Issue 23: Le Fashion Month (Dino's Version)
HANDBAGS AT DAWN // Insecure, competitive, jaded and in constant need of external validation – I'm reporting for duty that is AW23, as described in the most unfiltered way possible.
Handbags at Dawn (@h4ndbagsatdawn) is (sometimes) a fortnightly newsletter that use to land into your inbox every other Thursday.
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If you’ve not spent the past month travelling around fashion capitals and chatting to fashion PRs, can you even say you’re tired? Is anyone allowed to post anything *but* that eye-rolling photo/video of Tommy Cash (seriously, who is that?) wearing a faux Viktor & Rolf bedsheet lewk in the front row at Y/Project? Have we not had enough of fashion already?
While I know a fashion month summary might not be the sexiest thing to think about after being attacked by Ashnikko, Lisa Rinna and Jared Leto on every corner of the internet, I think we can all use a bit of self-reflection. And fashion month truly became an actual month for AW23, with New York kicking off on February 10th and Paris finally finishing up yesterday, on March 7th. But I’m not here to give you the facts, or even talk about the most hyped-up/fabulous/ridiculous moments that happened over the past weeks. NO! I’m here to tell you about the AW23 fashion month, as experienced by me, a flailing freelancer who spent most of the past four weeks trying to juggle work that brings money with work that brings joy, all while dealing with an existential crisis that might or might not have something to do with turning 30 very soon. This is a story of one Emily who never got to Paris.
CHAPTER 1: New York
I honestly didn’t even know this was happening. And that’s the charm of being stuck in your own house with the only access to the real world being that one time in the day when you pop down to the Co-op for some chocolate Hobnobs. However, I became very aware of NYFW after Chloë Sevigny walked the Proenza Schouler show.
And there’s nothing more exciting than a prospect of a Chloë Sevigny sighting. I remember once thinking I saw her at 1.30am in Shacklewell Arms on a Sunday, convinced a thin-haired blond girl visibly off her face on ket was actually *the* indie goddess. I even came up to her, before realising this girl was in fact just another CSM graduate with over-bleached locks and an unironic taste in metal band tees. But on the Proenza Schouler catwalk, Sevigny looked sleek, chic and totally unbothered – a vision in black leather and crisp white shirting. Even after the bombastic Luar show closed the 10-day festival of mostly lacklustre fashion (it was the first time in years that Marc Jacobs didn’t have this privilege – OMG I’M SHARING FACTS!), that image of the perennial IT girl was pretty much the only thing I remembered seeing during NYFW. This impression was very much confirmed a few days later when a New York friend came to London and shared similar thoughts. And she was actually there.
FOMO LEVELS: 1/10; honestly wasn’t bothered about missing out – and for once, I’m not just saying that to make myself feel better
CHAPTER 2: London
Though it’s painful to admit it, I’ve had my LFW outfits planned for around six months. But that’s only because I missed last season by going to Croatia for the weekend in the hopes of avoiding the dreaded feeling of inferiority. Imagine waving at someone in public and that person not waving back. Now imagine there’s a bunch of other people around you who you kinda know, but also kinda don’t. Then add Anna Wintour. THIS IS WHAT FASHION WEEK FEELS LIKE. At least for me. Yet every season, I forget about the reality and only focus on the charm of sitting in a room and pretending I’m Andy Sachs after she fucked Emily over to get to Paris. Except this is not Paris (!!!) but a sweaty converted warehouse space in the middle of central London that requires a 50-minute commute.
I know, it’s silly to complain about what feels like the most glamorous experience ever to many. But its reality is charged with invisible tension. Will you sit next to someone you know/hate? Will someone look at you weird? Will your PR friend pity you and transform your standing ticket into a seated one? (the answer is no in 93% of cases) The outcome of every show comes down to stacking yourself up against other people who are there, just because the nature of the fashion circuit comes down to easily quantifiable metrics. What shows did you get a ticket for? What row/seat were you in? How many people said hi to you? For someone as professionally insecure as me, the experience of going to a show is nothing if not a bunch of opportunities to feel anxious and question your existence. Yet I can’t wait to go back and get some more.
And so I did go back, as I always do, trying to prove to myself that I, too, belong. Thanks to a selection of generous PRs, I got a chance to see some fun fits ans fashions close-up, or as close-up as you can when there’s a blue-haired popstar with a bunch of prosthetics sitting in front of you. Or *the* Black Panther, which means you can’t stop but listening in on her conversations only so you can report back to your Marvel-loving boyfriend. Spoiler alert: not much was said except for a bunch of gushing compliments about Saul Nash’s fabulous show.
Though my purpose at fashion week is far from the level it used to be back when I worked full-time (more like overtime) at a fashion mag, I still felt a bit better about going through this emotional turmoil because of the lovely folk at Woo who commissioned me to write a Handbags at Dawn LFW special, all on what’s inside people’s bags. You can read the story here.
Overall, though, there were some lovely experiences. The wonderfully soundtracked Ahluwalia show which made me travel to Westminster on a Saturday at 10am was a win. So was seeing Gandalf – sorry, Sir Ian McKellen – recite a poem at S.S. Daley, even if I did have to crank my neck to catch Anna Wintour smiling. Being at the JW Anderson show was another highlight, as it definitely contributed to that feeling of belonging. Having said that, I once again spent most of my time staring at celebs – this time Janicza Bravo and Patti Wilson who were sat right in front of me.
