Here, our founder Georgie Abay shares an extract from her new book Best Laid Plans on what it's really like attending fashion week...
It was near impossible to afford to work at Vogue. One T-shirt I bought cost me $500. It was Lanvin, embellished with tulle, and apparently J.Crew wasn’t cool. The world I existed in was rather ridiculous, which I realised when I spent time with normal friends, but when I was with fashion friends, it seemed natural. One woman I worked with flew to Paris for fashion week and bought a pair of $2,500 Balenciaga boots. The day she arrived back, she paraded into the fashion office wearing them…
‘Stop!’ yelled one assistant, pushing her chair dramatically back from her desk to get a better look at the boots. ‘Oh my god, they look so good on you,’ said another. They all huddled around her, applauding the boots. She sat there talking about her purchase, breathing in the validation. ‘They’re good, no?’ she said.
Adding the word ‘no’ to the end of a sentence was something fashion people who wanted to sound French did. It just didn’t have the same effect when you had an Australian accent and didn’t speak French, but they still did it.
No meant yes.
The next month, the woman in the fancy boots was borrowing money off her assistant to pay for petrol. No one applauded that. No one said anything.
Over the years, I watched as the fashion industry completely changed. As a journalist, it was no longer enough to be able to write. At fashion week, I now needed to dress up in designer clothes, with the end goal of having my photo taken by one of the celebrity street-style photographers. You were more likely to get your picture taken if you were wearing new season. The more your photo was taken, the more clout you had in the industry. Suddenly, I needed more than talent – I needed clothes. I began buying more and more designer labels to keep up.
Australian Fashion Week runs once a year for a week. I had pre-planned my outfit for the first day (there’s a photo of it below). I put on a Christopher Kane neon yellow skirt from his latest collection and a Miu Miu cardigan, accessorised with a Louis Vuitton limited-edition Stephen Sprouse bag, which I’d bought while on a press trip to New York and had cost me (with a discount) over $2000. At the time, I was earning less than $4000 a month.
I looked at the woman standing in the mirror. My entire outfit had cost me more than $5000. I was 28 years old. I was in debt. I still didn’t feel good enough. And this outfit would get me through just one day. I had four other days to fill. If I’d kept up at that rate, the entire week’s wardrobe would have cost me $25,000. How had I ended up in a job that required me to go into debt to be good at it? I just wanted to write about fashion.
I pushed down the guilt, picked up my tote bag and walked out the door. I got my photo taken that day. When the picture was published, every item of clothing I wore was captioned: ‘Georgie wears Miu Miu cardigan, Ellery T-shirt, Christopher Kane skirt, Louis Vuitton bag and Salvatore Ferragamo shoes.’ I should have felt excited looking at that photo; instead I just felt flat. That photo had left me broke. Many of the high-profile bloggers were loaned or gifted clothes to wear, which they then shared with their followers. The irony was, they couldn’t afford the outfits themselves. As street-style photography exploded and the fashion parade moved off the runway and onto the street, it became more and more important to dress the part as an editor. I watched as influencers became more powerful than the magazines themselves, and the impact of saying you worked for Vogue or
Harper’s BAZAAR didn’t feel as impressive as someone who had a million followers on Instagram. I couldn’t afford to keep up. When French fashion illustrator and photographer Garance Doré wrote an article for InStyle magazine about disliking fashion shows, I finally felt like I wasn’t the only one on the planet who found fashion shows soul-destroying.
‘When I used to whisper to my fashion friends, “You know, I don’t really like going to fashion shows,” they would remind me that people would kill for my spot. So I kept telling myself I was lucky,’ she wrote. It was the same as working at Vogue – thousands of girls would have killed for my job. The little voice inside my head told me to shut up and enjoy it even though I couldn’t help but wonder why a runway full of anorexic teenagers in clothes that only 1 per cent of the population could afford was so appealing.
For Garance, it was when she brought her sister to a show that her eyes opened. ‘I remember very precisely one day, taking my sister to a fashion show. A publicist friend had granted me the major favour of letting her in. When the show ended, I asked her, “So, how much did you love all that excitement?” And she told me, “Are you crazy? I hated it! Who are these people, and who do they think they are? It was awful. I don’t know how you do it.”’
Extract from Best Laid Plans. To purchase the book and read the full chapter, click here
The $5,000 outfit