Wednesday, 5 October 2016

WearItWednesday THE BIG REVIEW in the ESPspotlight: LONDON FASHION WEEK (Part One)

This was it. This was The Big Leagues.

Three events down, five times out in the last (almost) three years, and I was back inside the hallowed halls of the Freemason's. Doctors told me once that I wasn't going to be well enough to continue my professional activities, and for a while, I almost believed them. But then one day, I decided that I would like to try some things - nothing too extraordinary - just enough to bring me back to present day, and suddenly...look where I am.

Rushing to make my first show on Day 1, which was the Ones To Watch Award winners, selected by Fashion Scout, time was tight as one of my new Carers and I arrived at Waterloo. To be sure that I did not miss the beginning of the show since I would be coming from so far away this time (I lived in South London the last time I attended, nice and accessible), I jumped in a taxi with my new Carer, a young Romanian called Ana who was not only going to her first fashion show, but was joining me for her first day on the job, so I wasn't the only one on an adventure!

Being in a wheelchair now, I didn't know what the building's pre-arrangements for the disabled were, and so I've found the best approach to be pre-warning people that I am coming and that I cannot be alone (people tend to get a tad panicky when they see a tremor attack in action without warning). Having done that with organisers POP PR a few times over, I was surprised when the security staff that I reported to didn't know that I was coming, and thus hadn't allotted a space for me. A somewhat surly man who seemed to think that I turned up willy nilly, was a little brusque with me about finding a spot to put us. Spotting my POP contact, the ever stunning Portia as we were led up the runway, I stopped to butt in and say hello on the way; risking the imminent wrath of the burly older man in the security guard's uniform. After exchanging our greeting, I hurriedly followed the unhappy looking man to the top of the runway, to right where the models would return (to exit).

Nail-bitingly terrified that I was going to be in the way, I asked if he was sure he wanted us there, would I not be blocking the models? The tense guard informed me that had he known that I was coming, he could have found a better place to put me, but no-one had told him. Explaining that I did do my due diligence in advance, Burly's features seemed to soften, and he became a bit kinder before he left us. Afraid the show would start any second, I reminded Ana of what I was going to need her to do as we were doing it. The sweet girl of 24, got me settled and went into my 'Go Bag' to get the camera and everything else I would need for the show. Before I knew it though, Burly was back, and telling us not to get too comfortable, because he was going to move us across the runway.

Now more terrified than ever, I let Ana get into the second row, before I tried to squash my 120kg wheelchair into the tiny, non-existent space at the start of the FROW; bothering some very kind and friendly young ladies, who offered to help (code for: I caused a commotion and brought attention to myself). Naturally, the wheels on my chair got stuck in the space between the wall, a sudden dip in the floor, and the benches. Despite several attempts to manoeuvre myself out of it, it just didn't work. Burly tried pulling on my chair, to no avail, and before you knew it, the lights dimmed, and Burly sped off backstage! Seeing my rigid armrest stick out in the way of the narrow path where I was quite sure each model was going to bang into it and dislocate a hip bone, which would of course poke through their side and get blood all over the super expense ensembles, when I couldn't even afford to arrange a payment plan for a button...

Trying to put my professional face on since Olympic diver Tom Daley was sat directly opposite me with his freshly bleached hair, it was all I could do not to scream as the first model emerged and I pictured her protruding hip bone; add to that the fact that she was wearing pastels, so the blood would definitely stain. And then I took in the designs...Ana Ljubinkovic was up first.

Ana Ljubinkovic

Ana Ljubinkovic
The initial thought that came to mind as I watched the first design take to the runway, was ice cream. I had visions of the unusual pastel creations being worn in a west end parlour chain with five hundred flavours. Later, it would be suggested to me that they could also be pictured as futuristic space uniforms, which I could also totally see. The other thing that I couldn't get over were the shapes; each more unorthodox than the last. Not for the average body type, it was easy to see Ljubinkovic's vision for how the garments would sit on the perfect form; precisely cut and made to stand out. Despite the muted colours and abstract shapes, the uniform collection was a smart, clean-cut one, with wearable separates masked by the avant garde presentation; consisting of tops, skirts, shorts, capri pants and minidresses, the twists came not in the peplum shaped detailing on the sleeves, waists or hips, but in cookie colour cut outs, or wings with exaggerated curves. The sexy air was added by what was taken away. The hint of skin as opposed to the exposed; but make no mistake - each detail was out of this world.