A particularly gutting moment wasn’t my absence from Daniel Lee’s debut at Burberry (lol definitely not) or the Simone Rocha one (okay, maybe a little). After laughing at Tina Leung for shedding tears because she missed out on a Chanel show in the first episode of Bling Empire: New York (“Oh my god, I’m too late. And this season, I’m front row!”), a wave of karma came back to bite me in the ass. The Woolmark Prize-nominated talent of my good friend Robyn Lynch was meant to be the highlight. But the fact that I don’t have an unpaid intern creating my schedule as well as the fact that I forget about almost every yoga class I book on Classpass resulted in me mixing up times and me running to the venue only to see people starting to leave. I felt terrible, but I guess I needed that lesson after laughing at other people’s misery.
FOMO LEVELS: 9/10; purely for the Robyn Lynch all-green show which looked and sounded absolutely incredible
CHAPTER 3: Milan
There’s this short period between London and Paris shows when people with commercial contracts go to Italy and pretend the fashion there is the best thing they’ve ever seen in the hopes of big brands continuing their sugar daddy relationship. For AW23, Milan Fashion Week was in fact different, with at least a few moments that made me look. For the first time in a while, I enjoyed seeing the photos of Bottega Veneta – even if the gimmick of ‘simple clothes but make it leather’ is starting to feel a bit overdone. While I appreciated the comeback of Tom Ford’s Horsebit Clutch, Gucci provoked many discussions, and most of them had nothing to do with the actual clothes. They were about that same f*cking topic on why influencers have such a big spotlight bla bla bla bla Honestly this whole thing became so tiresome (why can’t established journalists let this story go?) that I had to switch off the Fashion Week channel aka Instagram for a good couple of days and ignore the goings on. Oh, and Maximilian Davis showed quite a chic collection at Ferragamo. I remember thinking how I need to get skinny and rich by the time this collection drops into stores. Other than that, I spent these few days trying to figure out how to be a firm but supportive lecturer as well as how not to eat a full packet of aforementioned chocolate Hobnobs (they truly are the perfect biscuit).
FOMO LEVELS: 4/10; points go up mostly for seeing that sparkly Gucci Horsebit Clutch up-close as well as all the pizza/pasta/parmesan content that flooded my feed
CHAPTER 4: Paris
We’ll always have Paris. Well actually, no, we’ll never have Paris. Back when I was working overtime as an online editor, I never got to go to PFW, even though most of my job during fashion month included writing reviews that no one read, of shows that I never actually went to. And so I never got to experience the adrenaline rush of trying to get into the same venue as one of the BTS boys or a Kardashian/Jenner. I can only dream of it happening one day, just so my anxiety levels from ‘tiny’ London shows get to reach new heights. But for now, I’m itching that scratch by manically refreshing the Vogue Runway app in the hopes of being the first to take a screenshot and post it on Instagram, before any of my other friends who are also not in Paris. See – even from the comfort of my own home, I can still feel the heat of my competitive nature that originated in early childhood thanks to acrobatic rock’n’roll. Just instead of kicking my legs high and throwing my partner around, I’m trying to scroll through Vogue Runway without having to pay $12 for a yearly membership.
Things from Paris I was gutted not to see in real life: The Row (they would probably first need to sage away my bad taste), Duran Lantink (an extremely talented friend), Kiko Kostadinov (Laura and Deanna Fanning are the most ingenious womenswear designers out there – and showing off-schedule!), Ethel Cain walking the MiuMiu show (as in, I’d gladly only see those 15 seconds she was out on the catwalk and not the rest of the show), all the parties
Things from Paris I was glad not to see in real life:
FOMO LEVELS: 7/10; I kept imagining myself getting extremely drunk and rowdy at all the fashion parties before making friends with an A-list star or Rick Owens who then would invite me to their hotel room to do loads of drugs, but I would politely decline
And here we are – another month older, none the wiser. The anxiety has begun to subside, as has the FOMO. Give it a few months and I’ll gladly do this whole thing all over again. Except then, I’ll be 30 which means all my problems will have disappeared and I will only worry about adult things like a broken dishwasher, running out of loo roll and tax. xxx
*PEEK OF THE WEEK*
I hummed and hawed about whether the peek of the week needed to be part of this week’s newsletter. But then I decided to repurpose one of the people I talked to for my Woo piece. And that’s only because this specific person brought joy and calm every time I saw her permanently smiling face. It’s photographer Chris Fragkou (@cris.fragkou), aka one of the only people left in fashion who can get excited – and get you excited – about things as simple as a fabulous backstage shot of stunning models. And her Sandqvist backpack is the perfect representation of her nurturing spirit, always full of goodies for both mind and soul.
What does the inside and outside of your bag say about you?
Chris: “My bag choice for fashion week is about how much I can carry without hurting my back to death by the end of the day – I can sometimes have up to three cameras with me. Quick access pockets are also important, as well as whether my laptop fits inside. This Sandqvist backpack is practical but it also brings me joy – like the positive, sentimental message written on the inside pocket. My other, small body bag always has to have chocolates inside. And some crystals for positive energy in case of a moment of crisis.”
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