THE STREET STYLE STAR …who fooled the fash­ion world

Ev­ery sea­son, the sar­to­ri­ally minded masses de­scend on Lon­don Fash­ion Week. But what does it take to get ‘papped’ like the style elite? AMY GRIER went to great lengths to find out ›

Cosmopolitan (UK) - - Contents - Styling GEMMA MOSBY Pho­to­graphs SARAH BROWN

AI am at Lon­don Fash­ion Week (LFW to those in the busi­ness) – the cav­al­cade of shows and par­ties that de­scend on the cap­i­tal twice a year. The multi-day event sees jour­nal­ists, mod­els, pho­tog­ra­phers and a lot of B-list celebri­ties run­ning be­tween its three main cen­tral-Lon­don lo­ca­tions.

Once upon a time, all the ac­tion at LFW (and its sis­ter lo­ca­tions, New York, Paris and Mi­lan) hap­pened in­side. Name­less fash­ion in­sid­ers would turn up, dressed al­most ex­clu­sively in headto-toe black, be­fore slink­ing into the show with their notepads and pens. But not any more. Be­cause around 2007, some­thing hap­pened. And that some­thing was ‘street style.’ Its lead­ing pro­po­nent was a small, se­ri­ous fa­therof-one, Scott Schu­man (AKA The Sar­to­ri­al­ist), who chose to pho­to­graph the out­fits worn out­side the shows rather than those on the cat­walks. His im­ages made fash­ion a democ­racy – any­one could be fa­mous for hav­ing good taste and a keen eye. His sub­jects were fash­ion ed­i­tors, mod­els and the oc­ca­sional im­mac­u­lately put-to­gether mere mor­tal. But by 2013 things had changed. A grow­ing troop of street pho­tog­ra­phers wanted more than

fash­ion ed­i­tors in cash­mere camel coats stalk­ing the Corso Como. They wanted daz­zle, flam­boy­ance and pic­tures that would go viral. And fash­ion blog­gers were the peo­ple to give it to them. You will have seen these peo­ple plastered across In­sta­gram: they have iden­ti­cal poses, wear hats shaped like lob­ster cages, and ap­pear to have no other job than to stand out­side shows wear­ing said hats in the name of Fash.On.

It is this side of the fash­ion in­dus­try I have never quite un­der­stood. As a book­ish 32-year-old with a mort­gage, a crum­pet ad­dic­tion and a grow­ing col­lec­tion of M&S footwear (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it), I could never com­pre­hend why some­one wear­ing a cape made of cur­tain tas­sels de­served a bank of fawn­ing pa­parazzi. To the un­trained eye, the dizzy­ing and ev­er­more ex­treme street-style im­ages on my Insta feed

kinda look like any­one could cre­ate them. Which is how I find my­self on the first day of LFW, in a yel­low fur coat, fish­nets, satin dress and builder’s hat.

My plan started three weeks ear­lier. Ru­mour has it, some blog­gers spend up to six months plan­ning their looks, of­ten chang­ing five times a day. To do the same, I en­list the help of a stylist to try and chan­nel the sea­son’s key trends. I also look to some of street style’s ma­jor play­ers for in­spi­ra­tion – from fash­ion di­rec­tor Sarah Har­ris to street-style icon Pan­de­mo­nia, a 7ft-tall walk­ing/talk­ing la­tex doll.

As all the fash­ion shows re­quire a ticket and I, alas, do not have any, my plan is to loi­ter out­side the main show spa­ces. Some street­style pho­tog­ra­phers tell me that half the peo­ple they pho­to­graph never go in, and that most hire their own pho­tog­ra­phers, too. To this end, I find a sea­soned

“‘Is she a blog­ger?’ I hear one per­son say”

Fash­ion Week pho­tog­ra­pher on In­sta­gram and hire her to fol­low me around. We will pre­tend not to know each other out­side the shows, I tell her. How­ever I ex­pect her to start fu­ri­ously snap­ping when­ever I walk past.

