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Essex Fashion Week was actually just an evening. But that doesn't matter, because there was so much packed into the few hours we spent at Fairlop Country Park this past Saturday that I didn't really need more than half an hour to work out the basic gist of the event.
Where London Fashion Week is all deadstock trainers, ludicrously expensive skirts and cocaine-induced queuing spats, Essex Fashion Week (Evening) is more about tans, glam and bodycon. Much as you'd expect, really, with a couple of male top-knots and Miss Essex champions thrown in for good measure.
Certain places have iconic sartorial identities - everyone in the Canadian Rockies wears exclusively denim and plaid, for instance - and Essex is certainly one of them. I wanted to find out how the Essex style came to be, and why almost everyone in attendance had decided to embody it so perfectly. So in between the shows - which mostly consisted of the names of capital cities printed on T-shirts, teamed with jeans and cardigans from Jane Norman - I had a chat with a few of the attendees.
"I'm from North London. I just love fashion, so when I heard about Essex Fashion Week I realised this event was about my favourite things: fashion and glam.
I didn't get the Central line to get here, no. I never do public transport - sorry! If you're in Christian Louboutins, you don't do public transport.
Tonight, I'm really looking forward to seeing most of the The Only Way Is Essex cast. I'm quite fond of the show, and I'm hoping to meet Sam Faiers if she's here. Obviously, I'm keen to check out this year's new trends, too.
I'd describe my personal style as modern, stylish and glam. Nothing too revealing or exaggerated. I like to keep it nice and simple. Classy.
I think Essex style is quite different to the way people in North London dress. It's definitely more 'out there'. It's very bright and very brave! You can get away with a lot when you live in Essex."
"I always do Essex Fashion Week because I'm friends with Adam and Simon, the organisers, so I always come down. Essex is pretty big, innit? Everyone likes a bit of fashion and everyone likes an over-the-top event to get ready for and go to.
Essex style is out there. It's about big hair, fake tan, skinny jeans and being outrageous. Both for men and girls.
This evening, I'm modelling for an Essex brand called Dirty Angels, and… I can't remember the other one.
My personal style is very Essex. The skinny jeans, the fitted T-shirts - I love it all. I feel right at home at Essex Fashion Week."
"Here in Essex, things have their own vibe. There are lots of new designers to watch this year - like me! I'm showcasing Trying to Live, which is my new brand. I launched it about a month ago and it seems to have taken off really good. So I'm here tonight looking for collaborators.
In Essex, people have their own style. It's laid-back but it's also smart. Tight T-shirts, skinny shorts, short shorts. Essex definitely needs its own fashion week event because it's got a very particular feel. It needs to show the world what Essex is about.
We've got a lot of press here tonight, which will hopefully help the designers get some recognition. This event needs to promote the idea that Essex is a really fashionable place. It's got a good vibe to it when you're clubbing and that, but it's also very fashion-orientated.
I'm 19 and from near Chelmsford. I didn't go to university. I did a week at Central St Martin's, but, to be honest, that was a waste of time. You can't prepare for this world academically, you know? It's not just about making a T-shirt; you've got the PR, the marketing and the promotion to worry about. You've just got to learn as you go."
"Yeah, I'm quite involved with the fashion scene here in Essex - I go to a lot of clubs and do promotions. That's what fuels the fashion scene here. It's a lot more about who you know than anything else. If you get involved and stay involved you can have a good time with it. I don't personally follow the fashion crowd, but I like to hang out with them.
When it comes to the catwalk, I think that Trying To Live's monochrome style is going to stand out tonight.
My personal style? Vintage. Vintage Reeboks, baby. You can't buy these motherfuckers."
Buhle Mathebe, Thoko Malinge, Thuli Siziba, Letty Msibi, Oana Criveanu
Buhle: We're from Dagenham, Swindon, South Africa and Bristol.
Letty: Life is much more glamorous here in Essex - people go all out. We love getting dressed up. We're here to see the catwalk, enjoy the after-party and mingle with everyone.
Thuli: My style icon is definitely Victoria Beckham. Although, you said we look a bit like Power Rangers and isn't it funny that I always wanted to be the pink one? Now I'm the one in pink here!
Thoko: Mine is Kim Kardashian because I've got the [*slaps her own ass*] as well!
"I've done Essex Fashion Week three years in a row now, and I'm looking forward to getting out on the catwalk this evening.
A lot of people get very confused. Style is what you make it - you can wear anything, but it's more about how you wear it. You can wear designer clothing, or something on the opposite end of the scale, but it's the way you carry yourself and your personality that are important. To me, fashion is your personality. And Essex has its own personality.
When people talk about Essex, all they think of is glamour. It definitely has that vibe, but that's not all there is to it. People here have their own different styles. I'm here for a reason - because I'm different.
Essex definitely needs its own fashion week event - 150 percent. I think there's a lot of potential in Essex that no one really sees. Even when I'm walking down the road I see a lot of things. For example, I'm wearing a hat by Suave, who's my mate. His style is for everyone. Not just for certain people - for everyone. I think it's an inspirational brand."
"This is my third Essex Fashion Week - I've previously styled for the brands and now I'm part of the official blogging team here. I'm really looking forward to seeing Tresor Paris show their jewellery tonight. They're a London/Essex brand.
I think Essex style can be a little over the top, but it's great that events like this happen because they provide people with opportunities. It's good for brands and shops to get their name out there. There's lots of talent here in Essex - like Lauren Pope off TOWIE. Her style is very clean cut - I like that she wears a lot of tailoring and she's very chic.
I think I'd describe my own personal style as neurotic."
"I own a shop called Ri Ri's, and we've been open for about ten months. We sell a lot of prom dresses, so we get pageant girls come in to shop. A few of them encouraged me to enter pageants, too, so I've been taking part in pageants for three weeks now. I'll be representing England in the Miss Model of the World contest. Then I'll be at the Miss Galaxy pageant in February as Miss Essex Galaxy, and then I'll be competing in the Miss Universe Essex competition.
I think Essex Fashion Week is a fantastic way for me to promote my new business to the right crowd. I think Essex is in a bit of a pink, sparkly, glittery bubble when it comes to fashion. And it's just great that we can all come together and celebrate that!"
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