An industry legend, Lennard has a kaleidoscopic view of Fashion Week's history. She cut her teeth as a buyer for Browns in the early '90s, then went on to set up fashion consultancy company Mandi’s Basement. She remembers a simpler time when a Harrod’s bus transported editors between shows, rather than an Uber...
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“We didn’t know what the hell we were doing when we first did shows — thank God there was no social media! But it’s a totally different dynamic and I'm sure I would have loved it and it would have added subliminal layers to the sensory show experience felt by those outside of the show experience, and opened up a new dimension in what goes on backstage. It’s explosive!”
“I often reflect on key moments that would have taken over the world if we’d had social media back then, such as Gareth Pugh bursting onto the scene at Fashion East and his illuminated finale look, when we sent naked models into the British Fashion Council’s office to demonstrate how J Maskrey’s skin jewelry worked, or Vivienne Westwood’s show where Jerry Hall was holding her newborn baby, Georgia May Jagger.”
“It seemed as though it was all over-hyped up, but Susie Lau (a.k.a. Susie Bubble) is so enduring as a fashion commentator that the platform it gave her carved her career path, which is a good thing. She’s a walking, talking poster girl for fashion fabness!”
The godmother of blogging as we know it, Ms. Lau began documenting fashion from her own personal platform before that was even a thing. When social media arrived, her career took off.
“I guess I was already documenting Fashion Week in a different way from traditional journalists or editors, because I wanted to take my own pictures (even if they were on a crap point-and-shoot). I pointedly wanted to capture a personal point of view for my blog.”
“As I was only going to shows in London Fashion Week when designers like Gareth Pugh and Henry Holland were just beginning to break through (I have to thank Mandi, actually, for giving me the opportunity to go to those early shows), the excitement was palpable. They were rambunctious affairs. [There were] lots of people dressing up. They were present and very involved in the moment; there was also a gratitude for what they were seeing.”
“I remember we signed up on Twitter that year, but people didn’t really know how to use it. It didn’t allow you to post images; I remember people starting fun hashtags such as #overheardLFW.”
“I was excited at first, hoping that fashion blogging came to the industry with the same aspirations as in other industries; I was hoping for honest opinions, transparency, and an independent voice. What we received was a new level of narcissism paired with a devotion to corporate branding."
“Fashion must become an experience again. It has to become smarter to be able to cater to a smarter consumer — who, at the moment, spends the disposable income on experience-led products, such as food, fitness, and travel. I don’t want to generalize, [because] there are so many interesting players in the sector right now who deserve more attention — in the meanwhile, the Champagne in the ballroom of the ‘Fashion Week’ Titanic will keep on flowing."
“It wasn’t magazines that started it, it was people with blogs. I remember one of my assistants telling me that I have to get on Instagram. I was like, 'Well, I don’t have an iPhone, so I’m not going to do it.' It took me another two years to see that it was relevant."
“You’d go to Fashion Week and everyone was obsessed with the way you dressed. But it was so closed in your circle. It might help you having that handbag, and help your career in an abstract way, because it makes you look well-dressed, but it’s not going to suddenly take your career to a whole new level.”
“When I think back to the people I worked with originally, it’s gone two ways: Some people have totally not embraced it and they still do fashion week exactly as they would have done if Instagram had not been invented. Then, you have people like me who balance out their professional career with the opportunities that the new world offers.”
“I understand that it’s a way in, but equally, there's something disingenuous about that. Go and get an internship and get a ticket to the show, be involved. Be authentic if you’re interested in fashion.”
“I don’t think anyone could have predicted how it’s gone. There’s always been shows, particularly American shows, that have been about the razzmatazz. But there are still shows, if you go to Paris, that aren’t like that. They’re very much still about the clothes and not about who’s on the front row, but they are few and far between.”
“We’d ask people for photos and they’d be surprised. It was so not a thing. And there was hardly anyone doing it; there was no competition. Social media was limited, so there was so much less content shared everyday. Also, the pace was much slower, because everyone would go home and upload their photos.”
“Between 2008 and 2010, it picked up, because street style was mainly a street thing before; it was mainly people going on the street in areas of Brooklyn and doing their thing. Then, when people realized they could go outside fashion shows and sell those pictures to magazines, people began to realize the power. The more they got photographed, the more they got visibility. You can think it's lame or not, but numbers matter.”
“We’d arrive back at the model accommodation and taped to the reception wall were about 100 schedules for each guy for the next day. Not great if you had a bad season, as everyone would read each other’s before their own.”
“Definitely the surprise of the collection and the ‘insiders’ knowledge. It was always so exciting to tell someone the story of a designer's collection, how they were inspired to create it, and where it had come from. These days, everyone knows it all already. All you get as a response is, 'I know.' It's all so accessible and immediate, which, for me, has taken away some of the magic and creativity, but for brands and sales, it makes complete sense.”