I recently attended London Collections: Men, the four-day event that kicks off a five-week global showcase of men’s fashion. From London, buyers and press move on to Florence for Pitti Uomo, before heading to Milan and Paris, with things eventually wrapping up in New York in February. Womenswear then kicks off in New York shortly after that, with the whole thing starting over again… it’s crazy.
Fashion week itself is a million and one moving parts made up by everything from makeup artists to photographers, writers to models, events managers to hair stylists. I was super surprised to learn quite how many freelancers were involved in not only the running of the event but also the fashion industry in general.
I guess it makes total sense. Fashion brands change and move forward two to three times a year at least, with some brands bringing out ten or more collections out. The whole industry exists to innovate and not stand still, so I guess it only does brands justice to bring in outside eyes and cutting edge freelance talent at various opportunities to keep ideas, seasonal concepts and the brand, in general, moving forward.
Outside of the brands themselves, editors, publishers and agency types are all in attendance, who, outside of attending presentations and being seen at the right shows, are there with their own very different drivers, objectives and motives.
So where am I going with this? Well, amongst the hubbub and near chaos of each day, the opportunities to network at a fashion week are second to none, at least from my experience in London, anyway. Even as day turns to night and parties begin, people are still talking about work, the shows they’ve seen and of course fashion in general. Free drinks might be flying around but it seems that people stay relaxed but professional throughout the day and night… To a certain time, at least.
Whether you are directly interested in fashion, are a freelancer or are just beginning to pursue a creative field or profession, the opportunities are there. I’m convinced that the relations that can easily be made at the launch of a collaboration over a beer could well lead to work and freelance opportunities down the line. With that in mind, here are some tips to assist in getting stuck into fashion week if, like me up until a few weeks back, you have never attended. I’ve come out of my first time knowing exactly what I need to do next time, so I’m hoping this advice
Apply for tickets to everything, no matter who you are
Individual brands and PR companies handle their own events, so at the most, an agency will have four fashion week events running over the weekend. Each event will have a specific purpose, which is important because it means an agency is looking for a certain audience to attend. Some are far easier to attend, others you won’t have a hope in hell, but the point is you have the opportunity to try. Prior to my first fashion week, I hadn’t touched base with any of the major brands or their PR agencies, and I still managed to get a fair few invites for each day, and that was from completely cold contact.
Turn up and try anyway
I didn’t register any interests for a lot of events I ended up attending. I found that by turning up and simply explaining who you were, what you did and that you hadn’t reached out for an invite would secure you entry. This isn’t about blagging because if they want you there, they would have invited you. This is more just being straight, down to earth and explaining that you want to attend to cover the event for whatever reason. As for the bigger shows, turn up and hang around outside to try and get some good pictures or something, or join the standing room queue; they will let in the general public without question if there is space, it’s not just about who is invited to sit in the front row.
Understand what you are trying to achieve
Not something I had thought about one bit, but “I’m a writer” when you’re stood in a room of press, PRs and whoever else isn’t exactly enough. To be honest, going out and speaking to people was the only way I got to the root of understanding what I am even trying to achieve as a writer. Sometimes when you do something for passion in your spare time, you forget to think about it formally, which st some point you might have to, when you meet a fellow writer or even someone who is a bit of a personal hero.
Learn your pitch
Someone said to me after a long chat “okay then, how can I help you?”. I managed to get an answer together but if I’m honest, I didn’t have a clue outside of “give me a job to write about nice clothes”. Think about what you’ve done and the direction you want to take things in and equally think about who you would like to meet – you might just run a blog but you could well meet someone in exactly the same position as you with a different talent who wants to collaborate.
Instagram is your portfolio, resume and follow up
Letting anyone walk off after a great conversation is a waste, and that’s not because I’m some money hungry beast, it’s just the age we live in and how millennials and creative industries communicate by default. Instagram feeds not only provide people with a literal snapshot of who you are but also what you do and how you think and present yourself. It also provides the opportunity to follow up with a message, which might be inappropriate for a few months or so, but after all, the feature is there and when the time is right, it should be used.
Upon finishing this piece, I’ve realised how this doesn’t just apply to fashion week, this applies to all sorts of freelancers and all sorts of events. I’d never been one for networking but I guess I’d never been properly in and around an industry I want to be involved in until London Collections: Men. It sounds simple but wherever you go, talk to people, think with your creative endeavour first and never feel dazzled by the lights or like you shouldn’t be somewhere – it’s your job to make sure you are invited back.