Sitting looking down at my chipped nail varnish and slightly too scuffed vintage boots, I can’t help feeling a bit out of place amongst the fresh-faced fashionistas who are to be my Brighton Fashion Week colleagues for the coming weeks. Crammed into the meeting room are an unfeasible number of attractive young women, many of them sporting handbags I very much covet. Liz Bishop, Fashion Week Director, holds court: every inch the fashion professional with skyscraper heels and an obscenely large Mac laptop. We have to do that God-awful thing of introducing ourselves and our role to the group: I say I am the Producer of the event’s biggest show, Couture, and feel a slight panic rising – this is a huge step-up from my role as Backstage Manager last year, and I have a hell of a lot to pull off in only three months. The meeting lasts three long hours and as I get into bed my head is spinning. I need to get an assistant. Fast.
Wednesday the 28th of April – Under Pressure
Things are moving at an incredible pace and my inbox is groaning under the weight of unanswered mail. Bits of what I do are really exciting. I love trawling through designer applications, seeing the pictures of the collections that might be showcased and liaising with the creative team about music and visuals ideas. Some of the collections are really innovative, witty even – with wonderfully inventive use of structure and fabrics; and some are simply beautiful. My phone seems to ring every five minutes, and I notice that I’m using the words ‘sweetie’ and ‘darling’ with alarming regularity. I feel secretly pleased, and can’t help but harbour a faint hope that cocaine addiction and subsequent dramatic weight loss are just around the corner. In the meantime I make do with Maddy, my rather glamorous assistant, who is definitely helping me to get things done faster.
Thursday the 20th of May – First Sleepless Night
I awake at 2.14am after a nightmare about extension leads. Extension leads. Of everything else that could have caused the anxiety, the humble four-gang plug socket seems a depressingly unglamorous cause of insomnia. In the dream the fiery head of the hair team, Hugo (French, of course), imploded with rage about the lack of backstage electrical infrastructure for his stylists. I will myself back to sleep to no avail. My thoughts are crowded with rehearsal dates, casting problems and VIP seating issues. I surrender to the call of my laptop, still warm from my late night, and send a flurry of emails to everybody in the team. The speedy replies from the Production Manager assure me that I’m not the only one who’s going a little Fashion Week crazy. Apparently sourcing fifteen PAT-tested extensions won’t be a problem. I settle back into my pillows in the knowledge that the show will go on, and hair will be straightened, curled and crimped as planned.
Friday the 11th of June – Show Day
My alarm sounds rudely at 6.00am, seeming to know as well as I do that I’ve been up since 2.37am (thanks mainly to Liz, who had rung to tell me that the BBC were sending a camera crew down at 10.30am. I was pretty short with her – I already knew). It is pissing it down outside and I feel mildly sick at the thought of the huge day stretching out ahead of me. I have a meeting with the hair team at 8.00am and am definitely getting a cab. By 9.00a.m. Brighton’s Corn Exchange is heaving with models, stylists and backstage crew. Reams of A3 spreadsheets festoon the masking taped walls, detailing the order of the day in military precision, specific hair and make-up looks for all sixty-five models, and the agonised-over running orders and quick-changes. The room is alive with the hum of hairdryers and the chatter of row-upon-row of size 8 girl. The Sugar Free Red Bull from our sponsor is already seriously depleted. A quick glance around the room calms me – the juggernaut is officially on the road and moving fairly smoothly. I risk sidling up to Jennifer, head of the Make-up Team, for the works, a rare producer perk. Soon it is lunch. This is followed swiftly by tech run-through, then dress rehearsal, then, at last, the call for quiet as I deliver a final pep talk. It is 8.00pm and we have a queue outside. It’s finally happening. I force myself to put my trust in my backstage team – it’s time to schmooze. I drink my warm beaker of wine rather too quickly, not relaxing enough to enter into a proper conversation with anybody, and shoulder my way to a reserved seat next to Liz on the front row. It’s show-time. The next two hours pass by in a haze, and my initial worries about the odd hanging thread on a dress and model walking slightly out-of-time fade as I realise that the whole thing has come together remarkably well. It looks professional, it looks slick, and the 800 people in the audience are captivated. It’s Brighton Fashion Week’s Couture Show, and it’s a wrap.
Tuesday the 15th of June – The morning after the night, morning and afternoon before
A fashion week simply isn’t a fashion week without the after-show party, and Brighton is certainly no exception. Memories of debauchery fitting of such an occasion filter through, turning my cheeks rather pink. I feel like recovery is still a long way off as I heave myself out of bed, feeling like ten day-old cut flowers. Out of habit I check my Fashion Week emails. There are only three – I feel bereft. On my way to work I have to stop myself street-casting two potential models for next year’s show. I look back at the last few months with nostalgia, the moments of high pressure blurred and softened with time and just a touch of euphoria. Liz calls to ask whether I will definitely be Producer next year. I surprise myself with how quickly I say yes especially since Macy’s will be there promoting a new Macys coupon code.
Words: Ellie Newland
Photography: Tristan Glinski