Friday, 18 February 2011

Red Week, Friday

The day starts and ends with red.

After a 6am start, fuelled by fashion week excitement and scrambled eggs, I headed to Somerset House. As I walked through Embankment Gardens in the morning mist the only other people around at that early hour were two gardeners. As they saw the scarlet me heading towards them they stopped their work and beamed at me. "Lady in Red! Good morning gorgeous." Heading on I pondered once more the power of red. I wonder how much notice I would have been given had I been dressed in a gloomy parka and a pair of crocs.

Perhaps it sounds crazy, but arriving at Somerset House felt like returning to my natural habitat. A fish that had for a while been drowning on air, I was thrown suddenly into the sea. And a sea filled with fashionistas and photographers nonetheless.

Being a 'stylehunter' for the day and having the opportunity to watch a highly reputed photographer at work reminded me of why I am here. Looming uni deadlines and mounting uni stress made me momentarily lose sight of one important thing: I love this.In essence I spent the day doing one of my favourite things, people watching. If I wasn't scouting out interesting people, fab shoes, wacky hats or wonderful bags to photograph, or approaching and chatting to the 'hunted' (ie: the people with a photoworthy extra 'something') I was watching everything else. It was this 'everything else' that I often found the most fascinating, because to me it was the story behind the story: the production of London Fashion Week.

Yes, there was glamour. Yes there were sky-high heels and fluffy coiffed hair, and chauffeur-driven cars and Mulberry bags and beautiful people and beautiful clothes. But there were also high-visibility jackets, and lots of them. Burly, bearded men that were the antithesis of the fashion pack guided huge vans through the courtyard, erected railings and barked instructions into radios. Fashion hungry photographers were everywhere. Their cameras slung like medals around their necks every now and then they would swarm around a 'look', the person under the clothes well-trained in posing for a camera. A few of the photographers greeted each other, obviously old-hands on the fashion week scene.

At one point a group of men walked through the courtyard carting huge boxes of vegetables on their shoulders. Food for the models perhaps? Who knows, they soon disappeared behind the tents and out of sight.

Dotted around the peripheries of the fashion enclosure stood the odd group of high-vis jackets and jeans, smoking and chatting. At one point as they watched a pack of photographers crowding around an off-duty model a few of the site workers took out their phones and photographed the process. I imagined them in the pub later that night flashing the photographs of what they saw at work today.

Every now and then someone would rush across the cobbles dragging an intriguing looking suitcase before slipping backstage. Everywhere I looked, it seemed, there were people at work. Inside the building bloggers were sat at rows of laptops typing away, each one trying to get their copy online as quickly as possible. Milling around them were fashion girls handing out maps and cleaners clearing away discarded coffee cups and used fashion show tickets.

It made me think about the mammoth industry that is fashion. The catwalk show is one brief moment of flashing lights and gorgeous clothes. But all of this, the hundreds of people doing their unglamorous jobs - this is the carefully guarded secret of how glamour is made.

Red turned heads at London Fashion Week. I lost count of the amount of fashion bloggers that asked to take my photograph. I just laughed, finding it amusing that here colour blocking is a trend and not a sign of madness or some rare rash-inducing disease. I think when a stylehunter asks to take your photograph you are supposed to imagine your dog has just died and cross your knees. At least that's what I saw everyone else doing. I can't be dealing with that, so they got a Libby smile instead.

Throughout the day red got some great reactions. "You've brightened up my day," said a dreamy French model, brushing his hair from his face and giving me a big smile. No no, you've brightened mine.

Other people said how refreshing it was to see a flash of colour. Dressing like this made me realise even more the prevailance of black in our wardrobes - at London Fashion Week it was everywhere. Suddenly, however, it seemed to me less chic and stylish and more unimaginative and gloomy. It seems I wasn't the only one falling for all things bright: "You have inspired me to wear more colours," said one person and "what a stunning colour" said another.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised. I was half expecting to be thrown out for my lack of black uniform or Louis Vuitton bag. I did make one woman stop mid-conversation when she spotted me, and others looked me up and down, but mostly I was met with smiles as warm as the colour I was wearing.

All in all it was a great day. Stylehunting and chatting to people I felt happy, confident and completely myself. And as I left Somerset House I thought to myself: how much of that was because of the colour I was wearing? Maybe that sounds strange, but if these past two weeks have taught me anything, it has been not to underestimate the power of colour.
After Somerset House I set out and about with two new friends of the day, both assistants like me who were up in London from Bournemouth and Birmingham. We headed to Kensington Palace to the gorgeous Enchanted Palace exhibition. I had never visited the palace before, so walking around one of the most beautiful parts of London just made a great day even better.
On the way I spotted this amazing window display, bursting with flowers and this cutie, Jasmine, with her flower collar. She was used to posing for the camera as just earlier that day she had been modelling scarves for a catalogue, her owner proudly informed me.
All in all the fifth day of my Red Week Challenge was a very good one.


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