I expected more.
I expected to be awed by an unparalleled sense of decadent historical nostalgia, contemporary style innovation and pure wonder at the annual spectacle that celebrated British fashion and implied subsequent creativity.
What I got was something that paled in comparison. I don’t count it to be a fault on my part for putting London Fashion Week on such a pedestal. The British Fashion Council markets and continuously praises itself for delivering near perfection in its annual fashion events. I was not at fault for expecting perfection;nor does the fact that I come from a country still adolescent in its foray into being formidable fashion deliverers, discount my opinion as valid.
I spent a brief amount of time at Somerset House on the 19th in an attempt to sort out my press credentials, and map out the event location so I do not get lost and find myself out in the literal London cold with barely a know-how of how to return to a warm safe haven.
Day 1 of Fashion week was good because I had a wide-eyed wonder at the efficiency of the events entire planning and execution – despite being angered at my media accreditation debacle that took negotiations and pleading, cross-continental phone-calls and an impassioned speech delivered by me to the poor sods simply doing their jobs, to sort things out. Every one at the event was always moving, posing, social networking, or running after people to get releases signed. There were the British Fashion Council and Vodafone personnel dressed in white hats and black uniform they’d likely been advised to wear in a way that showcased their slim silhouettes, while at the same time remaining comfortable. Wi-fi pins were spoken in whispers, and the charging points at Somerset House set up by the official sponsors Vodafone meant the bloggers and general media hardly had a need to worry about low batteries that meant their content was delayed in being sent, and being kept out of the fashion loop because technology had defeated them.
I got invitations from Jean-Pierre Braganza, and another one illustrated by Tezo Kyungdon Lee, from J.JS Lee for their runway show at the British Fashion Council’s Courtyard Show space – a show which had opened up London Fashion Week Day 1. I found it my favorite immediately because of the collections aesthetic – J.JS Lee had managed to take already ordinary clothing items like A-line skirts, dresses and formal shirts, and use about 10 shades of grey, pasty yellow and fuscia pink to reconcile her tomboy childhood with crisp innovative design, and androgynous tailoring that breaks the stagnation of formal and informal apparel when styled right.
The street style revealed orange to be this seasons staple color, and the Brits showed that their usually famed dour disposition could be lightened with bags, shoes and accessories in amazingly bright shades of color like sunshine yellow and variations of blue. Some attendees embraced meticulous tailoring, while others preferred to don apparel that nears the realm of Cosplay (costume playing) – because I somehow cannot find it in myself to deem actual doll-heads on jackets to be stylish – pardon my disdain.
I could likely dissect each attendees outfit and find merit and something terrible in it all, but for each person that wore something eye-catching, I found something nice in their look – whether it be some intense face metal bling, or whether it be the coats that had me contemplating changing nationalities. The winter coats, British fashion houses like Burberry are known for, are worn with such awe-inspiring coolness in London. Real fur and faux fur coats, scarves, shawls etc. were not exempt from making appearances as attendees rushed all over London for numerous shows. Fellow fashion aficionado Arian Humirang kept it popping each day with his looks. Clothing was not the only tool used by the Fashion Week attendees. Make-up and hair played a huge part in showcasing the individuality of attendees, and their particular brand of style.
My Day 1 was finished off by attending the Royal Fashion Day at Middle Temple Hall, where there was an exclusive showing of off-schedule fashion designers works like Luca Michele, Reka Orosz, Black Rose Collection, Elena Rul, Fabrizio Poker, Beauty Secret, Innu, and MODO Fashion Society – an event which would likely receive rave reviews due to the serving of some rather tasty alcoholic beverages. I found the bulk of the designs by the different designers to be very much more of the same. There was nothing new, and it was only the jackets made by Elena Rul that I found absolutely awesome.
Day 2 began with the Pavane show at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. I found the over-all show interesting thanks to the studio venue and the models make-up, and the clothing to be unassuming garb – dark palettes and apparel cut to slim forms and thereby ostracizing quite a group of larger potential customers by sheer design alone.
While waiting in the queue at Freemasons Hall where the Fashion Scout Catwalk schedule shows were, I saw some folks wearing some really lovely accessories – from icy white and silver bling to 50s Stepford wife ensembles. I didn’t appreciate much in the Mimi Tran show, and the Soojin Lee show had an enviable stylish front row and an average collection set to a beautiful backdrop and soundtrack. The Coral infusion of the designs was the only thing singularly likable about the pieces.
Probably the show I was most eagerly anticipating was the invitation-only Zeynep Kartal show where the trend of gold-bar everything was remade into silver, and the red carpet designs of Stéphane Rolland, Cavalli, Humberto Leon for Kenzo, and Elie Saab were regurgitated – much to my disappointment.
Day 3 began with the Kiev Fashion Days A/W Showcases including comfy babydoll cuteness by Anna K, relaxed yoga-like flowing cotton fabrics in pale violet and grey mixed tones by Pentatonica, and ethereal music setting the tone for moody ‘I’m walking in moors dramatically’ designs in the Dinara Nurlan show.
Xiao Li’s runway showcase was a fun show with apparel that looked like it was mocking pattern design with its neon color palette prints in childish cut-out designs. While I may not like the 3-D neon effect of the pattern designs, I loved the weird form the clothing took that made it seem odd to wear but really warm and comfortable. Given that I was experiencing the London winter, any warmth I experienced or saw likely triggered conscious bias.