Af­ter weeks of re­search, I re­alise the big­gest street-style in­flu­encers have five main poses I need to mas­ter. They are the ‘Abbey Road’ (walk­ing as­tro­naut-slow across a ze­bra cross­ing); the ‘Where Are My Keys?’ (look­ing down and fum­bling with your hand­bag); the ‘Bay­watch’ (a slow­mo­tion run that, when pho­tographed, looks like a very mod­ish walk); the ‘Tap Dancer’ (static pose, one foot turned out, head look­ing to the side, body to the front); and the cru­cial ‘Some­one’s Call­ing Me’ (pre­tend­ing to be on the phone to a VIFP – Very Im­por­tant Fash­ion Per­son).


My first look is the ‘con­trol test.’ It’s how I would dress if I was styled by a pro­fes­sional ev­ery day. I’m in denim, flats, a bit of sharp tailor­ing, and hold an over­sized clutch bag un­der my right arm. I walk pur­pose­fully to­wards the bray­ing pack of pho­tog­ra­phers. As I step off the kerb and into the road, the first snap happens. Em­bold­ened, I slow down, pre­tend­ing to be on my phone as I’ve re­hearsed, to al­low them to get those all-im­por­tant move­ment shots. “Hi, are you there? I’m here,” I say re­peat­edly into the re­ceiver, speak­ing to no one.

“Oi! Can I take your pic­ture?” yells one man. I stop, and turn to one side, then the other, be­fore look­ing coyly down at my bag. A few oth­ers fol­low his lead be­fore the snap­pers sud­denly start to dis­perse. I see why. They have turned, like a swarm of bees, to a woman wear­ing a black cape and one red em­broi­dered el­bow-length glove. She poses with her arm in the air as if about to pull an imag­i­nary rab­bit from the clouds. I skulk away.


My sec­ond look can only be de­scribed as leisure­cen­tre chic. A vin­tage shell suit, white stiletto boots and a plush faux-fur. If my mum in 1985 and 50 Cent circa 2003 had had a style baby, it would have looked ex­actly like this. I re­trace my steps from ear­lier, walk­ing the cat­walk-es­que stretch of pave­ment to­wards the main LFW space on the Strand. The re­sponse is im­me­di­ate. As I strut across a ze­bra cross­ing, a hand­ful of pa­parazzi start snap­ping away.

“Is she a blog­ger?” I over­hear one of them say.

Dozens more pho­tog­ra­phers clus­ter around me. Two tourists ask for self­ies. I go through my ro­ta­tion of poses: look­ing up, look­ing down, drap­ing my jacket over one shoul­der, fid­dling with my bag, talk­ing on the phone. Dy­ing in­side… As the ini­tial flurry of at­ten­tion calms down, my own pho­tog­ra­pher taps me on the shoul­der. “Ex­cuse me, is it OK if I take your pic­ture?” she says. We pre­tend that we are strangers and it works. A few more pho­tog­ra­phers fol­low her lead and then dis­ap­pear, as a blog­ger wear­ing a jewelled mini-dress with what looks like an iron-on rainbow swim­ming badge on the front emerges from a LFW-branded Jeep.


Keen to cap­i­talise on my new­found suc­cess, I change lo­ca­tion, to the Fash­ion Scout space up the road. Here, the crowds are smaller but more se­ri­ous, wack­ier yet some­how more dis­cern­ing. I change out­fits again, this time into a long dusky-pink puffa coat (chan­nelling Mon­cler’s de­signer quilt­ing), a vel­vet leop­ard­print long-sleeved cat­suit, fluffy slid­ers, and a red beret. It is mil­len­nial Che Gue­vara meets Bet Lynch. I cross the road.

Pho­tog­ra­phers turn, look me up and down, and turn back. Noth­ing. Street-style pho­tog­ra­phers prowl the line of peo­ple queu­ing for the up­com­ing show. I join the back and watch as they snap. The girl in front of me is wear­ing a white judo-suit-cum-strait­jacket out­fit, with red-tinted sun­glasses and a fluffy clutch bag. She is pho­tographed by every­one who walks past. Me? No one so much as bats a shut­ter. I need to step it up.


