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 ›
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