Image: Karen Woo Photography.
I’ll be honest – this isn’t my first rodeo. But despite attending a number of Fashion Weeks, my transformation from a slightly clumsy person into a perfectly poised fashun insider who knows how to pose in photos is still yet to occur. Here’s what fashion week is really like for us ‘ordinary’ people.
The experience starts when as I make my way to the venue. The stares from my fellow public transport users (Why oh why did I not get an Uber?) make me a little self conscious about my verging on ridiculous gold fringed high heels that I’ve never managed to wear anywhere else.
And that great-for-hiding-dirty hair half bun that felt so cool and high fashion as I styled it in the office bathroom? It suddenly feels just odd and out of place.
No matter – just a few stops and I’ll be with your fellow fashion-loving people. (Watch: Highlights from the VAMFF festival.)
The real runway.
Forget waiting inside to get to the runway, the parade (and the judgement) starts as soon as I step through the gates.
On one side I spy the big-name bloggers I regularly stalk on Instagram lined up against a wall (white, obviously) getting snapped by the street style photographers who stalk the entrance, cameras at the ready.
What appears candid once it’s posted and filtered is actually carefully orchestrated – the process is fascinating to watch. And those people pictured on the phone? Yeah, they’re not really talking to anyone.
On the other side are the 'peacocks' - attendees pretending to nonchalantly hang around the area as they hope to be snapped. Don't be fooled though, the seasoned photographers can see straight through this.
Like many, I try not to be a little disappointed that I'm not approached, but also slightly relieved to have escaped the attention of the hundreds of people milling around waiting for the show to start.
The holding pen.
Once I'm actually in, I can appreciate the diversity of attendees to Fashion Weeks like the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival. With tickets available to anyone, there's a real mix of work colleagues, young groups of friends, wannabe fashion stars, mothers and daughters and design students.
Some are in jeans, some are in ballgowns. When I look beyond the the carefully calculated ensembles of the VIPs, I can see some brilliant outfits - a diamond encrusted diamond shaped clutch, a customised baseball cap and the kind of cool attitude money can't buy.
I kill time before the show with champagne and playing 'Spot the celeb' (usually alone with their publicist) or Instagram star (usually in packs) or watching the not-so-subtle sliding eyes of everyone assessing everyone's outfits as they walk past.
Don't be surprised when that girl from that reality show is whisked to the start of the ticket line... she'll be sitting front row, of course.
Fashion faux pas.
Taking my place in the long queue of people, I prepare myself. As soon as the doors open, there'll be a stampede of people trying to get in - well, as much of a stampede as can be expected when everyone's wearing six inch heels.
As I reach the front and hand my ticket over to the festival volunteer, she leans in to kindly let me know that I've got a little bit of hot pink lipstick on my front tooth. Of course that initiates an existential crisis. How long has it been there? How many people have I smiled at? Oh god. Should I just leave now? (Post continues after gallery.)
Smile checked and approved by my saviour and new best friend, I head in to find my seat.
Excited to see it's on the second row, I realise I've made the cardinal sin - I'm too early. The saying 'fashionably late' exists for a reason, and finding myself the only person in my section of 50 seats, it's clear I missed that memo.
Still, it's not as big a faux pas as the guy sitting opposite me, who's ripping into the goodie bag (a big no-no - you have to appear too cool to care what's actually in them even if you're dying of curiosity) to munch on the bag of crisps at the bottom. I instantly feel better.
As the Royal Exhibition Building begins to fill up, I lose count of how many photos I'm in. Not because people actually want my photo but because I'm seated directly behind the VIP guests for the night who are getting papped every 30 seconds.
I'm torn - do I do an awkward pull back and risk a double chin or be brave and photobomb? In the end I manage to perfect the art of appearing nonchalantly cool in the background (or so I hope). Modelling career here I come...
As the mercury hits 40 degrees in a building with no air conditioning (Welcome to Melbourne!) the hottest accessory proves to be a ticket, fanned furiously in front of the face as everyone fiercely pretends their makeup is just dewy, not drenched in sweat.
15 minutes after the scheduled start time (again, it's called fashionably late for a reason and this is actually reasonable) the lights go down and the show starts.
The music is loud, the clothes fabulous and the models perfectly straight faced. Away from the judgmental looks and mayhem of outside, this is my favourite part and a reminder about what it's all about - a celebration of the talented Aussie fashion scene.
Tough leather, big faux fur jackets and revealing gowns come down in colours of forest green, burgundy and of course fashion's favourite black, to the flash of phone cameras. Simultaneously the front row videos, snapchats, takes notes and uploads to Instagram within seconds. Whoever said bloggers did nothing has clearly never seen their thumbs in action.
All too soon, the lights go up and the show is over.
With just 10 minutes to make my train home, I skip the media wall (the home of VIPs at the start and eager fashion lovers post-show) and rush out the door, ignoring the searing pain of my heels. Note to self - never wear shoes you haven't yet worn in, no matter how fantastic the fringe looks as you shake your foot.
Back to reality.
Sprinting, I briefly wonder if blisters constitute enough of a medical emergency to warrant a ride in the waiting ambulance, but quickly (and sensibly) dismiss the idea.
As I get to the platform, I see my train whizz away - without me on it. I sit back, release my poor blistered feet from their rose gold prison and munch on a cookie at the bottom of my goodie bag as I wait for the next one. Ah, the glamour of fashion.
What's the one thing about fashion week you've always wanted to know?