For a London Fashion Week virgin, the first time you pass between the columns that mark the entrance to Somerset House – swapping the everyday bustle of the Strand for the highly charged, otherworldly microcosm within – can feel rather surreal, like you’ve suddenly stepped behind the scenes of a favourite film.
Fashion week has become an idea as much as an experience; an emotive amalgam of artistic extravagance, commercial ambition, and political and social discourse. Every year, it explodes into our collective consciousness through media old and new in a jumble of images and headlines, each with their own pointed agenda. One moment the whole merry-go-round is about race, the next about class, the next about anorexia; rarely is it about a pair of really nice shoes. Now, thanks to tech-savvy innovators such as Burberry, anyone with a decent Wi-Fi connection can curate their own edited version of LFW through tweets, livestreams, photos and videos, and broadcast their version to the world in a feeding frenzy of online opinion-mongering. For an event accused of elitism, LFW is seriously public property.
So it can come as a bit of a shock to actually be there, physically immersed in the low-def pedestrian reality of what is essentially a very famous trade show.