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Image / Fashion

10 lessons I learned at my first Fashion Week


by Holly O'Neill
26th Feb 2020
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In February, the world of fashion descends on London for a week to look towards the fashion of the future. Junior beauty editor Holly O’Neill was there, for the first time, and has some wisdom to impart. 


Bottega Veneta Lido sandals in motion at London Fashion Week

1.

Rule number one of how to spot a Fashion Person: they will always be wearing good shoes. They might be in a hoodie and jeans, but on their feet, they will be wearing pristine cowboy boots, sparkling white trainers, or glittering heels. The most-worn shoes at London Fashion Week were, without question, combat boots or the Bottega Veneta Lido sandals, in duck egg blue. 

2.

Rule number two of how to spot a Fashion Person: they either have incredible hair or terrible hair. There is no in-between. 

Glowing skin at Emilia Wickstead

3.

The amount of foundation you and I wear on a daily basis would be spread across the face of five models backstage. Across ten shows, I watched make-up artist apply the slightest sheen of foundation and rely entirely on concealer for covering imperfections and dark circles. The result? Glowing, dewy skin that looks like skin. 

Backstage at JW Anderson

4.

Backstage is pure chaos. You are in a long, narrow corridor, lined with make-up stations. For 30-50 models, each one will have a least two hairdressers, one make-up artist and one nail artist surrounding them, vying for their face, head, nails. If, like me, you are a beauty editor, you will be trying to mould your way around them, you will be in everyone’s way, saying on repeat, “Sorry! Excuse me! I’m so sorry! Would you mind if I recorded this? Sorry!”, while everyone pushes by you and throws hair gel and eyeliners over your head. If I had a Euro for every time I said “Sorry!” during London Fashion Week, I too would buy Bottega Veneta Lido sandals, in duck egg blue. 

Dorothy Cross-inspired eyes at Simone Rocha

5.

The antidote to the pure chaos backstage is the artists at work. Hairdressers, make-up artists and nail artists are the funniest, maddest, most wound-up but equally laidback people on Earth. I saw some of the most energetic hairdressers I know looking completely subdued and sombre, and I saw the mayhem that ensued when a backstage beauty look was changed last-minute to a very intricate, embellished eye. I also saw pure joy post-show, and was entirely mesmerised by the poetry of lead hair and make-up artists as they explained the inspirations behind their creations, which never had anything to do with actual make-up; fish skeletons, oil in water, the Warhol Factory and the Irish artist Dorothy Cross are a sample. Beauty people are the best people. 

Street style at London Fashion Week 

6.

There is a street style set who will arrive to a show venue, dressed to the nines, without a ticket, with the entire purpose of being photographed outside the show. I saw the same group of people lingering outside everywhere I went. I watched a woman pose for a sea of photographers, in the middle of the road, standing stationary, mid-walk, leg cocked up, directly in front of a bus, while the driver sat on the horn. This lasted for an entire minute. 

Rose lattes from Farm Girl in Chelsea

7.

Coffee in London is on an entirely different level of self-optimising than we have yet to experience here. You know the way you think the culture of coffee has reached outlandish new heights in Ireland? Well, wait for what’s coming across the pond. I frequently walked into cafes, squinted at the menu and ended up turning on my heel and walking back out again. Here’s a selection that remain stamped on my brain; rose lattes (rose water infused milk), lavender lattes (lavender water infused milk); Liquid Gold lattes (turmeric, ginger, honey, black pepper and coconut milk). Remember when ‘Extras’ in a cafe meant a double shot or oat milk? Get ready to see CBD oil, ghee and MCT oil appear on a menu near you. 

Hershesons hairdressers

8.

Just get a blowdry. Do you want to lose an hour and a half of sleep to wake up, wash, dry and do an okay-ish job on your hair with one eye on your emails and one hand glugging coffee? Or do you want to spend half an hour and £30 in Victoria Beckham and Sienna Miller’s hair salon and have the best hair of your life for two days? Guess what happens on the day you don’t get a blowdry? You make eye contact with Anna Wintour, get wedged beside Edward Enninful walking down six flights of stairs in a crowd of show-goers and then sit on a row opposite an influencer with 2 million Instagram followers, where your fuzzy head features in every one of her Instagram Stories of the show. This really happened. Get a blowdry.

Street style at London Fashion Week 

9.

After much deliberating over what I was going to wear for my first Fashion Week (do you have a week’s worth of great outfits? No. Me either) I brought 11 outfits with me. For six days. Every dress I kind of like, every pair of jeans I own, six pairs of shoes, four handbags, and two jackets – a waterproof trench and a beloved black blazer. You will live hour to hour by the schedule. Aside from the hours spent sleeping, your brain will be constantly shouting reminders at you about where you need to be next and how you’re getting there. There is a show, every hour, on the hour, every day, in a new location. Unless you’re an influencer being paid to arrive at the show in this season’s dress, there is no time for wardrobe changes. Next year, I will bring a different waterproof trench for every day, as it was perpetually raining in London, and that’s all I’ll need to be dressed exactly like everyone else.

MAC Senior Global Artist Lesley Keane, backstage at JW Anderson with Kaia Gerber

10.

The Irish are everywhere. Backstage at Charlotte Knowles creating “futuristic cowgirl” eyes is MAC Senior Global Artist, Lesley Keane from Dublin. When I go backstage at JW Anderson with Dyson, I meet the lead artist and hairstylist Anthony Turner, whose mum is from Cork. At Central Saint Martins, the lead artist is MAC Global Senior Artist, Rachel O’Donnell, from Galway. I bump into Irish photographer Aaron J Hurley backstage and numerous other hairdressers and make-up artists that I know, and am otherwise drawn to Irish people I don’t know. In a week filled with fabulous locations and fancy people and outfit uncertainty and hair catastrophes, thanks to them, I never really felt too far from home.

Photography by Jason Lloyd Evans.


Read more: Everyone at London Fashion Week is wearing this waterproof jacket

Read more: The best street style from London Fashion Week

Read more: The 10 best outfits I saved on Instagram this week

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