Fashion shows, London Fashion Week and Mark Fast
Strangely, the one strand of the visual arts I talk about the least is the one I work with on a day-to-day basis: fashion.
We’re approaching the end of London Fashion Week so I thought I would post some of the pictures I took at the Mark Fast show on Monday and talk a little more about the experience of going to a fashion show at LFW, simply because it’s not something many people will get the chance to do.
I actually wrote a piece called “What the hell is fashion week?” for work which goes into a lot of detail about the whole thing if you’re interested in finding out more (fun fact: “fashion week” is actually four different fashion weeks one after another – or occasionally with a slight overlap and a lot of arguing – and that doesn’t even cover couture!).
Essentially fashion week is a giant trade show so you can only get in if you have a connection with the industry or are a celebrity willing to sit on the front row (sometimes called the F-row or the frow). If you don’t work in fashion and want a way in you could try interning for a designer or volunteering at the shows.
So, a little before fashion week starts, invites start arriving. Some are pretty dull and some are outright bonkers. I still have the inflatable rubber ring that Mulberry sent as an invite one season. The ticket I had for the Mark Fast show which all these pictures are from was in the form of a credit or store loyalty card although I’m not sure if that was true of everyone’s invite because (and this NEVER usually happens to me) I was actually sitting front row!
On the day, you take your invite to the venue at the allocated time. London Fashion Week shows happen all over the city so often you’ll see people dashing between shows in cabs or trying to run across the cobbles of Somerset House courtyard in crazy high heels to the central show space there. As a result the shows almost never start bang on time because too many people (including influential fashion editors, stylists etc) would be missing. Sometimes models are caught out by traffic as well and shows get delayed hideously. Louis Vuitton’s Autumn Winter 2012/13 show started bang on time and anyone who arrived late was turned away, missing out on a truly spectacular runway complete with a working train:
Location, location, location…
The seating is hugely political but sort of only if you’re a fashionista. I remember feeling a bit like “Are we really going to be that snippy about seating?” when I went to my first show. But then you catch yourself eying up spaces and preparing your elbows for battle. Front row is a big deal – it’s basically reserved for people the designer wants to impress, celebrities, and people whose opinions count. Second row is pretty decent, third is not so great and fourth all the way back to standing is pretty dismal. As the show is about to start ushers usually invite people from the rows further back to move forward into unoccupied spaces. The can lead to hilarious scuffles and scrambles, especially when the attendees are wearing restrictive clothing because they were hoping to get a street style blogger’s attention.
The lights go down, the music starts (each designer picks their own music and, depending on the setting, can adapt the surroundings according to a particular aesthetic) and the models appear.
In my experience this has always been the shortest part of the show by far – the actual fashion bit. Each model takes a turn down the catwalk (some of them have downright bizarre walks, by the way – a combination of blisters and keeping the pace the designer has requested in the shoes they have prescribed) and then all of them do a final lap as a long line. When they’ve gone the designer pops out to take a bow and acknowledge the applause. Some are happier in the spotlight than others – Vivienne Westwood is usually all dressed up while Christopher Kane is reluctant to even pop his head round the catwalk entrance.
And on to the next…
That’s it. The house lights come back on, everyone shoves their iPhone (seriously, I didn’t see a single Android phone today) back in their handbag, grabs the show notes they were sitting on and leaves as quickly as possible for the next show.
So now you know!