Lulu Kennedy, 42, is founder and project manager of Fashion East and MAN which nurture emerging young designers in the early stages of their careers. The schemes have helped major talents including Richard Nicoll, Holly Fulton, Jonathan Saunders and J.W. Anderson. She lives in east London
I never sleep well the night before London Fashion Week starts, so after a restless night, I get out of bed bleary-eyed at 7am. Every season, I promise I’ll pick my outfits the week before but I never do and try on everything I own every morning, leaving the rest in a pile on my bed when I leave at 8am.
I get a coffee on the way to my first show. I’m supposed to sit on the front row but I’d rather stand at the back watching people’s reactions – being able to read the temperature of a show is vital. Then I dash backstage to say congratulations.
I help new designers to show at LFW, raising funds and giving them all the assistance they need. Each season we’ll support three upcoming names. In the early days [Fashion East launched in 2000], I knew so little about fashion I chose designers purely on instinct – I’ve stuck with my gut feeling ever since. The most immediate reaction I’ve ever had was when a then-unknown Jonathan Saunders dropped off his work at my office. I got so excited that I instantly knew he had to do a show. This year I can’t wait for Simone Rocha’s show and Roksanda Ilincic, who’s certainly having her moment right now, as she dresses Kate Middleton.
“When I first saw Jonathan Saunders’ work, I instantly knew he had to do a show”
In-between shows I’m constantly on my BlackBerry or dashing back to my office on Brick Lane. The worst thing I can do during fashion week is forget my phone charger as I am constantly fielding calls from people demanding front-row tickets at the Fashion East shows. When Victoria Beckham came to one of our shows, her security had to do a recce first. Anna Wintour hasn’t come to one of our shows… yet!
The most amazing thing I’ve ever seen at LFW was Isabella Blow at the Hussein Chalayan show more than 10 years ago. She was wearing one of her famous hats, either the spaceship or the lobster. She was utterly inspiring.
I rarely get time to eat lunch and can sometimes get to the end of the day and realise I’ve only had a Kit-Kat and some champagne. I usually have a few apples and an emergency packet of Monster Munch in my handbag just in case.
The afternoon is the same: more shows, more phone calls. I see most of the designers’ collections the night before as I get invited over for a sneak preview. It means during the day I can concentrate on getting journalists back for interviews and project manage from front of house. Thousands of things can go wrong, I’ve seen the fuses blow because the hairdressers have too many appliances on or designers cull entire looks because a model doesn’t show up, but there are enough people backstage to deal with it. My place is out front. After the shows come the after-parties, some of which I organise. I’ve done a ‘DIY’ fashion party at a working men’s club (designers DJing… me behind the bar) and a slumber party where everyone came in their PJs. I try to get to bed by 2am.
Every Fashion Week, I take one night off. I cancel whatever I was supposed to be at and go home and call my mum or have dinner with my sister. I love that my social life and my work life are practically the same because I never dread going into work, but outside of work I lead a lo-fi existence. I stay with friends in the country and relish being scruffy. Downtime is so important. Mostly though, I love the pace. New seasons, new collections, new designers or established ones doing wonderful new things. I don’t think I’ll ever be bored of it.
Plan B: Monster Trucker
I am a complete petrol head and have a real thing about trucks – monster trucks in particular. Last year, I went to Truckfest, a huge truck festival with my friend and have been a bit obsessed with getting behind the wheel of one ever since. I love the smell of engine and oil. I picked my car up from the mechanics the other day and spent nearly an hour in there making them explain what they did and looking under the bonnet. If I could, I’d be one of those people that drives a truck over another truck and does hand-break turns, kicking up loads of dust. I love the utter mindlessness of it all.
Lulu & Co Studio launches its first season for s/s 2012 at liberty.co.uk