For everyone, not just young designers, Fashion Week is something that has always been such a fast-paced blur of social media posts, new collections and impeccable street style with lashings of FOMO if you aren’t scheduled to see at least one show.
Of course I am biased, living in London, but the UK Capital has to be one of my favourite Fashion Weeks, along with Paris. It is so innovative with so many diverse collections. However, it has become apparent to me that realistically this event is not something us young designers can always be a part of.
I understand how huge brands with lines in womenswear, menswear, accessories, fragrances and haute couture for Paris can afford to show every season and every pre-season. They have the sponsorships, high budget, history, reputation, publicity and usually many famous brand ambassadors.
I’ve been a dresser, model and assistant at shows for Fashion Week, all voluntarily, and as a fashion student I am used to working for free, but that has to have an expiry date. Yes, it’s important we gain experience but it is also important that we are living within our means and are able to pay our way, having a decent wage. The whole production behind presenting work at Fashion Week involves way more than indulging in our creativity and designing a line of looks. It involves money, sponsorships (if you can get them), social media posts, publicity, finding others to collaborate for hair, styling and make-up, having models, doing fittings, late nights…. The list goes on. Also, let it be known that this is also whilst deciding who to invite, seeing whether buyers will be interested and sorting your production line. And breathe.
It has always crossed my mind the sheer military organisation that would need to go into EVERY aspect of the presentation for it to be so successful. Also, I was not naïve to how most things cost money and this is even before anyone purchases pieces from the collection, unless you have spent even more money on a pre-collection to pitch to buyers… At the end of all of that, we’ve got to have a salary to live off and pay any staff who aren’t interns. You feeling the struggle yet?
It pains me to think about how many all-nighters and hours of unpaid work I’ve tallied up over the years. We want to have our work available for people to buy and admire and we have so much creativity to give. However, to stick with the structure of fashion week to only possibly gain publicity is not something we can do every season after graduation.
Someone who could help any aspiring designers think about what matters most to them is Josephine Pettman, founder of brand Phiney Pet.
Phiney is a young designer who has exhibited previous collections at London Fashion Week as well as collaborated with brands such as Underground shoes, K-Swiss, asos and even Pingu! Her clothes have been featured in i-D, Noctis Mag, Austere and Bricks.
I met Phiney via Instagram before I moved to London and my first experience of London Fashion Week was modelling in her SS16 show after she casted me. I was in awe of the absolute chaos at the pre-show shenanigans. There was such a huge team from styling to makeup, hair, set, photographers… it was admirable how well it all came together and such a fun experience. I did this several times for her collections and each time it became more exciting seeing her brand and audience grow. But it wasn’t until I got to know Phiney a little more that I became aware the above issues were very much on her mind.
Phiney is known for her honest and light-hearted illustrations relating to womanhood, feminism, body image, sex and more recently, the issues with fashion week (see the links below to check out her work). The image below is of a recent Instagram post, addressing her followers and explaining how she will be working towards her own deadlines with her current and future projects, as she felt lost trying to deliver for every single fashion week. This honesty is not something a lot of young designers speak out on and at LAPP we are all about having a realistic insight and informing others of our experiences which is why we think Phiney’s message is a lot of food for thought.
We can definitely have a better insight into the reality of Fashion Week for up and coming designers with more honest perspectives. We encourage any young designers and creatives out there who can relate to this struggle, that this should not be anything to dim your shine or get rid of your career aspirations. There are other ways to succeed.
Written by Jessamy Mattinson