Queuing for Fashion

Last night I went to another rather lovely instalment of the Oh My Blog workshops run by Bitchbuzz Editor Cate Sevilla. It was a fab night and I learnt a lot but I’m feeling kind of bad this morning…

Once the actual workshop was done we all decamped to the pub (natch) and got chatting and networking. Then I realised that I had a deadline (midnight to be precise) for Company’s High Street Edit competition. They were asking for writers to enter the competition by writing a 750-800 word comment piece on ‘Queuing for Fashion’ and I had a few things left to tweak. So I pulled my laptop out and started editing.

I really hope I didn’t come across as a pretentious Mac-lover workaholic stressnut! Oh and while we’re on the topic: big shout out to helper #1 Siobhan (future sub-editor extraordinaire!) and helper #2 Joe from Stonehenge. I couldn’t have finished it without you guys. (And apologies for the glut of brackets littering this blog post……)

Here, the finished piece.

Clutching my invite, I totter down the cobbled walkway into the throng, limbs quivering like Bambi on my most vertiginous heels. Photographers and flyering interns litter my path. Outwardly I ignore them as I’m running late and I don’t need the validation of a street style blog anyway, I tell myself. Descending the steps, the achingly hip fashion elite position themselves coolly, cigarette in hand. Maybe it’s already over? I glance at my watch. And then, as I turn the corner I see it. I resignedly join it. Welcome to the queue, welcome to Fashion Week.

You see, regardless of how glamorous the industry, how coveted the jobs or how high profile the designers, there’s one thing you need to know about Fashion Week: nothing runs on time. As such, Fashion Week is synonymous with queues. So much so it’s like queuing for the bus, only everyone’s better dressed. Or, to put it another way, it always feels like Fashion Week is one long queue for an event that never happens. Once inside, the lights go down, the models trot out and it’s all over within fifteen minutes.

Though sometimes that’s no bad thing. While backstage dressers, make-up artists and hairstylists put the final touches to the models’ looks, the foyer at the BFC catwalk space fills with a snaking queue of fashionistas supping champagne and Chambord. For designers it’s the ideal chance to build anticipation for their collections, although perhaps this is more a welcome byproduct of an innate inability to run on time than a solid plan. After all, do you know any creatives who run on time? (Of course not, they run on champagne!) Meanwhile, for those in the queue, it’s a chance to catch up with friends and work out where they’re heading next. Or, for the organized few, it’s the perfect opportunity to blog their reviews from the first shows of the day. Not me though, as I invariably rummage through my bottomless bag for a good ten minutes trying to find the USB cable for my camera.

Actually, it could be said that the real Fashion Week is on the streets, in the queues. Blogger pals schmooze and gossip, while the editorial entourages pout and look bemused at the bloggers. But regardless of rank or publication we all have a certain something in common: we all check each other out. Street style photography by such photographers-du-jour as the Sartorialist has become as much a talking point as the catwalk images emblazoned across the glossies. And try as I might, I can’t help but inwardly hope that while queuing a photographer might pick me out for my own street style photo.

But beyond Fashion Week, anyone interested in fashion will have noticed a burgeoning trend, not on the catwalks, but on the high street. In light of the high profile high street collaborations like Lanvin, Jimmy Choo, Sonia Rykiel et al for H&M, designer collections are taking on a celebrity status usually only reserved for, well, celebrities. Die-hard fans begin queuing for the launch of the collections in the wee hours, or in some cases, the night before. However, while such fanatical devotion is awe-inspiring, it can and has led to potentially dangerous street scenes. Floods of people waiting on launch day can cause an overflow of people into the road, in Primark even a death. Surely a nice, polite queue is preferable to a mob? Last summer’s American Apparel sale in Brick Lane is case in point – it caused more than a queue, it caused a riot. A certain YouTube video popped up on my Facebook feed: shoppers overcome with impatience and mindless anger ran amuck like the apocalypse was nigh. One boy ran over the top of cars and police struggled with the melee. Needless to say I didn’t go.

Many commented that this incident was deserved, the organizers brought it on themselves considering the lack of security and thousands confirmed on the Facebook event. But is it really understandable that after waiting for hours customers turn sour and at times violent?

Whether reasonable or not, arguably these commentators struck a chord. Sure, queuing is a natural instinct but it’s the organizers who seem to encourage it, thus making a show of their brand’s ‘pulling power’. A queue outside is merciless but clever: it keeps people waiting, it keeps people wanting. It says to the world: hey, look at this hullabaloo we’ve created, we’re worth something.

So, is any fashion worth a queue? Perhaps if you’ve got a glass of bubbly in your hand. But even then, sharpen those elbows girls. Queuing for fashion can be fun, it can pay off, but it’s not glamorous and it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted.