Whether you’re a superstar designer with a legion of minions, or a young up-and-comer who reckons they’re the next Vivienne Westwood, London Fashion Week is like a final exam. It’s the big, crazy culmination of months of work, preceded by a flurry of castings, fittings, and diligent planning – all for a precious few minutes of runway time in front of fashion’s most influential (and snootiest) people. But what happens before the clothes are paraded in front of buyers, celebrities, and the press?
Creating a collection
Designers all work at their own pace – because they’re artists, darling – but it’s not unusual to begin work on the next collection immediately after finishing the last. It starts with mood boards and sketches, with each designer honing their vision for the coming season. Crunch time is usually a month or so before Fashion Week, in which fabrics are selected and samples are produced at a rapid rate – in some cases, as many as six per week.
During this time, designers and their teams are working around the clock, and they’ve all got their ways of coping. For some it’s music, for others it’s moral-boosting takeaways, and for everyone else it’s lots and lots of caffeine.
A fortnight to go
This is when things begin to get intense, nights become sleepless, and the adrenaline takes over.
Preparations are made for the venues, invites are sent out, and the Fashion Week buzz really starts to be felt. For designers, the focus has now shifted onto the final aesthetic of their collection. They’ll collaborate with hair and make-up teams on the finished runway look, and exciting/nerve-wracking styling sessions ensue – which is usually the first time a designer sees their vision realized. No pressure.
For the models, it’s not just a case of showing up for the casting, fitting, and then the actual show. For most, getting runway ready is a process that starts weeks before LFW – or indeed, before they even know who they’ll be walking for. There’s rigorous work out routines, strict diets, and a variety of beauty treatments to get themselves in tiptop condition. Contrary to popular belief, the girls don’t show up to castings all dolled up and glamorous – designers usually prefer the opposite, a blank, natural canvas.
A week to go
Many designers get the bulk of their LFW prep done around this time – and that includes picking their models. A week or so before fashion week, casting calls are sent out, and models attend several auditions a day - keeping London’s modelling agencies firmly on their toes.
Once the models are booked, they’re summoned back to the designer for a fitting, just days before the show. During this time it’s not unusual for clothes to be unfinished, or to undergo last-minute alterations and changes. This can be anything from adding embellishments or reworking something in a different fabric, to creating something else entirely.
Months of designing, weeks of making, and some super-intense days of preparation have all lead up to this moment – the designer’s slot on the London Fashion Week schedule. The plans for the show are all finalized, and now everything rests on the execution.
The models arrive around three hours before the show, and all 20 or so are eventually ushered backstage for a hectic hair and make-up session. Once that’s done, there’s a brief rehearsal so everyone knows who’s walking and when, and then they’re dressed and styled in the designer’s latest creations. This is typically the most chaotic part of all – where reporters jostle for interviews, the beauty teams do last-minute touch-ups, and designers cast a discerning eye over the fruits of their labour. And then? It’s over in a matter of flashbulbs. The designers are lathered in praise, the models move onto their next job, and everyone else hits the parties.
London Fashion Week… It’s not all pretty, but someone’s got to do it.