Anissa Aida

Anissa Aida
I would later meet Aida and declare her the winner for the nicest designer personality award. As for her creations however, I would have to declare that they weren't my cup of char. Although a clear winner for being in keeping with the denim trend, what I liked about them - apart from what looked like a great option for my next work bag - was that they reminded me of the Orient. I could see workers in rice paddies wearing these, but they wouldn't be my selection for a day to day wardrobe, barring a few pieces that I could dress up with other options. I don't know whether that was the look that she was going for, having never managed to find an opportunity to corner her and discuss the collection, but that was definitely what I took away from her collection of separates, which were very loose fitting, and androgynous. For those looking for casual comfort, then I would say that this is the collection for you; sleeves were either elbow or cuff length in shirts and dresses that emanate laid-back wear. Asymmetrical lengths were a note of interest, as was the colour scheme of denim blue, light grey and white. I appreciated the thought process, however I just wasn't in love with the results.

Billie Jacobina

Billie Jacobina
Definitely ready to party, Jacobina brought neon and silver to the fore, as we watched a collection consisting of see-through plastic, fur, and what appeared to be scales, in place of skin. There was a definite aquatic theme throughout, as I noticed what appeared to be several Octopi in neon pink and orange, as well as what I think were either algae, jellyfish or even a Portuguese man o' war...? I am always the first to say that you cannot detrite someone's vision, but she even lost me with that one! There were silver sequins on white jersey-like material, which made up leggings underneath wide-leg culottes, and they appeared to be covered in neon-coloured stripes. I applaud the daring, I thought the models with their bare, vaselined faces, white wigs, and 'BEAM' trainers that lit up around the soles with each step, were the most outlandish and visually interesting yet, but I'm afraid that the collection was also not for me.

Ester Kubisz

Ester Kubisz
Rounding things off, Kubisz had the most calm, immediately wearable collection of the four. Unisex in her monotone palette of black, white and grey, the mostly masculine line consisted of jackets, shirts, shorts, and trousers; but it was in the frayed edges where she found her mangled edge. Not particularly mindblowing to me, I found that there was little to make me think about what I was seeing. For all intents and purposes, each of the previous collections had brought ideas of something to mind, and I'm very sad to say that the most this made me think of was Christian Bale in American Psycho - this wardrobe would be perfect for him. I could even see Reese Witherspoon in the female version of the shorts. I don't necessarily know if that's a good thing? Hey, at least that means it's wearable, right? I see these, more than any others, playing out in everyday life - just not mine.

The show now finished, I breathed a sigh of relief that no-one was harmed by my chair, and went back to focusing on getting out of this mini-cavern I had fallen into. Burly returned and, fast becoming my new best friend, began maneuvering my wheels to get me back onto level ground which, to my shock, eventually worked! Thanking him sincerely, he asked me if I was going to be back for any additional shows, and I informed him who I would be seeing later. He offered to arrange a space for me, and dare I say it, I think I left the room (post Tom Daley selfie), with us being firm friends.

To the exhibition hall we headed, so that I could backup my photos on 'The Bayby' (my miniature notebook), but before we could get that far, I marvelled at how things had changed in the past five seasons; no longer a charging station, the cloakroom area had been overtaken by sponsors Crabtree & Evelyn, who set up shop with quite the natural environment for visitors to grab complimentary hand massages, or just sit and relax! I could've keeled over in shock. As I listened to Ana babble infectiously about how amazing her first fashion show was, I couldn't help but smile, until I felt myself get overly emotional. I realised that I was back in the building, and achieved what I thought I never would again. Despite the odds and adversities, I was here; and even if I couldn't make it all the way to my last show of the day, the fact that I had made it this far was enough for me, I could go home disappointed that I hadn't completed the day, but pleased and proud that I had made it over the first hurdle. No-one would ever be able to take that away from me, the victory was all my own.

Deciding to push on, having backed up my photos for safety, and taken my next round of painkillers to target the struggles that I was already feeling, I told Ana that it was time to get ready for the next show. Remembering Burly had told me to be outside the next hall ten minutes early, I suggested that we saw to our needs and got going, so that's what we did. Outside of the gallery even earlier than told, Burly led me through and perched me in a prime spot at the end of the catwalk. "This better for your shots?" He asked, at which I was hardpressed not to plant a wet, sloppy one on his cheek. Since I couldn't reach him, I gave him a good view of my pearly whites instead and, if I'm not mistaken, won him over with my charm. Trying to ease the worsening pain in my legs, I got Ana to take my legs down from the incorrectly placed footplates, which force my legs and hips into an unnatural position, and therefore cause me additional pain on top of the aches and waves that I was feeling, and got as comfortable as they would allow for the show. Before I knew it, the lights went down, and the works of Rocky Star paraded down the catwalk...

