How Much Cocaine And Champagne Really Goes On At London Fashion Week?

And other unanswered questions answered


by Hanna Hanra |
Published on

It’s been 30 years since the very first London Fashion Week – the five-day feast of clothes and catwalks, which starts again tomorrow.

Once shrouded in mystery, the whole thing has become a lot more consumerable in recent years. Shows were once lived in the moment; they now live on, streamed online and recorded for eternity on YouTube. Reviews are immediate and on Instagram. Bloggers are abundant. Burgers are mini and champagne is free-flowing. But is the nitty gritty as Ab Fab as you think?

We put those questions you’ve always pondered about London Fashion Week to the people who know best – for some (surprisingly honest) answers:

**First up: how much does a model get paid for a catwalk show? **

‘It totally varies, depending on the designer and on the model,’ says Vogue's Booking Agent Rosie Vogel. ‘It can be as little as £100 or up to something like £20k for a really big model. Some big designers actually pay very little – and some will pay the girls in clothes.’


And where do they stay? Plus, do they get any sleep?

‘They will usually stay in hotels or model apartments,’ says Rosie. But no – they don’t get much sleep. ‘Fittings can go until the early hours of the morning and often, for morning shows, the call time can be as early as 5am – or earlier.’ (No answer on how they still managed to look half decent by the end, though.)

**What would you do if you got accidentally sat next to Anna Wintour? And do people really get out of lifts when she gets in? **

‘If you find yourself sitting next to Anna, keep yourself to yourself,’ says one anonymous insider, who’s worked with the woman who inspired The Devil Wears Prada for years. (Hence why she’s anonymous.) ‘Don't stare, don't touch, and whatever you do don't ask her if she will do a selfie with you. In fact, don't speak unless spoken to.’ And the lift thing? ‘Yes, it’s true that people get out when she gets in – but not because she demands it, people just assume she’ll want it so back away from her.’


Come on then, do fashion people actually eat anything during Fashion Week?

According to David Waddington, who runs Bistrotheque and Hoi Polloi, the answer is yes. ‘They do! Loads! But it's generally more likely to be a pit stop for stomach-filling chips and cheese between shows, rather than nibbling caviar and canapés.’

What's the best way to blag your way into a party?

Model (and professional party-goer) Jack Guinness offers this advice: ‘Well I would say, put on some insane platforms and a black wedding dress with a long train (the train is a MUST), order a posh car and then pull up, all confident like Grace Jones and then walk proudly straight through the crowd. If challenged, scream, "YOU APPAL ME!" and push your way in. Ask yourself, “What would Jackie Collins do?” (Or WWJCD). Notes: some kind of headdress will help, as will personal security guards. Failing this – crawl on the floor through the knees of the PR girls and DON'T LOOK BACK.’ Got it? We’re scared.


How much does an actual show cost? And more importantly, why are they still doing it when everyone can just watch them online now?

‘You could ask the same about concerts: why go to a concert when you can listen to all the songs online? I feel that the idea of a live experience is something that will never die out,’ explains Alexander Fury, fashion editor of The Independent. ‘Plus there's the pull of knowing you're seeing it first, guaranteed. That split second before everyone else. That counts in fashion.’

As for the cost: ‘Price-wise, they vary. And for a few houses, the sky is the limit. The train Louis Vuitton built for their A/W12 show reputedly cost £5 million. And that’s before the clothes.’


Are you ever allowed to actually slag off the clothes?

Alex is. ‘Although I am yet to see the knock-on effect. Bar being banned from Gaultier last season.’

Explain the actual politics of the front/second/back row…

‘So let's start at the very beginning,’ Alex continues. ‘In the court of Versailles, there was huge status attached to those who could sit in the presence of the king. Not only that, but what you were allowed to sit on: a stool, a chair, or a chair with arms. They were fiercely fought over. Sounds stupid, but it's alive and well in fashion. The front row is reserved for people reviewing the shows (fair enough: you have to see the clothes properly to tell how good/hideous they are); magazine editors (you have to see how hideous some of the dross you'll have to shoot to satisfy advertisers will be) and celebrities (the people who have to wear the stuff. Usually the especially hideous stuff they really have to sell).

'Second row is for people who want to be on the first row. It empties as soon as any front-row seats are available. Latecomers are sometimes relegated to second if they're not important enough, as a form of punishment or, if someone important rocks up (e.g. Grace Coddington), a lesser front-row inhabitor will be moved. Or summarily executed to make space. Third row and beyond is for interns, friends of friends, plebs. Anyone who doesn't really matter.’


What are the stress levels like at a fashion show?

‘It's exciting and the adrenaline is pumping and you kind of get into the zone of "throw anything at me!",’ says PR supremo Mandi Lennard. ‘Seating plans aren't an exact science so you are always going to have issues, but it's how you respond to these, how you treat your "guests" and your attitude, that overcomes anything. There's a lot of mental preparation. My biggest problem is lack of sleep, and I find myself concentrating very very hard not to faint.’

When you say lack of sleep, how bad are you talking?

‘You don't sleep. There's the fear of oversleeping if you even risk, say three or four hours,’ continues Mandi. ‘I like to visit designers before their shows and the only time to do that is at night when I'm done in the office. So I have this middle of the night safari where we go and visit each one. They're busy, they're stressed, they're anxious, but they enjoy having a breather and getting feedback from fresh eyes.’

So does cocaine consumption soar in the capital?

‘Fashion week is one of the busiest times of year for me. From making about £800 a week, I can earn nearly £4,000 if I bust my balls, basically because there are so many parties,’ says Andy, 27, a drug dealer based in London. ‘I have one mate from secondary school who turned out to be a model and she introduced me to a lot of her mates and I basically became the coke dealer for a little crew of models and photographers. When there's an aftershow party during LFW they put me down as a plus one and I go and make a killing. Sometimes I also deliver straight to the show. I get a taxi to backstage – which they have to cover – they run out, get in and I give it to them that way.’

And, that’s a wrap. Sorry. Pun intended.

Follow Hanna on Twitter @HannaHanra

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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