Af­ter a quick change in a nearby café toi­let, I emerge in a satin slip dress, fish­nets, walk­ing boots, lo­goed sweat­shirt, yel­low faux-fur coat and hard hat from Tool­sta­tion. com. I am call­ing this look ‘Big Bird Meets Bob The Builder.’ “Ca­nary yel­low is the shade this sea­son, and the colours and printed sweat­shirt are very Rita Ora,” my stylist as­sured me when I tried this on, hor­ri­fied, a few days be­fore. And the hat? There was a long pause… “It’s your talk­ing point.”

I head back to the main show area, now a throb­bing hub of peo­ple spilling out into the road. Some­one wheel­ing a rail of clothes out of a side door looks up at me and yells, “FI­NALLY! Some colour!” with a theatrical eye roll. I walk the same road as be­fore, but this time I can’t get across it. Pho­tog­ra­phers block my path, snap­ping con­stantly. I surge on, but am stopped again. A dozen pho­tog­ra­phers sur­round me.“Put on your hat!” they shout. I pull it down to hide my gig­gles, and mor­ti­fi­ca­tion. “Show us the Pepsi logo! Show it to us!” I ig­nore them. A true in­flu­encer changes her styling for no one.

I whip around, pre­par­ing to take yet an­other fic­tional phone call, and bump into none other than Pan­de­mo­nia, who stares at me. “I love your jacket,” she purrs. “The colour re­ally… pops.” Pa­parazzi cir­cle around us like reef sharks.“I love your dress,” I blurt. “Thanks, I made it my­self. Shall we have a photo?” We turn and face our public. Now I know why fash­ion peo­ple wear sun­glasses. One rebel pho­tog­ra­pher fol­lows me as I walk away.“Can I get you against this wall?” It’s an or­der, rather than a ques­tion.“Are you a blog­ger? What’s your name?”

“@Geeee,” I mut­ter. “It’s spelled‘ at G, E ’,” I say to him, feign­ing con­fi­dence and wish­ing I’d thought of some­thing bet­ter.

“How long have you been a blog­ger?” “A year.” “What did you do be­fore?” On his com­mand, I put on my hat. “I was a work­man. Ob­vi­ously.” He doesn’t laugh.


I save my last two looks for the penul­ti­mate day of LFW, a rainy Mon­day. If I’ve learned any­thing, it’s that if you re­ally want at­ten­tion, your out­fit needs a) tex­ture, and b) props. On go PVC leg­gings, biker boots, a clear plas­tic rain­coat, and a cud­dly toy dog. I was at once en­tirely water­proof, and yet dis­tinctly flammable. A drib­ble of pho­tog­ra­phers turn to look as I walk. I get noth­ing.


Un­de­terred, I have one fi­nal trick up my sleeve. Colour worked once be­fore, maybe it would work again? I emerge from a café toi­let in a bub­blegum-pink hippo one­sie. If Anna Dello Russo could rock a water­melon hat, then I can take LFW dressed as George from ’80s chil­dren’s TV show Rainbow. I step out. Peo­ple snig­ger be­hind their phones. Valiantly, I pose again. Crowds get out of my way, but for the wrong rea­sons. Ad­mi­ra­tion has cur­dled into ad­mo­ni­tion. I am the LFW pariah.

With the light fad­ing, I head home to the safety of my reg­u­lar wardrobe when I get a phone call. It is my pic­ture di­rec­tor.

“It worked! You’re all over the agen­cies!” she says. I open my email to find my own face star­ing back at me – in the hard hat and yel­low coat – from ev­ery main photo agency in the coun­try. I smile to my­self. Then walk, as­tro­naut-slow, over the ze­bra cross­ing do­ing my best ‘Abbey Road.’

Bring­ing your own prop bus is costly but ef­fec­tive

Papped with Pan­de­mo­nia

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