Fashion editor Paul McLauchlan reflects on his time at the spring/summer 2020 shows at London Fashion Week and how his wardrobe figured alongside industry elites
I attend London Fashion Week twice a year as a member of the international press. In recent seasons, I have reported on the shows for the Irish Examiner and for the ‘Talents’ section of Vogue Italia. I’ve had the privilege of attending incredible shows and had the opportunity to meet people whose work I admire.
That’s the nice part before you factor in uncompensated travel, transport, and general expenses, sleeping on a blow-up mattress on my best friend’s bedroom floor, and dressing for fashion week.
Dressing for fashion week has become increasingly difficult over the years as I’ve become increasingly conscious of my appearance and my credentials within the industry have improved. While I’ve never marketed myself based on my look – my work speaks for itself (although, ironically, I’m writing a column based on what I wear) – it’s hard not to compare oneself to the legions of editors, influencers, and celebrities, who are vying for the attention of one another and the hawkeyed street style photographers. When the atmosphere becomes competitive, the stakes feel a lot higher than wandering around campus.
It’s not just me. ‘It helps to remember that a lot of people, even those whose glossy existences may prompt your own negative self comparison, feel poor or ugly or old or otherwise insecure at fashion week,’ wrote Emma Hope Allwood, Dazed’s Head of Fashion, on Twitter.
Competition exists amongst high level members of the industry too, though it’s worth mentioning that most of them receive high salaries, receive clothing on a loan basis, and are gifted items from luxury fashion houses. Me? This is not the case.
I continue to rewear a Kiko Kostadinov long-sleeve (three seasons old) and Eckhaus Latta jeans (two seasons old) because I can’t afford to update my wardrobe every February and September. (Also, I love those pieces and spent hard-earned money to buy them.) They formed my look for day one, topped with a Topshop blazer. I felt true to myself. On day two, I styled the blazer with a black Calvin Klein t-shirt (a gift from my sister) and white jeans (from May 2019).
For day three, I wanted to wear something special for the Simone Rocha fashion show. One of LFW’s hottest tickets, this was my first time being invited – a symbolic moment for me as the once-13-year-old boy attending fashion week with one invite to a now-20-year-old reporting for one of our nation’s most prestigious titles. I wore a patterned H&M shirt (from December 2017) and grey check River Island trousers (from June 2019, via TK Maxx). It wasn’t new season. It wasn’t loaned or gifted. They’re some of my favourite pieces and I felt great.
Another note on being comfortable: shoes are of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, I’m not ferried around by a courtesy car as distributed to key figures in the industry. I get everywhere by foot, bus, and the underground. Nike Air Force 1s formed the basis for my look on busy days, while black leather Chelsea boots from Topshop were fitting for a shorter day of shows.
Over that weekend, my long-held belief that fashion transcends appearance was cemented. At fashion week, I witness the system is classist and unsustainable – one look to my left, new season boots, and to my right, a newer-than-new season jacket, with the wearers ostensibly oblivious to the environmental impact that hyperconsumption of fashion has. Not to mention, the pressure this places on its subjects is toxic and mentally damaging.
Another thing, fashion week is a business and it’s my place of work. Of course, in the workplace, I want to present well and look the part. But, above all, I want to communicate a sense of myself. I think I did that. All the while getting down to business.