September always begins with a sense of impending doom - what used to be the tummy-turning prospect of going back to school is now pangs of fashion-week-foreboding. And the real kick is that it happens all over again in February. My friends always tell me off for my bi-annual moan - "what could possibly be so bad about spending a week attending fashion shows and parties?" The general consensus is that London Fashion Week is all about rubbing shoulders with celebrities, drinking champagne and looking at pretty clothes. Put like that, yes it sounds amazing.
The fashion week scrum. Photo: Getty
However, like any job, the appeal wanes once you realise it's not all fun and flash bulbs. I have a friend who worked at Disneyland, and even in the world of magic where dreams come true you can get sick to death when it's your job - in her case, by day two. I'm loathe to whine ungratefully about a job I truly love, but hopefully I can take the shine off the myth a little.
Firstly, it's bad for your health. After the first week of shows in New York and the inevitable jet lag, each catwalk becomes a breeding ground for germs. The hacking cough and fainting fits are coyly termed Fashion Flu by all concerned to make it sound cute. But Fashion Week doesn't care for your temperature or mucus production - shows begin at 9am, which means a start time of 7am if you're reporting backstage like me, or even earlier if you're the PR organising the event. In between shows you've got to perform the Challenge-Anneka-style dash to get from venue to venue - often from East London to West in 30 minutes - and there's rarely time to stop for food or water. You might get to sit for around 15 minutes if you're watching the show, but then you're off again to the next, ahead of the fashion pack if possible.
During this stampede from what's often a pitch black warehouse space, don't be surprised if you get stabbed in the foot by a stiletto heel. Do you remember the photographs of women beating one another in stores on Black Friday? This is worse. By the end of the day, it's common for shows to be running late, so you might finish around 10pm. If the prospect of a 5am alarm doesn't put you off - or your boss makes you - you might drop in at an after-party and roll home at 2am, tummy empty but for a couple of canapés and a glass of Prosecco.
Feel sorry for us yet? No? Ok, how about this: I fall down. A lot. It used to be the slippery slopes and ramps around the BFC's main venue at the Natural History Museum, but now it's been relocated to Somerset House, it's the cobbles - they're just not made for heels (which are, of course, basically obligatory). Every year I try to stalk across the courtyard, looking aloof, and then BAM! I'm fashion roadkill. It happens if I'm wearing flats too, incidentally. And there's now a bank of street style bloggers with their fancy cameras ready to send your mishap viral.
If my lack of balance wasn't bad enough, there are several other factors chipping away at any remaining confidence. Backstage and front of house are both hot and crowded. No matter how 'on-trend' your outfit is, it's likely to be drenched with sweat in minutes, dripping onto the floor along with your makeup and sense of resolve. It's a bit like being on the tube with hundreds of attractive fashion types - you'll soon have your face nestled in someone's armpit. You therefore get told off a lot for simply being in the way, whether it's by a makeup artist, hairdresser, designer, photographer, journalist, model, PR or event organiser, or in my case on occasion, security. Or you'll be too late, too early, have too many bags, take pictures of the wrong things, stand too close to the clothes, trip over a shoe, walk into shot, sit in someone's place... I feel like a school child again as soon as I walk in.
Is it exciting? Definitely - it's your privilege to get the very first peek at a whole new season, with all the theatrics, beauty and passion that the fashion world does best. But is it glamorous? If you think glamour is sweaty, anxious, starving, sickly, bruised, sleep-deprived and unbalanced, then sure it is. I personally feel it's as glamorous as ten rounds with Mike Tyson. But I still can't wait to get stuck in.
By Grace Timothy