London Fashion Week, we love you but you’re bringing us down. You should’ve been great this year, as world-class as our Olympian athletes, but you’ve shown yourself up by being backward and a little parochial in comparison with the other fashion capitals.
It appears the BFC’s and selected PRs attitude to us ‘mere’ bloggers is more than lacking. We’re the ones promoting British fashion and up-and-coming designers. Hell, a lot of us are tweeting the ____ out of the week, Facebooking, Instagraming, and generally ensuring that British fashion is at the forefront of the public domain – all raising its profile and supporting emerging designers to the hilt.
You’re right to ask us for stats, we’re as aware as anyone that there’s a lot of badly-written landfill fashion blogs out there, but consigning us to a tiny L-shaped room with a smattering of plug sockets and refusing to give us a London Fashion Week tote bag (produced at nominal cost by sponsors Mulberry) smacks a little of being made to sit over the other side of the bus. Let’s face it, you can get your head around the differences in quality and status re print media so why not blogs, too? It’s not always about the quantity of readers or The Sun’s Fashion Editor would sit front row of every major show and you know that doesn’t happen.
Then there is the venue which, despite having a major telecommunications provider as sponsor, continues to be a mobile reception blind-spot. Helpfully you set up a series of wireless networks this year except, rather unhelpfully, the passwords for these networks were all different, and even many of the staff seemed unsure of what the actual passwords were.
You’re not the only ones. ‘Blogger’ has become a dirty word. One rather brusque individual in the exhibition told us rather snippily “Oh no, I don’t allow bloggers to photograph my work”. Well done love, that’s approximately twenty to thirty-thousand people a month who’ll continue to be unaware of your scarves. Certain brands continue to shut us out, but then contact us after the event expecting us to write about a collection we haven’t seen. Try seeing the response you’ll get from print media when you do that.
We don’t mind being relegated to standing status at the main venue, but we have to question why we’re at the front of the queue yet still being shut out of shows, or told we have to watch them in a tiny cinema in a wooden shed. If only Somerset House had proper screening facilities. Oh, wait a minute! The PR firm has got to be aware of the main tent’s capacity, so it was slightly concerning that ticket holders there to do a job were held back in favour of sponsors’ mates and minted hedge fund managers on a corporate jolly. We kid you not; hospitality packages to attend some of the most high-profile designers’ shows are available to those in the know. Based on our experiences this season we might even consider it in future.
However, all of this doesn’t even hold a candle to the disdain shown by certain PR firms.
‘Certain’ should be highlighted in neon. Most PR firms are brilliant, hard-working and professional, and understand how important bloggers are to the fashion industry and we salute them. We can get a story out there quicker than the glossies and, sometimes, even quicker than the dailies, and a decent firm will encourage relationships with the more influential bloggers. There is a mutual respect, not constant attempts to steer editorial, or requests to edit posts. And from our end, an open relationship where we even keep to embargoes.
We’re not going to name names; we’ll let you do the leg-work. But we stood in a queue for forty minutes outside Goldsmith’s Hall for a show that has a rep for “friends” of the designers just turning up at the door with their mates. At no point did anyone come down the queue and ask to see our tickets, and it wasn’t really a shock when the hundred-odd crowd were locked out, but can that firm really say, hand on heart, that their management of the event resulted in the designer receiving the best and maximum amount of exposure?
Then there was the main tent LFW show where we had seated tickets and were (again) locked outside when the show started. Cue hundreds of furious journos and bloggers. Then, the new PR had the temerity to send an email asking us to write about the show and the party (we missed both, obviously). You really couldn’t make it up.
Another example, this time outside Vauxhall Fashion Scout. Again, another lengthy wait when we could be attending another show. Again, we didn’t see a representative of PR firm check the queue and, again, another lock-out. What makes this situation slightly worse is that, whilst we were waiting in vain, we clocked the PR and two interns getting into a cab bound for their next show, at another venue across town. We only found out that the doors were closed when two fellow ticket holders who had been at the front of queue kindly walked down to tell us. No apology or explanation from anyone. The Nancy Mitford School of PR.
London Fashion Week is a global stage for emerging designers, with hundreds of members of foreign press agencies in attendance. The situations above would certainly make us rethink attending those designers’ shows, and the latter would make us reconsider ever covering any of that firm’s clients ever again. Is this display of ignorance and unprofessionalism really what British fashion wants to be known for?
The appointment of Net-a-Porter’s Natalie Massenet as Chairman of the British Fashion Council might hopefully mean a change in their attitude to bloggers and social media, putting London Fashion Week on a par with, say, Milan. However, she has her work cut out if she wants British fashion to maintain the same level of professionalism.
Regardless, we’ll be back next season – if you’ll have us, circumnavigating the sea of (now beyond irritating) “street style” photographers (please – DO something about that!), and queuing for hours in the rain hoping to witness that one special moment that makes it all worthwhile. However, attendants, both bloggers and traditional press, deserve better, and we think British fashion does too. Bloggers like our fellow journalists, have long memories. Think on.
Article compiled and written by Lee Clatworthy (@TeamChutzpah) and Katie Chutzpah.
Catwalk images from a selection of LFW shows (that we actually managed to see!). A big thank you to the PRs concerned.