Experiencing London Fashion Week from backstage is an entirely different story from seeing it all pan out on the front row. Once you've convinced the burly security guards to let you in, you're ushered through a series of tiny doors and into an area the size of a shoebox, where professionals are juggling makeup brushes with espressos and the air is thick with hairspray.
As a journalist, it's your responsibility to sniff out the main hairstylist, makeup artist and the coolest models, collecting quotes, pictures and future feature inspiration. But it isn't all glitz and glam. In between trying out the latest beauty launches, mingling with celebrities and getting free makeovers, you're dodging shoddy portaloos, soggy croissants and stressed-out industry professionals. It's a bit like a video game, but not always one that's fun to play, and if you make it out without choking on hairspray fumes, you've pretty much completed it. Intrigued? Here's everything I did and saw backstage on day four of London Fashion Week AW19.
I wake up super early for Richard Malone, as the backstage call time is 7.30am. I don't manage to haul myself out of bed until 5.30, but I planned my outfit the night before, so I pull on a simple denim jumpsuit, Vans, a fluffy coat and my trusty JW Anderson Pierce bag. Comfort is key backstage as you're on your feet all day (and being manhandled by security/muscled out of the way by irritated hairstylists with very heavy hair appliances). It's still pitch black and I'm a bit scared to walk to the train station on my own, especially with my laptop in tow, so I get an Uber.
I make it to Richard Malone and I'm reminded just how unglamorous being part of the backstage crew really is. I get to the entrance which, this year, looks really cool – LFW printed in calligraphy on a red façade – but I’m told that backstage is actually around the corner. Unlike the entrance which you see in all the cool street style photos, it’s basically a building site with pipes and concrete blocks strewn all over the place. It’s so early I can barely see and I trip on the wonky pavement and spill my coffee onto my shoes. FFS.
There’s a commotion as I walk into the venue because a hairstylist working another show next door is throwing a tantrum over a model’s finished hair, which he obviously is not impressed with. "No. No, no, just NO." It's all very The Devil Wears Prada, and I feel awful for the junior stylist who has to start from scratch, despite there being only 15 minutes left in hair and makeup. His model, who has been sitting in the chair for hours, is on the verge of wetting herself. I'm anxious.
I skipped breakfast in favour of contouring (I am a beauty editor, after all) so I try and sneak a pastry from the buffet (actually for the models) but there are just crumbs left. Yes, they do eat. Instead, I make my way over to Pablo Rodriguez, Illamasqua’s global director of artistry and one of the nicest makeup artists I’ve met. I’m the only journalist in the room (bliss) and he explains all four beauty looks to me in detail while I riffle through his kit. You'd be surprised by how many high street and own-brand products pro makeup artists rely on, like Garnier Micellar Water Sensitive Skin, Superdrug Hand Sanitiser (presumably for cleaning brushes) and Duo Striplash. I grab a couple of pics then realise my storage is full. I deliberate deleting the hundreds of pictures of my cat doing cute things and telling everyone back at the office that my phone broke over the weekend so I couldn't take any photos. The PR sees me struggling with this decision and reassures me that all imagery will be sent straight to my inbox later today. Crisis averted, cat pictures safe.
I’m late to the Roksanda show because I get lost somewhere in Fitzrovia and the models are already doing their dress rehearsal. I manage to harangue Jon Reyman for deets on the hair look and sneak a peek at the makeup test shot courtesy of MAC Cosmetics (clean skin and a berry lip, very autumn/winter) and make my way over to Erdem at the National Portrait Gallery, where none other than Val Garland and Anthony Turner are on hair and makeup. The hair is cone-like and eyes are inspired by the Vatican and Hitchcock, apparently. It looks cool, so I nod and smile. I spot some journalists I know but it’s still too early to make conversation, so I slip out unnoticed and make my way to JW Anderson (always one of my favourite shows) but not before a speedy Pret pitstop.
The hair at JW Anderson is meant to look like a Lego helmet, according to hairstylist Anthony Turner, who is literally dripping in hair gel. Hang on, did he teleport here? I try and get a picture of the final look, but I’m told off by security. By this point, I’m so hungry I almost cry, so I get what I need from lovely Lynsey Alexander, makeup artist for KIKO, find an EAT and carb-load. As I leave, I notice I’m getting the biggest blister on my foot. I said no to transport offered by a beauty brand because think of the environment, people – and because I can get around much quicker via Tube – but I deeply regret my decision. What I’d give to whizz around in a cushty car right now.
After catching up on work, I limp on over to Christopher Kane in Holborn and get caught in the pissing rain. I realise industry legend Guido Palau is styling hair for L'Oréal Professionnel and try to smooth my frizz down in the toilets, where models are having their hair washed in the teeny tiny sink with Redken All Soft Mega Shampoo. Another less than glam moment. My loo dash pays off – as Guido explains the look, he stops and compliments my "ultra shiny, glossy hair" (thanks, Redken Shades EQ). The other journalists give me evils.
Next stop, Rejina Pyo with Lord & Berry. This is one of my favourite beauty looks of the day. Finally, some colour! Makeup artist Niamh Quinn washes lids in green and blue hues using Lord & Berry Stardust in Aqua and Gold Green, reminiscent of Warhol and Madonna in the '80s. She contrasts the shades with a matte scarlet lip. The look shouldn't work but it does. I thank the brand's lovely PR, Lia, for grabbing me quotes and pictures in 10 minutes. I think she can sense my feet hurt, I'm dehydrated and I'm bloody exhausted. Did I mention I got up at 5am?
On my way to Emilia Wickstead, where Suqqu is taking charge of makeup, I get lost again because it seems designers enjoy booking really obscure venues. This show is in a car park behind The Ritz and the path down to the backstage area is so steep, I have to hold on to another journo for dear life, but we're in hysterics. The beauty look is another red lip, but I'm just as obsessed with this as the last one. If it ain't broke... Thanks to Dyson and Oribe, the hair is another level, with ornate ponytails and sleek buns radiating "Italian and The Godfather" vibes, according to the stylist.
My blister is getting bigger and bigger and I'm hungry again, so make a quick decision and miss my last show. I feel terribly guilty, but suddenly I panic that I haven't written much today or responded to any of my 600 emails. I hobble into another Uber (my poor bank balance) and head back to work. I arrive to a mountain of post.
After unboxing all the new launches (my favourite part of the day), I leave the office via the kitchen, where I eat my bodyweight in biscuits. I definitely deserve them after gallivanting across the entire capital. To be honest, I can't wait to get into my fluffy pjs and watch EastEnders. Until next season.