I’d just finished my first year studying Fashion Communications up north when I applied for an internship with Vauxhall Fashion Scout in February 2012. I needed experience and it’s easier to get into London Fashion Week with them than Somerset House because the designers are all young and new. Fashion Scout hosts emerging designers and all the shows are off-schedule. My five-day internship was backstage as a model dresser. Yes, I literally dressed the models.
Pretty much everyone who worked backstage at the Fashion Scout shows were interns. No-one was paid. My hours were varied, but intense. Typically I would work 7am-9pm and while we officially had a lunch hour, I can’t say that happened much, as the shows were during the day and it was impossible to find a down moment to take your break.
Lunch – or any kind of refreshment – was not provided. Food was provided for the models, but we were categorically not allowed to have any – generally because they’d try and save it for the next day. (Yep, hygienic.) Most shows provided the models with a little bag with some fruit and a sandwich inside. Most of them ate the fruit... and left the sandwich. But no, I never ate a model’s leftover sandwich. That would have been way too depressing...
A lot of the models were really new to Fashion Week so they were really sweet and shy and appreciated any help that they were given. Some couldn’t be bothered to communicate and there were a few girls that had been all around London in the first week and it was their first time over here and they were just so confused and exhausted and couldn’t even speak English.
Obviously, most of them were really thin. But all the girls I dressed looked healthy enough; I didn’t dress anyone who looked too thin. You do see the models eyeing up each other up, you can sense that. Everyone checking everyone out. I think I’d be the same in that job; it’s a job where you expect to be looked at.
None of the models were mean to each other; I didn’t see any backstage bitchiness. But it was a whole lot different with the designers... There was one designer who spent the whole day of the show having a series of dramatic panic attacks in the corner. Her team did abosolutely everything for her, shouting at each other the whole while. After the show everyone was like, ‘It was marvellous,’ and she was like ‘Thanks, I put so much effort into it.’!
Another time, a designer got really angry because the models went out in the wrong order, so his ‘vision’ was confused.
People who might be very nice outside of the fashion industry go a bit mad during LFW
You do get asked to do some crazy things. A friend of mine was interning as well during the season and the make-up artist asked her to moisturise all the models’ dry feet. I’ve also had to come out from backstage during the show and stand in the photographer’s pit to organise them. The photographers have zero space to stand – they are literally on top of each other – and they are so mean. The girls are petrified and the photographers were shouting throughout the show, ‘WALK IN THE MIDDLE’ and ‘MOVE TO THE LEFT’.
I interned two seasons in a row and the second time, I was on the backstage door. I controlled who came in and out. There were a few famous faces, like Alek Wek, Alice Dellal and Flo Dron. Alice in particular was really, really lovely. She kept coming back to me to chat and ask for help.
But other people who might be very nice outside of the fashion industry go a bit mad during LFW. They get caught up in the week’s hysteria, I think. The people are dramatic, manners don’t feature very often and others treated me like I wasn’t even a proper human being. So am I still working in fashion? Most definitely not.
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Illustration: Hisashi Okawa
This article originally appeared on The Debrief.