This is what it’s really like to attend Fashion Week

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Billie Bhatia
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For Stylist’s fashion news editor Billie Bhatia, there are few things scarier than the night before Fashion Week begins…

I’ll let you in on a secret. There is no night more terrifying than the night before fashion week begins

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Whether you’re a seasoned fashion director or an assistant about to embark on your first round of shows, it’s a sweat-inducing, anxiety-prompting marathon of so many emotions that you might as well be the student in Mean Girls who “doesn’t even go here”.

To the rest of the world, the biannual fashion weeks (be that New York, London, Milan or Paris) are a glamorous showcase of catwalks, parties, celebrity sightings and more champagne than hot dinners. Now, let me tell you… this is all entirely true. Actually, it’s more than that, it’s a four-week circus of indulgence – like a month of eating truffle risotto. And as someone who loves truffle risotto, it’s a ridiculous privilege to call it my job.

But for those few hours before kick-off, even the most confident of women (*raises hand faster than Hermione Granger*) can get sucked into a vortex of self-doubt. And while there is a blindingly beautiful light of fun, adventure and excitement at the end of the tunnel, like Andy Dufresne from The Shawshank Redemption, you’ve got to wade through the shit first. (That’s right, I am so far down the hole labelled ‘fashion dramz’ I just compared myself to someone serving a life sentence for a crime he did not commit).

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A precautionary message has already been sent to my closest friends and family to remind them with absolute certainty that I will become a monster. I’ll say things I don’t mean (but I assure them they won’t be as bad as the things I say when I drink gin). I have asked them to vow that they will still love me unconditionally (I tell a lie, there are conditions in place surrounding said gin consumption). Because whatever happens, this isn’t the real me. This is the night-before-fashionweek me – and they are two very different people.

You see, fashion week is equal measure clothes on the catwalk and clothes on your back. Despite the industry’s improvement towards inclusivity of something that isn’t sample size, fashion week is still the epicentre of body prejudice. It’s a place where everyone’s eyes sweep over each other with obvious judgment. Where packs of photographers are ready to capture your very worst angle – all 18 chins – and last season took pictures of me tripping over my own feet.

Bella Hadid walks for Ralph Lauren NYFW September 2019
There's still a lack of body diversity on the catwalk

You can tell yourself until you’re blue in the face (or rather grey, it’s more coveted this season) that you won’t let yourself care what people think. Alas, inevitably, you do care. We have all been there, right?

The nightmare before fashion week occurs due to numerous factors. I’m tired. I’m hungry. I’m likely hungover due to overcommitting to events because I’m a social butterfly and you can’t clip my wings. I’m nervous of the impending judgment and I’m feeling overwhelmed. The natural reaction would be to rationalise the situation. The ‘Billie reaction’ is to feast on penne arrabiata with a side helping of self-indulgence.

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Having sufficiently carb-loaded, I spend the next two hours trying on clothes that are so far removed from my usual aesthetic, I am officially catfishing myself. In the panic of wanting to be fashion week-appropriate, I have decided to try and become a different person entirely. This exercise inevitably ends in the first breakdown of the night and tears pour from my face.

It’s not just dressing for the shows that has overwhelmed me, it’s that I have committed to more parties than an 18-year-old fresher who has never been Out Out before. So now I also need to muster additional looks for quaffing champs with the fashion world’s elite in a private members’ club with lobster rolls and drag acts.

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All eyes are on the sidewalk, not just the catwalk.

Thanks to intermittent crying and multiple FaceTimes with best friends for reassurance, it’s 3am and I am due to be at the “I have committed to more parties than an 18-year old fresher who has never been Out Out before” London Fashion Week opening breakfast at 9am, bright-eyed and Prada-tailed.

The reality of my clothing situation is now so dire I can’t even see my bed. Asos packages litter my carpet and I’m one toe-stub away from throwing myself out of the window. SEND HELP. OR SNACKS.

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It’s time for the ultimate reinforcement. I phone the one person I can’t use “You’re not the boss of me” against. My mum asks me why I care so much about what other people think when for the rest of the year I belligerently ignore such judgment. I tell her in the same exasperated teenage voice I used a decade ago: “Because everyone else cares!” She reminds me that I didn’t get this job because I was like everyone else, so why would I start now?

She’s right. The Night Before Fashion Week saga is coming to an end. I can rest easy in myself, my wardrobe and my state of mind… until next season, of course.

Photography: Getty Images, Instagram