pounds for. For every McQueen bumster that never gets a sniff of the high street, there is the skinny jean and the statement necklace that defies the odds and goes from ‘latest throwaway craze’ to ‘capsule wardrobe piece’. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have seen pictures of models sashaying down the runway in stilettos paired with ankle socks. You see the designers give us their fantasy and it is the job of the style writers to make those dreams a reality for us mere mortals who have to get on and off tubes in our clothes and don’t necessarily want to end up on any ‘What were They Thinking?’ pages. Design houses need to grab headlines and have their designs in the glossies, that’s why they put on shows featuring spray painting, melted chocolate walls (this just in from the Opening Ceremony show in NY) or Kate Moss. Heck, even some anti-fur protesters jumping on the stage doesn’t do any harm – guaranteed front page of The Times.
Here are some things you might not know about fashion week:
1. Catwalk models are almost always excrutiatingly thin. The clothes hang well on those bodies for sure, but those bodies in the flesh are often quite peculiar.
2. If you are not Someone and for whatever reason you find yourself sitting on the front row, the Someones will look you up and down. I got put next to Vogue editor Alexandra Schulman by mistake once. Ten minutes of bewildered frost ensued.
3. If you are lucky enough to have a front row seat, you might nab a goody bag. These can contain anything from a cashmere head band to a handbag. Result.
4. The street style snaps taken outside shows and usually posted online are never verified for accuracy. A friend of mine was snapped, asked about her shoes and she told them (Vogue, as it happens) that they were Jimmy Choo. They were in fact New Look.
5. Naomi Campbell is not as tall as you’d imagine. She is however more beautiful than you’d think humanly possible.
It’ll be interesting to see what the fashion crowd rock up to LFW in on Friday if the weather continues as it is. In New York where it is minus something, they are wearing hats, huge coats and knitwear. All accessorised with bare legs natch.
*Must be impossible to get a waxing appointment in Manhattan in fashion week.