Sunday, 19 September 2010

Friday - good things come to those who wait

My timing has been incredible. Unplanned, unintentional, but incredible. I came to Cosmpolitan at the start of London fashion week. And the timing gets better: for the first two days Sairey, the fashion editor and Laura, who was the lovely intern who became the lovely full-time intern, are away on a photoshoot. Therefore yesterday before she left Sairey gave Robyn and I her tickets for the fashion shows on Friday and Saturday, saying we could split them between us. I couldn't believe my luck. I would actually be watching a live fashion show, the fashion shows I follow religiously on and the Vogue website. I would actually be going to London Fashion week and not just looking at photos on my computer screen and dreaming about it.

Thursday night after the Reiss party I stayed up late organising my tickets, working out how I would get to and in between shows and, of course (and with much deliberation), deciding what I would wear.

I also had to work out how I would get to Heathrow airport by 6:30 in the morning. In all the Cosmo fuelled excitement I had almost forgotten that Friday the 17th of September was the date my sister returned from Africa after 11 weeks, and that I had long ago decided to surprise her by meeting her at the airport, regardless of the unsociable hour. Looking up the journey the night before I realised it would take me longer than I thought, meaning a 5am start. Ouch.

After a measly 5 hours sleep my alarm clock was sounding and I was getting up and dressed. (I had a shower and washed my hair the night before, figuring a cold shower at 5 in the morning would probably finish me off. Did I mention that I have a cold? I've been feeling ill all week but am determined not to get worse as the walk to my local doctor's surgery scares me. Yes I am a wimp. But I just really really really don't want to get stabbed. That's all.) It was still dark when I left my flat and got on the bus to the station. On the long tube journey to Heathrow, terminal 4, it was an effort to keep myself awake, but also an effort to sleep as I had nothing to lean against. All in all it was a horrible journey, not helped by the fact I knew it was still dark outside. But when I got to the airport, I didn't care. I met my mum and we stood together waiting for Alex to come through arrivals. When I saw her pushing her trolley laden with rucksacks, and had the first hug from her in 11 weeks, I nearly cried.

Mum, Alex and I had breakfast together and exchanged stories of our adventures - Alex's in the Ugandan jungle and mine in the concrete jungle. It was so nice to be sat with my family that when the time came for them to leave and mum took Alex away from me I couldn't help but feel shaken and teary. But it was back on the tube and back to Cosmo. I thought I would have to take the morning off but I managed to get to Heathrow, have breakfast, and get back to the office all before 9:30.

It was then time to work, and to discover the downside of this apparent 'incredible timing'.

The fashion department is unbelievably busy at the moment. Manic, even. The returns mountain seemed to be getting bigger and bigger rather than going down, the team had photos to edit and copy to write before the weekend and the stress levels were sky high.

I got to work, bagging up clothes all day. We were so busy that I missed all of the fashion shows I had tickets for during the day. At lunch I was so tired I was close to tears, and grabbed some food from Boots, grateful to be out of the office if only for 5 minutes, before returning to my desk and work. People think fashion is glamorous, but most of the time it really isn't. Most of the time it is about normal people working insanely hard, not because of glamour and parties but because they are passionate about what they do.

Perhaps it was the tiredness but I couldn't help but feel disheartened. As I sat there I suddenly felt as though I would be bagging up clothes for the rest of my life. I could see my life stretching before me in a cupboard on my knees sorting and bagging and being paid nothing. Don't get me wrong, I'm not ungrateful. I know I am so lucky to be here, I love the people and the environment (I wouldn't have been so eager to come back for the third time if I didn't), and I know that this - running errands, ironing clothes and sorting returns is what everyone has to do. Everyone has to start at the bottom before they can work their way up. But it suddenly hit me: what if I don't work my way up? I could intern at a hundred different magazines but not neccessarily get any closer to getting a job. Because this industry is hard, it can be unfair, you could work forever and never get that one break, and that's just the way it is. At one point I was kneeling on the floor surrounded by bags and bags of clothes I knew I had to organise, desperate for sleep and coughing away, and for a brief moment I thought to myself, why am I doing this?

My question was answered that evening. I may have missed all of the shows in the day, and everyone else on the fashion team might have missed lots too, but in the evening I got to go to Somerset House for PPQ's spring/summer 2011 catwalk show.

I loved everything about it and was beaming from start to finish. After queuing for 45 minutes in the beautiful courtyard at Somerset House we all filed in, taking our seats around the brightly lit catwalk. Before the show started photographers huddled on the runway, their cameras flashing as they took photographs of the front row. The room was alive with excitement and voices. At one end of the catwalk was a wall of photographers, and more cameras than I have seen in my life. Then the lights went down, there was quiet, and the show, my first fashion week show, began.
When the first model stepped out onto the catwalk, I felt it happen. I had passed the point of no return. I realised that despite the hard work, disappointments and sheer slog it may involve, this is just what I have to do.
The show itself was amazing; a riot of colour and quirky shapes, including frill hems and cute boxy hats.
I was particularly pleased to see so much pink on the runway, flashes of hot pop pink that made for a collection that was fun, flirty and fizzing with vibrancy.
And there were those specs again that I so loved at the Fearne Cotton show. Having bad eyesight, it seems, is now something to rejoice in.
I loved the mix of colours here: the cerise pink dress, bright blue belt and the beautiful firey red of the model's hair.
Seeing the models strutting down the runway, listening to the booming music and watching the front row editors scribbling in their notebooks (and dreaming of one day being among them) I was in heaven.
The catwalk scenes in the Devil Wears Prada and The September Issue (my two favourite films) are always my favourites. I watch the fashion show scenes and think to myself: yes. This is it. And watching a live fashion show was even better. It left me invigorated, dizzy and absolutely determined to spend my life working in this dynamic industry and to be on that front row scribbling in my notebook.
My stomach did a giddy flip as the models filled the runway and the room filled with applause.
So to answer my own question: why am I doing this? ...

This is why.
As we left Somerset House we were handed wrist bands for the PPQ after party, known within the industry to be one of London Fashion Week's best after parties. I was suddenly torn between two minds. All afternoon I had been feeling giddy and ill, and was so tired that I had decided to give the party a miss and go home instead. But once I had the wristband in my hand...

A short taxi ride later and I was walking into Westminster's Park Plaza, my heels (because you HAVE to wear heels to fashion week) tapping across the marble floor. The party was taking place in the basement which was filled with oh-so-fashionable people gathered around tables where tea lights glowed in the dim light. In one huge room there was a dance floor and instruments set up for the mystery band that would be playing later that night. Robyn and I walked around sipping our drinks and people watching, as happy and excited as small children (as the grins on our faces show in this photo Natasha took of us).

Despite the excitement, I couldn't hide the fact I was exhausted. Bouts of giddiness kept coming and despite wanting to stay late to celeb spot and hear the band (there were rumours flying around of the XX or Mark Ronson. In the end it was the XX and I would have loved to hear them) I decided to be sensible and get to bed. I had tickets for more shows on Saturday and didn't want to be too tired to enjoy them. And fingers crossed there will be plenty more fashion show after parties to come in the future...


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