When Nik asked me to cover London Fashion weekend, I thought that’s exciting. Diva’s and wags, supermodels and ladies who do, Posh and Becks! What a great opportunity to mix it up with the beautiful people.
However, my only knowledge of this fashion world I gleaned from ‘The devil wears Prada’ which I saw on a plane once. So had my doubts that I was the right person for the job, I’m more Blue Harbour than Paul Smith.
I googled London Fashion Weekend, just to make sure. It was worse than I thought; this event is about...I can hardly bear to say it...shopping!
"Shopping!" I cried to Nik "I'd rather count the hairs on my dogs dangly bits!" "But it's got a Catwalk" she countered. Hmm...I conjured up a catwalk in my mind...
Ok so my dog's gonads started to lose their appeal. Before I knew it I had a press pass sitting on my mantle piece.
My Google search had thrown up that Fashion Weekend is not the same as the famous Fashion Week. They are in the same venue at Somerset House, but a million miles away in terms of style. Fashion weekend is tagged on to Fashion Week after all the fashionistas have long since gone back to New York, Milan or Paris. This weekend is a chance for mere mortals to grab some fashion action at discounted prices and hope the glamour of Fashion Week will rub off on them. Haute couture it’s not.
I had a ticket for the Sunday, which people pay good money for. Can you imagine paying money to go shopping? As I walked in, my worst fears were confirmed, wall to wall with designer brands, nails, hair and skin care. It felt like the ground floor of Selfridges.
I couldn't help but notice that I was about the only person there with a Y chromosome, that's the one that makes you allergic to shopping. I was about to break out in hives.
Fearing I might take a turn for the worst I took refuge at the Pink Champagne Bar. As I sipped on my pink champagne in the butchest way I could, my little finger seeming to have a mind of its own. I noticed a couple drinking next to me, boyfriend obviously dragged along for the day, poor sod. I cast him a sympathetic nod; well at least I hope that’s what he thought it was.
Perched at the bar I looked around the place, there was a young crowd of fashion wannabes; some of who I guess were trying to break out from that ‘fresh from the mall’ look. With their Croydon facelifts and builders bums, I couldn’t help but admire their optimism.
Buoyed by the champagne I made my way early to the catwalk area, to get a good spot. There was already a big queue of excitable girls waiting. I strode up to the front trying to look nonchalant. I showed my photographer’s pass and was ushered in like a VIP, Tesco bombers and all. I could get used to this.
I found a good position at the end of the runway, although as I’ve never been to a fashion show, I was assuming it was a good spot. As the show was about to start the lights went down and the crowd were hushed. As I sat there waiting in the dark finger hovering over the shutter release, I couldn’t but help feel a tingle of excitement. This was cool.
Then bang, the spotlights went up and the music pumped, here comes the first model strutting her stuff. All around me there was a cacophony of shutters opening and closing in a mad frenzy. Like a photographer’s pavlovian response, I felt compelled to join in, finger on the trigger, letting rip. Who cares if there’s a shot or not!
This seems like a good moment to confess my failings as a fashion photographer. I thought it was going to be dark like a theatre or a gig. So I thought no point taking a zoom, there won’t be enough light, I need my fastest prime, an 85mm f/1.2.
How wrong was I?! There were enough spot-lights on the catwalk to be seen from space! I felt quite inadequate amongst all the long lenses with my trusty but very stubby 85mm and my now redundant flash.
My embarrassment was spared though, as the rest of the togs were too busy seeing how quickly they could fill up a 16Gb card, or chimping away like bubbles. My impression was that the pros had moved on to fresh pastures with the rest of the Fashion Week circus.
However, I do like to think that this motley crew of photographers of which I was a part, added our own little bit of glamour to the occasion. What’s a catwalk without togs? Just as well that my George at Asda tank top couldn’t be seen in the shadows though, that might have cramped the buzz.
The models kept coming down the runway. They did look fabulous. Although I hardly noticed the clothes, being preoccupied with exposures, focusing and point of view.
The compare Louise Roe apparently well known in fashion, did a good job. Her function was to introduce the clothes, and a give fashion tips to the throng, who were hanging on her every word. This struck me a bit rich coming from someone wearing huge bright orange Pantaloons, but what do I know?
One tip she gave, which stayed with me, was ‘Girls; boobs or legs, boobs or legs, but never both!' Most of the models didn’t have this choice; you can’t grow boobs when you only eat one organic rocket leaf a day. The phrase ‘I’ve seen more meat on a butcher’s pencil’ came to mind.
Four hundred shots later it was soon over, and I have to say I really enjoyed it. It was the epitome of glam! The lights, the music, the girls, the colours, the shapes. A visual treat and a very photogenic cocktail. I was very pleased I went, seeing as I nearly turned it down.
The aspiring fashionistas at London Fashion weekend were certainly enjoying themselves. If the music hadn’t been so loud, I’m sure you would have heard oohs and aahs and whoops of delight, their enjoyment was almost tangible. Judging by some of the girls walking around with as many bags as they could carry without falling over, they also enjoyed the shopping.
Finally, I’m mindful this is a photographic website, and so you are probably as bewildered by fashion as I am. You think mullets are cool and wish loons would make a come back. You know Rodeo is a cool label. So chaps, let me part by giving you a piece of fashion advice I picked up that day.
Muffin-tops or moobs, but never both.
See Martin's profile
for more shots from the event.