Ah autumn — an oft-overlooked season but one I long for, possibly because I look totally terrible in the summer. It’s time once more for layers, time to say goodbye to strangers’ toes on the tube and almost time for winter coats to re-emerge. But it also heralds the end of festival season and the summer holidays, while the threat of having to go back to school hangs constantly in the air, even though I’m 35. It also sees the fashion set pack their Globetrotters and leave their beach clubs in Mykonos or Ibiza and do their first bit of work since late July.
September, in particular, is the most fashionable month of all. It’s a time when brands want to advertise and people want to shop. The September issue of Vogue is such a big deal it was made into a film, while its gargantuan size and weight means it could double nicely as an EastEnders murder weapon prop.
It also marks the start of Fashion Week, if we really must go there — an onslaught of worldwide shows, events and parties kicking off in New York on 6 September and powering through on to Paris on 1 October when the fashion pack can sit down and take a deep breath (usually from a Marlboro Light.) I actually hate saying “Fashion Week” out loud. As a term it just sounds irritating. I remember being mocked in the office for talking about it: “Ooooh fashion week — do we all dress up and show each other our clothes?” It can often be an Ab Fab-grade parody to laugh at, but it’s not something to be sniffed at.
"I actually hate saying “Fashion Week” out loud. As a term it just sounds irritating..."
It’s an opportunity for young designers to create something magical, something political, something provocative, to push the boundaries and make us think like any artist would. And if you think that Fashion Week is all five parties a night, champagne debauchery, smoking inside, people in ridiculous clothes on each other’s shoulders, raving till 4am on a Tuesday because there is nothing better to do the next day than to do it all over again — then you’d be absolutely right.
My first ever fashion week experience was a show I attended which I was definitely not invited to. It was the Gareth Pugh show in a car park they’d converted on Brick Lane. I happened to be enjoying a very non-fashion-week curry across the road at the time and presumed it would be fine to come along and just “squeeze in.” Fuelled on those extra large beers you get at a curry house, I sat on a pal’s knee and cheered on models we knew in the show, whooping and hollering like we were at Old Trafford and Rooney was warming up in front of us.
I can still see the disgraced faces of senior editorial magazine staff sat directly across from us. At the time I presumed they were just jealous they hadn’t snuck in a can of lager to share like we did — in hindsight it was definitely that we were annoying drunk twats. For me now, September is less about seeing how much free champagne I can drink and more about searching out a show that is genuinely exciting. Being at a show by artists like John Galliano, Kim Jones or Gareth Pugh can really stay with you, like when you see a great film and you can’t shake it.
But as a 21-year-old arriving in London, I only focused on the parties. I couldn’t get over them. I loved every one of them. My only worry was — where’s the catch? Running around town with genuinely really fun people like Gwendoline Christie, Beth Ditto, Henry Holland and Aggy Deyn on a constant conveyor belt of hilarious free parties — surely it was all too wild to be true? For someone who has nothing to do with fashion, it was a hilarious baptism of fire into London life.
As hilarious and as frivolous as fashion week sounds, it’s not that simple for the designers. They have a more pressing matter at hand than getting drunk for free. They are faced with the prospect of fitting their entire vision, skill, craft, mantra (and often all their money) into an 11-minute display to be immediately judged by the world.
It’s pretty stressful — especially knowing the viewing audience are experts in their field demanding something new that must be interesting or inspiring or theatrical or skilled, or, ideally, all of these things and more. Get it right and you’re bestowed legendary status. Get it wrong and there’s not a 4am Tuesday night rave in the world that can cheer you up.
Looking for more seasonal style? These are the Chelsea boots that will see you through autumn…