Rocky Star

Finally - this was what I came here to see! With every model that approached, the work became more intrinsic, and beautiful. The embroidery and patterns were beautiful, Herculean feats of artistry. The Middle Eastern vibe of the models added cultural depth, and the richness of the silks, satin, chiffon, brocade, patterns, ruching, and ruffles, were absolutely intoxicating. Each design made the wearer look like a Goddess, so deeply textural were the pieces. Honestly, there was not one creation that did not make me marvel in wonder. I loved Star's use of colour - though flesh-toned and darker in some places, all served to add to the wealth of the garment. Models wore slicked back ponytails, with smokey eyes and nude lips, there was an effortless beauty to each, as the clothing did all the work. Where headpieces or statement embellished earrings were worn, they only added to the experience - and that, the showing was. It was far more than just a catwalk; the showing was a journey that Star took his viewers on, and with the degree of beauty that I saw - it's safe to say that the whole affair was a rousing success.

Moving off to the vestibule - the only venue I have ever seen this lady show at, I waited in amused anticipation for Pam Hogg. Always a showstopper, my beloved Portia moved me from where Burly initially put me, guiding me to the end of the catwalk, right by the photographer's pit (my favourite spot); and had me placed perfectly to celebrity-spot. Starting with All Saints alum Melanie Blatt, whose daughter I remember being born, now walking in the show for, I believe, her third season straight, I felt myself age under the burning lights. Of course, the show was running late (as expected), and I discreetly asked a passing Security Guard whether they expect this late start every year, to which I was informed that not only do they expect it, but it's their collective most hated show, every season!

Chuckling to myself, I watched the 'celebs' like TOWIE/MIC regulars, awful excuses for tattooed Rappers, pretty up and coming singers, and the like, have their moments in front of the flashing bulbs. Others hob-nobbed, and I got chatting to my skilled neighbour; a talented artist who would do the most interesting interpretations of the pieces with various sized felt pens, and great big sheets of brown paper. She told me that she misses half of the collection in the time that it takes her to draw but, looking down and seeing the fruits of her labours, I had to say that it was L'Oreal worth it. Chatting to Ana next, and getting to know her a bit better, we were just laughing over a shared joke, when suddenly, the lights went down (early)!

Pam Hogg

As always, some dramatic punk music started, and some models descended in pvc and what appeared to be leather dresses; followed by skin tight shiny one pieces of varied forms, jumpsuits, leotards, and two pieces that involved shorts that let bum flesh hang out. Expecting nothing less, but also knowing that I had seen it all before, I almost started snapping on autopilot, and instead paying more attention to the drawings by my neighbour. Then something extraordinary happened. A wearable piece of art came floating down the runway...non extrovert material, it was a beautiful chiffon playsuit, in a gorgeous coral shade that, if I had the figure, even I would wear - and that's the first time that I have ever thought that about a piece of Pam Hogg couture!

Pam Hogg
Utterly flabbergasted, I looked around to see if anyone else shared my sentiment. Nobody else seemed to, so I simply sat in quiet shock. This was the most eclectic collection that I had ever seen from Hogg, and I wasn't quite sure what to make of it? Entitled 'Great Expectations', I was confused, because if anything, what I was seeing was more Alice In Wonderland, with the peplum upper arm sleeves, and the tulle skirts. There was also lurex and other shiny materials, platform shoes without heels, and a lot of big hair - whether it be by big, bright rolled curls pinned into place, or white afro wigs. There were more sprinklings of the chiffon designs, in the form of a black calf-length dress, with a waist-deep cleavage dip, a soft pink peplum blouse, a white ruched dress, cut with angel wings, and a see-through skirt layer. The patterns are not reminiscent of anything that I recognise, but interesting none the less (for the most part).

Before I knew it, the show was over, and that was the end of my first day at London Fashion Week - but my, what a day it was...

That's all for this week folx, thanks for your patience whilst I battle through this sick phase. Look out for Part Two next week.

Until the next...


Photos courtesy of EricaSharlette for EricaSharlette Promotions Ltd. and POP PR.