Seeing Alexa Chung, Kendall Jenner, Cara Delevingne and Emily O’Hara Ratajkowski at the Topshop Showspace was pretty cool. Thy dressed impeccably and kept their make-up game simple and smokey.
Day 4 began with Huishan Zhang’s runway show at the Rosewood London Hotel which I attended with the Mess Magazine team and Arian Humirang. We liked everything we saw – a diversity of color and design – new, insofar that it had thee most luxurious fabrics and combinations of embroidery and fabric mixes.
Dora Abodi’s Unicorn on the runway probably made the show before it even began. I liked the leather jackets the most, but the attendees were way more interesting.
Day 5 began with a show that blew my mind because I love excess occasionally – MARKO MITANOVSKI! The collection was basic black and took item inspiration from Lady Gaga’s wardrobe and made them more dramatic, wearable, and stylish. For a second I questioned the “Blackface” make-up direction because I refuse to condone any form of racism, however, I saw that it in no way referenced non-white people in a negative way. The black make-up/paint was a creative direction that showcased the apparel better and spoke to the collections inspiration. It reminded me alot of Charlize Theron’s raven witch costume design in Snow white and the Huntsmen.
I finished off my London Fashion Week with an invite-only blogger evening hosted by Maria Grachvogel at her London shop. The Champagne and Macaroons helped ease me into feelings of contentment while I browsed her shop. There was a particular cream chiffon jumpsuit that stood out for me. I loved its lines and its romantic feel. The whole event was intimate and made networking quite nice.
My first experience of London Fashion Week was overall “Okay!”. I got to see what First World planning and execution is when it comes to fashion events – It’s incredible. I found the attendees to be 80% austere, super stylish in their own way, and eager for photo ops and passing about business cards, but not eager to properly engage and network.
Probably the thing that left me most disheartened was the general ambiance and the British Fashion Council’s approach to the event – that this is a business. They went through the motions of London Fashion Week without anyone enjoying the actual event. I understand that this is in part, a business. However, the very fabric of Fashion Week is composed primarily of an exploration and celebration of creativity, and not solely an endeavor to further the premise of business profitability. No one basked in the feats of incredible design, in the fact that thousands had traveled from all across the globe to be at this place for these moments in the life cycle of British fashion.
My advice for future London Fashion Week attendees:
- Know the fashion event dates months in advance and constantly re-check the sites for updated dates.
- Get business cards made for yourself with your name, number, email and website.
- You get a good idea of where things falter and where people succeed when you have numerous comparisons to make. So attend Fashion Weeks on your own turf first. I found I rather enjoy Fashion Week’s in South Africa because we are everlastingly still in possession of that wide-eyed wonder when it comes to fashion, and that is something worth savoring.
- If you’re a person prone to wearing strange things during fashion weeks, make sure you go to the fashion event’s location the day before it begins so you have a good idea of where you can stop to fix things inconspicuously, where the bathrooms are located, where the charging ports are, where your base will be to meet people should you or they get lost etc. Sometimes you just need a place to take off your stilettos – I make sure I case a spot out with cushions every time.
- Eat before your fashion day stars. Things get hectic during the day. You may not anticipate it, but you could be doing interviews and photo shoots thanks to your great street style.
- If your media accreditation for an event doesn’t come through, make sure you have contingency plans. As a back-up I got the list of PR companies handling the different fashion houses shows and requested tickets. Ensure the following are covered before you send the email to the PR Companies:
Have a publication commission you to cover the event. Get the Editor to write you a commissioning letter with the publications letterhead on it. Get the publications statistics in a separate letter and perhaps a breakdown of how you plan to write-up or photograph and publish.
Acquire a list from the organizers on the PR companies handling the fashion designers ticket distribution.
Have an idea of where you will be staying for the duration of the event.
Make your email to these PR agencies brief, and informative, and attach the various documentation with the email. Add the address you will be staying at for the duration of the fashion event so that they may post tickets to you.
- They may look at you weirdly but smile, and compliment someone if they’re wearing something nice – even if you have no ulterior motive. It’s just a cool thing to do.
- Say “Please” to the celebrities you take pictures of. I’ve seen paparazzi stampedes and they kind of scare the celebs guys. If you say please you might get some of the most perfect shots purely from the celebrity being shocked into freezing; Happened with me and Alexa Chung.
- When getting photos taken of you, or when you are taking photos of them, exchange cards and at the end of the day send an email so as to remind the person of the situation and not lose track of things. You’re working in the realm of media and things move super fast, as does memory loss.
- Even when you’re just ordering coffee, browsing a shop or networking in the queue awaiting a runway show – You are selling yourself! That sounds prostitute’y but what I mean is that everyone is a potential connection whenever and wherever you are. Don’t annoy someone by bombarding them with information, but should they be willing, converse with them in a way that shows you find them interesting and that you too are a person worth knowing. I scored half of my tickets and business connections at Fashion Week just by talking (which we all know I love).
- Please find pleasure in whatever you’re doing. Whether you are writing about an event, photographing it, working as a liaison, simply being an attendee or a PR guru – find your bliss and help make the event a success by transforming the ambiance into something palatable by sheer force of emotion. It’s not nice attending something where everyone seems depressed and just tired of this sh*t!
For the full album of street style pictures and runway show pictures, visit my Facebook page.
My looks for each day of London Fashion Week
Stay tuned. Next story is my round-up of my trip to London from a tourist angle.