When the hoopla
of the 25th anniversary of London Fashion Week died down last year, I think
a lot of people were wondering what the British Fashion Council had up its
sleeve this time around. The fall season -- which ended Wednesday with a
string of polished men's wear shows -- may have been low-key, but it was an
organized affair. Face it, not words in the past that often applied to
London Fashion Week.
Anyone who imagines London Fashion Week is nothing but glamorous should take a trip backstage and see people trying to wash models' hair with a mix of baby powder and dish-washing liquid to remove the tub load of goo applied at an earlier show. Or maybe take in the application of feral eyebrows, which are held in place with toupee tape.
When I first learned that J. Crew would be listed on Net-a-porter.com, which specializes in designer and contemporary fashions and distributes to 170 countries, I wondered how much business could J. Crew actually generate off the London-based Web site, considering it's packed with more than 300 labels and posted a volume close to $150 million a year ago.
Executives from both parties couldn't project J. Crew's potential volume, but they gave assurances the U.S. retailer would be very visible and marketed aggressively on the site. They said the plan was more about "fun and fashion."
There's a bigger picture.
The more frenetic the backstage scene becomes at fashion shows, the more predictable it seems.
While the din of cameras, editors, publicists and now bloggers has steadily intensified backstage at New York Fashion Week -- sometimes outdoing the action on the runway -- those in the trenches, namely the makeup artists and hairstylists, keep plugging along year after year, for the most part staying as focused as a pitcher on the mound of a raucous stadium.
Thanks to Marc Jacobs, the big conversation during New York Fashion Week was the lack of celebrity presence at shows. Because if Marc is bored by celebrities, then so are we.
In fact, let's forget we saw Demi Moore, Brooke Shields and Susan Sarandon at Donna Karan; Jessica Biel at Oscar de la Renta and William Rast, designed by her boyfriend, Justin Timberlake; Kerry Washington, Kate Bosworth, Isabel Lucas and Naomi Watts at Calvin Klein; Michael Douglas and Laura Linney at Michael Kors; Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman at Rodarte; Ed Westwick, Ashley Olsen, Penn Badgley and Hayden Panettiere at Tommy Hilfiger; Selma Blair and ChloÃ« Sevigny at Proenza Schouler; Ellen Barkin, Mick Jagger and Christina Hendricks at L'Wren Scott, and Carey Mulligan and Justin Bartha at The Row, by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen -- not to mention a score of other bold-faced names at shows hither and yon. Celebrities attending fashion shows are out. On the other hand, celebrities who have fashion shows, like the Olsens, Victoria Beckham, Timberlake and Katie Holmes, are in.
Collectively the industry -- editors, bloggers, p.r. flacks, film runners -- is intent on becoming famous, if not in the name of survival, seemingly more than ever. Aside from the usual throng of Japanese photographers, for whom we gamely pose without the slightest idea where that image will end up (has anyone ever bothered to ask?) you couldn't trip to your fifth-row seat without practically being clotheslined by an overstyled editor with a camera crew in tow. But not everyone can be optioned for their publication's new Inside Fashion Week Webisode series. If that's you, don't worry. Just TYFAO (tweet your f---ing ass off). You'll get there. But don't act like fame, freelance or upward mobility is your motive, like the writer who bemoaned the fact that the p.r. at DKNY had just snapped her picture and posted it to Twitter.
"Ugh," she said, walking out of the show. And then: "Oh, my god. Now I have four new followers."
Much has been said over the past few days over the issue of celebrities in the front row. Give or take a few exceptions, they -- and the mayhem they bring with them -- have been largely absent from the shows this season, which, for editors who cover the collections and retailers who look to buy them, can make a show so much more pleasant. There is one runway phenomenon, however, that continues to surprise me every time and that few people care to discuss: the noncelebrity, front-row crasher.
As I was waiting for the Rodarte show to begin, an e-mail from my editor in the front row popped up on my handheld device, alerting me that top LVMH executive Pierre-Yves Roussel was once again sitting in the front row of this particular show.
As the chief executive officer of the fashion division at LVMH MoÃ«t Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Roussel plays a key role in spotting talent for the conglomerate's various labels, and it could be said he has the power to hire hot young designers -- Rodarte sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, for instance -- for one of its labels, and turn them into household names around the world.
There's a certain irony to having the preppiest person on staff interview such sartorial free spirits as Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper. True, I did grow up in the "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" era, but I certainly wasn't sporting rainbow-colored hair (I wasn't even allowed to get my ears pierced until I was 16).