From the sad-eyed teenage models to the old people who run the business, here's who you can expect to run into if you're in London this week.
Illustration by Dan Evans
Fashion Week is a hysterical circus that descends on London twice a year. It's a bit like when you go to a house party in year 10 but with less tears, vomiting and dodgy glittery eye shadow. Wait, did I say less? I meant way more.
Most "norms" – people who buy their clothes at John Lewis and think Erdem is a Muslim holiday – don't really know about the freaks who go to fashion week. Yes, they see Cara Delevingne in the Evening Standard wearing 29 pendants, looking like she runs a 17th-century apothecary, but fashion is about more than just the big name models. There's a whole rabble of broken souls who gather in the law courts, museums and almshouses that have been converted into Fashion Week venues.
What sort of people are allowed inside this hidden world and why? This is everything you need know.
Models are mostly teenagers from the ex-Soviet Bloc who've been sent abroad to make money for their families. They all look the same, so their agents invent new names for them, like "Analisa" or "Melissa P".
Then there are the "personality" girls, which is basically just fashion-industry racism for English girls. They get paid much, much more because they come from moneyed London dynasties and their parents are filthy rich, and because they can make funny faces on demand, like an unusually clever cat. Often journalists criticise models for being too thin, and they are too thin. Because being too thin is literally their job.
Male models like smoking weed and going to the gym and getting tattoos and fucking, or all of these things at the same time. The only ones who aren't like this are the tortured male models, weedy-looking and sexually confused. They sit on the floor in the corner of the dressing room under the clothes rails reading Albert Camus paperbacks and drawing pictures of magpies. They're alright.
Front-row window dressing
Remember that amazing moment at the Yeezy Season 3 show when the Kardashian and Jenner family suddenly materialised before the crowds in glowing white fur, like angels from the clouds? London Fashion Week is nothing like that. The front row is a mire, a grim smattering of really dreadful pop stars and "it girls" you've never heard of, and loads of malnourished, substance-addled ex-Harry Potter extras who spend the rest of the year on holiday on the secret island of Lamu. And Skepta.
Stylists dress weird as a profession. Some dress like Netherlandish cyber goth podium dancers in an explosion of neon pink extensions, fake everything and exposed flesh, illuminating an otherwise sombre and boring all-in-black audience. Others dress like traumatised child therapist textbook illustrations in tatty pink rags and candy accessories and roller skates. Others have been up for days on expensive champagne and speedy diet pills and end up looking like muddy scarecrows. Others are cool kids from Japan, dressed like clowns.
Stylists are the luckiest people in the room, really. They're good-looking but actually talented, they're making good money (day rates are in the thousands) and, best of all, they're not working in fashion PR.
Working as a PR at Fashion Week is like working as a parking lot attendant but with less job satisfaction and worse pay.
Being a fashion designer is the hardest job in the creative industries. Actually, it's the only hard job in the creative industries.
Spending every waking hour of your life making 100 insanely delicate items of clothing with very little commercial potential whatsoever, all for a five-minute show watched mostly by people who can't see the clothes, and couldn't care less, and couldn't fit into them anyway. Why bother?
Come Fashion Week they're nowhere near ready, they haven't slept in days and their old Central Saint Martins classmate and closest friend – basically their utter nemesis – is hogging all the press attention and stealing all their models. Sometimes industry types burst into tears spontaneously and nobody knows why (probably just because they're on a comedown), but when designers do this it's because they're just so tired. Because they have nothing left to give.
The crazed designers in charge of world famous fashion houses. Will Ferrell in Zoolander, basically. Lots of these sorts are dodgy Italians. Some think it's appropriate to have "African tribal" themed shows with only white Eastern European models. Others have a pet houseboy who follows them everywhere and cannot speak a word of Italian, and has to open their doors and stuff (and do worse things too, obviously).
There are also stories of fashion designers who throw dogs at the wall. Who buy vintage pieces from second hand shops and just send them straight down the catwalk. Who refuse to look their interns in the eyes. Someone once told me they walked into the house of one of fashion's biggest designers and found them naked and on all fours under the dining room table, sipping milk from a saucer and pretending to be a cat. Also: rumours are what make the fashion world go around.
In the youth-obsessed fashion industry, old people control everything. They are the bloated and walrus-like tax dodging plutocrats who fund the whole circus, as a place to promote themselves and nurture new ideas. They are the buyers who actually decide what's in shops and what we wear.
Old people run the fashion world. The models retire, the next-big-thing designers go out of business, the young talents drift away into more lucrative industries, and the thirsty fashion bloggers just give up (it's never going to happen). Everyone else changes, but the bastions of the industry stay the same.
More Fashion on VICE: