This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
They say that you should “dress for the life you want.” As a person who only wears jeans and black hoodies, that might be why it’s taken me 23 years to move out of my parents house and am writing this on an empty stomach in an office of men in their mid-30s wearing 2015 Palace tees. Instagram bloggers and models always possess a certain effortlessness. They don’t seem like the type of women who can’t look their colleagues in the eye when they’re being sung Happy Birthday to and that’s really all I want. But in interviews, they always put their confidence down, not to their homes and high quality cocaine, but to their outfits.
Four years ago, when one of our writers went to London Fashion Week “dressed like an idiot” her takeaway was: “as long as you believe your own hype, you can be anyone you want to be.” Since then, we’ve since become so obsessed with skincare and makeup that we’ve forgotten how to dress.
Blogger culture is partly to blame: it’s less fashion blogger and a Nikon DSLR (how cute), more IG stories from a branded breakfast and dressing room selfies with a pop-feminist caption.
Meanwhile, everyone's lost their minds since those simple days of pastel hair, denim jackets, and stacked heels: we’re all salivating over some H&M dress with the label cut on Depop, mixing cheap production Boohoo garments with a 400 dollar Maison Margiela pleather bomber jacket because #sustainable #slowfashion and literally any decade goes—all the decades together, why not! People are walking around wearing tiny visor sunglasses like it’s The Matrix for fuck’s sake.
I wanted to see if I could channel the confidence of an influencer through some dumb-but-like-actually-passable? outfits and discover whether London Fashion Week is as gullible as ever. I’m blessed enough to be tall(ish) and slim, so it shouldn’t be too hard to walk away with a Lavazza X Kylie Cosmetics brunch invite and some diet supplements to peddle.
But I had a problem. If I went to LFW18 looking like an idiot, I’d look the same as everyone there. Nothing I could wear would seem odd. Nothing I could wear would seem... special. Let's find out.
Hannah—the author of the original piece and now, my sartorial advisor—and I headed to Dalston, in east London on a Friday afternoon to style 3 outfits for £50 [$65]. Actually an extortionate amount of money, TBH.
We spent a few hours soaking up the vibes and picked up the accessories: thigh-high gold boots (five bucks), a fluffy purple rug, and a velvet bucket hat to start.
“Forget AW18, think W18,” Hannah said holding up a red Christmas t-shirt. “Fun, bubbles, Bublé.”
In other words, we got a top that says "Prosecco ho ho ho ho."
We left the market hoping to find a third outfit that fit Hannah’s vision for me. "Do what no one in East London dares to do: grow up.”
With my purple rug draped over a swimsuit, paired with a granny cart, I was ready to bask in adulation.
Much like our ability to dress sensibly, the event had been torn apart: It was no longer held at Somerset House, instead, it was spread out across different venues in the city. So rubbing shoulders with celebrities, being plied with free health foods, and becoming friends with bloggers presented more of a challenge.
I got in an Uber to 180 The Strand, this year’s main show space. As I had suspected, the child’s swimming costume, flip flops, and furry rug, actually made me look fantastic. I started to worry that maybe this outfit was not stupid enough to get me noticed.
I got out the car and stood there half naked while everyone else was dressed in suits, eating a Pret a Manger sandwich on the go.
As I crossed the road, someone got their phone out and filmed me walking past. “As you can see, fur is really in this year,” she said into her phone blankly. “Vegan,” I told her. I’d been there for about 30 seconds and already influenced the entire fashion world with my £10 [$13] rug.
Photographer Bekky—like a Blogger Boyfriend who actually gets paid—took photos of me when I arrived and soon the people started flocking. I peered over my wraparound sunglasses at them then instead looked off into the distance disinterested. Eyal from the show Love Island walked out of a show, looking around expectantly. Only one person asked to take a picture of him. I had fans now. I’m more in demand than someone who is famous for being an insufferable crystal-loving boyband drop-out, and it feels good.
One woman sprinted over to me, desperate for a taste. “So, this is Gucci,” she said gesturing to the cart, “is the rest of the outfit as well?” I nodded furiously at her. I managed to mumble something about the whole outfit being vintage Gucci then watch her write everything down.
A group of women came bounding toward me, cameras out. “Guapa!” they were saying. I’ve never tried to learn Spanish but as an emerging narcissist, I knew what this meant already.
Annoyingly, most of the shows were invite-only so it’s tricky to know which fashion lines are at which venue. I was about to throw the rug in, but then I saw a Lover's Island star Megan Barton-Hanson post about being at the Adidas show in Victoria House. I realized that not only had Eyal been brutally cucked by Meg in the fashion world too, but that a Love Island stint could be my passport to LFW19 if this year flops.
Getting on the tube train half naked wasn’t as horrible as I had anticipated. People say Londoners are rude, but really their aloofness is really a form of politeness—they're willing to ignore anything out of the ordinary that they see, such as women silently sobbing, a man vomiting into an empty chip bag, that sort of thing.
We arrived just as the Adidas show was ending and there’s a crowd waiting as Hanson steps out. A paparazzi motioned for us to have our picture taken together. “So you two were in the show together?” I did my usual smile, head tilt, widened eyes that I do whenever I feel uncomfortable, and opted for silence, neglecting to correct the impression that I was on the catwalk with the hottest woman in the UK of 2018.
It was time for an outfit change: £5 [$6] gold thigh-high boots, a lacy head scarf, and a nightgown. A deranged ensemble, but I passed it off as an outfit from Gucci. It only ended up costing £18 [$23]. I’m fabulous. Sue me.
I looked like I’d just been discharged from a hospital after passing out at a Grace Jones-themed costume party, and as I walked through the crowd and photographers gravitated to me, directing my poses for pictures and following me on Instagram. High fashion bloggers asked me what the look was called. Instagran, I said. They tapped away on their phones, earnestly to find out more.
A photographer from earlier on in the day stopped me and asked whether I’m a model or a designer. “Both,” I said, writing my Instagram down for him. It didn’t even feel like a lie because at this point, that is exactly what I am.
I changed back into my regular clothes and headed back to the office, but I don’t belong there, I belong on the streets of Milan/Paris/New York. I’m better than journalism, better than my colleagues, and better than the person I was at the beginning of the week.
Tuesday was the last day of LFW and I needed more engagement, so I headed down later in the day to make sure there was a bigger group of people to admire my outfit.
Getting ready in nearby public restroom, I realized that I was wearing a lot more red than I had realized, so remember every SEO-orientated fashion advice blog I have ever read, I decided to break it up with some accessories. I wore a matching bracelet and earring set I made out of pot scourers from the office. Then I added more market found finishing touches: my dollar Disko Fingers (rings with lights on them) and flip flops.
I stepped out of the bathroom and a (clearly jealous) girl looked up from her laptop, laughed, and then looked back away. My head-turning fabulousity affirmed, I headed out. Everyone looked but no one smiled like they did the day before. I milled around trying to catch photographer’s eyes but still, nothing.
Bekky tried to get the ball rolling by taking photos of me leaning up against a tree and finally one man—albeit one in a velvet blazer like The Joker on a dinner date—took the bait. After one picture, even he put his camera down and half-smiled at me and gave me a look that seemed like pity.
I walked back to a busier spot in a final attempt to be noticed. “You were here yesterday weren’t you?” said a photographer. Finally: recognition. He took a few photos and then noticed my finger lights and stepped back.
After this, the vibe seemed to become more hostile. A blonde woman gave me a not-so-subtle side-eye. A gaggle of school kids started pointing and laughing and I worried that they were going to swirlie me right in this public toilet.
I guess this look was ahead of its time. Fashion thinks it’s fun but really there are far too many unspoken rules. How was I supposed to know head-to-toe red and kid’s toys as accessories like a slightly worrying aunt who likes Christmas too much aren’t on trend?
Fashion Week, being mostly made up of exclusive events, is pretty much inaccessible to the average person. It's also a fickle world: One day you’re being mistaken for a low-level celebrity and the next you’re being cruelly ostracized.
Beyond all the sponsored Instagram posts and managing to remember to take pictures of your food before you eat it at one of those brunches (why are there so many brunches?) there’s massive pressure to stay relevant. One bad outfit and you’re out of the game.
But if you see ASOS tweet about wearing kitchen cleaning items as jewelry, you know where you saw it first.
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