We've all seen the images from London Fashion Week, the street style, the lines of models parading down the catwalk. But what is it like to spend a week following the flow of shows?
The portrayal of perfection and composure, when perfectly styled models march at London Fashion Week, is so different from the frenetic lives of the people who live it. Five days of creativity in one hectic flash of colour. Behind the scenes, the military organisation, the quick changes backstage and the sea of people from hairstylists to stylists and dressers, make for a high octane atmosphere.
Pre-show the designers hold their breath. Months of toil are coming to fruition; they are about to put their line on the line. Front of house, editors, stylists and photographers jostle to see, interpreting press releases as they wait for the new collection. For a millisecond, a hush as the lights go down; the show is about to begin. The audience manoeuvres to see. Lights, music, action, colour, texture, awe inspiring creations and strutting feet as fabric sweeps. And when the show is over; the hoards rush to exit, only minutes until the next performance.
With new presentations all over the city, the spectators run in vertiginous heels, hailing cabs, fighting traffic and shunning fur protesters. From dusk till dawn they cover the winding streets, finding their subsequent seats. Sometimes lucky to get a perch on the FROW, and a gift, but the best vantage point is the real prize.
The models run, face and hair done, ready to be reinvented, as another character on another side of town. Sometimes lucky to walk in first place, or last, a second spotlight with the designer's bow. Hours of prep and preening for one minute of glory. Days of makeup, hair and walking, walking, walking, up and down, up and down.
In the streets by the venues, a sea of lenses glisten, and the click-click-click of street style photographers as style royalty and peacocks pose in all their glory. All the while the fur protesters scream damnation from the railings, serving up a slice of guilt for the fashionatis' part in all of this. But still, they shun and run, fuelled by caffeine, energy balls and not much else.
In the showrooms racks of clothes line the red carpet walkway. Designers wait to share the inspiration behind the latest works, looking for a collaboration or the sale. Press, influencers, buyers race in and out between shows, taking a moment to get a closer look, a brief rest stop from the running and another caffeine hit.
From Wintour to intern, depending on your status, the nights hold a plethora of parties, or a few. For the lower echelons, a free cocktail is a deserved reward for the negotiating skills required to secure entry. It is compelling people watching. Still, the click-click-click of backstage shots, the posing and the card swaps, a chance to catch up and hatch creative plans with industry acquaintances.
And then, after five heady days, the clothes are packed, the press, photographers, models and protesters are, but a passing memory as the fashion parade is over for another season. Some may say it's a frivolous business, one that has no place in a time of poverty, #metoo, slave labour and exploitation. There is a compelling argument to some degree. The industry has work to do, to raise standards from environmental to supply-chains to equality. But it's also a multi-million-pound industry, boosting our economy, fuelling philanthropy, inspiring the next generation and bringing a smile to many in a hail of beads and sequins.
Special thanks to our friend Paul Fuller for his amazing photographs. See more of his work here.