23 Aug 2016

The Art of Etiquette - Fashion Week

From Upbeat, 1:35 pm on 23 August 2016

The biggest fashion event of the year – other than the World of Wearable Arts – is here. New Zealand Fashion Week is on in Auckland and brings together the glamorous, the fabulous, the established and the new.

But what happens when we attend a show? Is it all air kisses and “oh darlings”? Can I sit wherever I like? Is it ok to rummage through my goodie bag? And most importantly… what should I wear?!

PR guru and Fashion week veteran Paul Blomfield give Upbeat's Zoë George the rundown on how to be fabulous this fashion week.

Models at New Zealand Fashion Week

Models at New Zealand Fashion Week Photo: New Zealand Fashion Week

What is a fashionista?

That’s a term that should be bestowed – like a dame or a knighthood.  If you call yourself a fashionista then you’re relegated to the back row. Only someone who has judgement in these things can call you a fashionista. You don’t want to be called a fashionista by someone who’s not cool!

Do I have to be one to go to fashion week?

No. In fact Fashion Week is a bit like going to the rugby. 80 percent don’t know the rules, but they know the side. It’s nice to have fans in the audience at a show.

What is Fashion Week?

It’s an event of multiple of events – including shows and parties – coordinated on a central schedule.

You’ve been to fashion weeks in Australia, London and China… how does New Zealand compare?

New Zealand does great shows. Some New Zealand designers like Karen Walker, have shown at NZ Fashion week, and New York Fashion Week. She’s world class. New Zealand Fashion Week is a world class event. It’s really tight and tidy had has great venues.

Some Fashion Weeks - like London -you get on a double decker bus and go from show to show; from masonic lodges, to old church halls then big tents. It can be a messy affair and you spend half your life in traffic and in the rain.

Do I have to be invited to a Fashion Week show?

Short answer - Yes. Be warned, there’s the “A list” row and the “everyone else” row. You’ll get pointed to where to go. (You can buy tickets to NZFW shows though.)

But fashion is famous for gatecrashers. The trick to getting into a fashion show if you don’t have a ticket is to wave around something that looks like an invite, , look grumpy and glum and storm through, while the fabulous people are busy air kissing.

If anyone asks “who are you?”, say your name is on the door and keep walking!

If you do get bounced then it’s an experience.

What about getting into parties?

Door lists can be hard. The trick is to look for people who look like they belong there. Slide in with them, and as you walk through the door say “how much fun is this” to them. Once you’re in they can’t find you in the crowd.

What should I wear?

That’s a big question! I recommend one of two ways. Either you should get dolled up to the nines – nails, best shoes, get make-up and hair done. Or or wear a t shirt with a rude word! Both is appropriate, but it depends on the show.

You need to be the best example of yourself. You see mutton dressed as lamb and it’s sad because people aren’t doing showing the best of their own attributes.

But if you’re going to be uncomfortable it’s going to show.

What about men, what should they wear?

Blokes are often in jackets, jeans, boots and a sharp shirt or t-shirt, with a rude word on it.

Sunglasses - Vogue editor Anna Wintour can pull them off – but is it ok for me to wear them?

Where are you going to be sitting? In the front row it can get quite bright; bright white runways, lots of light, hungover from parties, then wear sunnies. If you’ve got Anna Wintour’s decorum and style then go for it. But if you’re in row Z you won’t see much so don’t wear sunglasses.

Should I wear the clothes of the designer whose show I’m attending?

You have to be subtle. But the short answer is no. You can look like a groupie. But if you do want to wear a piece, wear something from the current season. Don’t pull something out from four seasons ago. Fashion people know this stuff. Go as the best example of yourself.

What should I do if I’m seated next to a famous person?

Ask for a selfie, put all the hastags on it and get them to like it! Instagram that stuff! Seen and being seen, so go for it.

Can I sit in the front row if my allocated seat is somewhere else?

There’s moment before the lights go down at a show that if there are any empty seats the seating ushers will fill them up with people. The last thing they want is photos with empty seats.  If you’re well positioned at end of row and look nice then they might ask you to sit in the front. And you get a goodie bag.

A yes the goodie bag. When can I look through it?

Don’t even look! The front two rows will have decent goodie bags. The rest will just be vouchers. In the front row the key is to look very bored and put the goodie bag behind your knees. But if you do see a bottle of coconut water poking out, grab it because you need to stay hydrated.

Can I take someone else’s goodie bag?

No. I’ve seen it done and people reach over from row behind and take goodies out of the bags. I think there should be a special cage for people like that.

What else have you seen?

The funniest was at the Melbourne fashion festival. Whole lot of VIPs were away so there were front rows empty. Just before show was due to start, he decided to clamber from the second row, to the front row. He fell, broke his leg in multiple places. He lay on the floor screaming and it took them 30 minutes to get him on a special gurney and wheel him out down the runway. Everyone clapped.

Are we a good crowd?

Yeah we are,. You have all kinds at the fashion shows. Every actor from Shortland Street; lovely people who attend every show; long suffering fashion editors who make it their job to turn up and clap politely at the end of each show. There’s also lots of colourful people and people trying to crash.

When and how should we clap? What about a “golf clap”?

It all depends on the show. Some shows it’s appropriate to cheer. But mainly people look bored, clap, pick up goodie bag and shuffle out. Don’t clap during the show. And don’t hoot or holler unless you know someone on the stage or it was a “rehearsed moment” when they send out a celebrity in their underwear.

What… no clapping during show?

There are those groupies/fans that do. But most of us are professionals who are there to look at clothes.

Is there such thing as “fashionably late”?

The shows often run “fashionably late”. There’s an undercurrent of mayhem at Fashion Week events. Everyone just stays out the front and sips champagne until the show is ready.

Can I be “fashionably late”?

That’s a risky business. If you have a numbered ticket and late you might find a celebrity sitting in it. If you get there just before the lights drop they might push you into the front row but often you’ll get pushed to the back. Be on time and be prepared stand there for up to an hour and half to let you in.

So we should wear comfortable shoes then?

Hell no! This is fashion! Wear your best shoes. But don’t be surprised if a number of fashionistas wear sneakers. As long as they are cool they are ok to wear. Heels might even help you see the show better.

There are lots of photographers around, including street fashion photographers. Is it ok for me to ask for my photo to be taken?

Well you can ask, but usually they identify who they want to photograph, and take them aside.

The trick is to stand in a comfortable way, smile pleasantly and keep that pose. Too many people turn away at last minute. Hold the best pose you’ve ever had and stay there.

What’s some advice for Fashion Week newbies?

An event has got lots of moving parts, and it’s usually after another show, with a crowded venue and lots of security. Don’t be surprised if seat is not what you thought it was, don’t be surprised if you have to stand, or if the show runs late, or of fabulous people storm past you. Just enjoy the experience. It should be loud and bright. You should walk away going “gee that was quick but fun”.

It’s “break a leg” in theatre. What is it in fashion?

There’s not a said expression as such. Often in the showroom where the models are dressing are signs telling the models how to present themselves. The large proportion of the signs say “don’t smile”. 

And what about air kisses?

Of course. You don’t want to kiss your make up off.