Ask Alexandra is my advice column. Have a question you want to ask me? Fill out the form here.
Not sure if you’ve touched on this question before but I noticed that you’ve said you’ve been to fashion weeks in both Paris and London. My question is: how can I (a college student) go to fashion week without being part of a glossy editorial staff?
I would love to attend Paris Fashion Week, and London Fashion Week some day!
Great question, I’ll break down the answers into two sections.
1. The Official Way. The official way to get into any properly organized fashion week is to apply to become accredited industry (usually media or buyers) and then send out invitation requests to brands and PR’s. You’d need to go onto the site of the body that organizes the fashion week, or the fashion week’s website, and you fill out a form. They will then decide if you are “worthy” enough to be accredited. If you are, then your name will be on the list of accredited industry. You need to provide a fashion week address in the city (most won’t send invitations abroad) so book your hotel or friend’s couch in advance, and give out that address.
This won’t mean the invitations will come rushing in, but you are likely to get a few from smaller brands who send out to everyone in hopes they get a full house (or over-full house, never a bad thing.) To get into the well-known brand’s shows, you then need to send an invitation request. The timing for this varies, but I’d say two months in advance is good (some may say they have stopped taking requests, but that is usually the arsy agencies who can pick and choose the guests at their clients’ shows.) The fashion week’s website usually has PR contacts for all of the brands involved in the fashion week, so you can get the email addresses there (either agencies or in-house press, and there is usually a dedicated email address for show invite requests.) Send an email to the person dealing with the PR, and request an invite to their show.
I have never had a brand return an email and tell me they are sending me an invitation, it usually turns up, or it doesn’t. So, fingers crossed! But if you know someone at that agency, milk it! Ask them to put in a good word. Good invitations are hard to get.
2. The Unofficial Way. Unfortunately, sneaking into fashion shows and events just isn’t as easy as it used to be. When I lived in Paris, we would manage to find our way into everything, the fact that we spoke English with an American accent, and had ridiculous amounts of confidence, meant we just waltzed into to anything, whether we were invited or not. Nowadays, it is a lot more complicated. But here are a few ways to get into fashion shows.
Use your contacts. Do you know friends who work for brands? Ask them for invitations. Even if they can’t get you one, they might be able to lend you a pass on the day of the show, for long enough to get you in through the door. Or they might be able to come from backstage, get you into the show area, and then go back to work. This has worked for me a few times (back in the day.)
Volunteer for the brands. You may not get to see the show, but backstage is equally exciting. Many brands need dressers or extra PR help for seating guests, and if you can get a job helping organize the show, you can probably see some of it. By the way, this doesn’t need to be a full blown internship, this could just be assisting on the day. And you don’t necessarily need to contact the brand that is showing, there are a lot of companies involved in putting together a show, lighting and sound people, casting agents, etc…
Beg. Go up to the nicest looking PR person (or clipboard Nazi, as they are called) and beg them to let you in. Tell them you are a student and you will stand back row. At the very last minute, if the venue isn’t heaving, they might just let you in. A full show is much, much better than a half-empty one. Make sure you are dressed well if you try this!
Bullshit. Tell them you are so-and-so from whatever magazine or boutique (a fake business card might help) and try your luck. This can be tough, but if the main PR is handling a VIP and away from the door, and you get an assistant who is scared to turn away someone who might be important, you may just get in. Confidence will be your most important accessory in this case.
Sneak. Buyers travel in packs, try and sneak in with the team from Barneys or Nordstroms. Pretend you are delivering something and go through backstage. Pretend you are a model (if you can!), a DJ, a hairdresser, a lighting technician, WHOEVER. Then hide until the actually show time, and then grab a standing spot at the back. Security is most likely a lot more tight than in my sneaky student days, but again, a security guard is not going to turn away a “model” who says she is running late, forgot her pass, and “HAS” to get into makeup before the show starts in ten minutes! Props like extension cords, makeup suitcases, etc… might help here.
If you get in unofficially, then never take a seat near the front (in fact, best not to take a seat at all, unless there is one at the back, right when the show is starting.) If you grab a front row seat and a VIP goody bag, the PR’s will definitely wonder who you are, and if they find out you aren’t someone important, you will be asked to move from the front row. That’s pretty much the most embarrassing thing that can happen in the world of front rows, so don’t let it happen to you.
- Dress well, like you belong there.
- Have a notepad, camera, something to make you look professional.
- Smile and be friendly
- Have a backup story in case you are caught!
When I lived in Paris, we did everything, including sharing invitations, trying to get them off people leaving parties (a lot of senior people that we knew or worked with would always help us sneak in, they knew the importance of being at those events) and just bullshitting our way in. Once there was a huge opening at the Pompidou Centre in Paris (a huge modern art museum) for an exhibition sponsored by Yves Saint Laurent called “Pop Years.” There was a massive red carpet and tons of hot security guards wearing YSL suits letting people in. This was THE fashion party of the season. My friend Yasmin, an American, and I stood back and brainstormed on how the hell we were going to sneak in. We asked a friend to help out, but she wasn’t able to. In the end, we just stormed up the red carpet looking confident and like we belonged, in our “American” accents we told the staff “We are from Christie’s” (thinking… this is an art exhibition, Christie’s sells art, this might work) and walked in. No one questioned us. So easy, which was a bit crazy considering the guests weren’t only the top fashion people (editors, designers, etc…) but the French Prime Minister was also there. A good night!
Anyone have any interesting stories of how they snuck into fashion shows or events?