Unexpected Lessons from My First Ever Fashion Week

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Fashion weeks are not impossible invite-only, secret password, double-encrypted events for fashionista special agents. They’re a collection of worthwhile fashion. This January I attended my first full fashion week right in my own achtertuin, or backyard. Amsterdam joins the Berlin, Antwerp and Stockholm fashion weeks as secondary, but still industry relevant, catwalk collections. My full, three-day attendance broke down my perceptions of fashion and tested my comfort bubble. It then rewarded me with a memory engraved so deep that I’ll be telling my grandchildren about it decades later. So here we go, the three big things I learned about the business, and even myself, at my first fashion week.

Live Runway is Way Better than YouTube Runway

Many people think, “Well, you can see the videos and photographs online … why go to a show?” I get it. I even say that sometimes, especially when the wallet’s closed. Going to just one fashion week will alter the way you analyse the industry, enabling you to look past the smoke and mirrors. Think about the last concert you went to. Surely you remember the music, scene and details more than a Spotify-listen to the same album. You were there. You can almost see the times change in front of you. A computer cannot, yet (I’m still waiting for this technology Google nerds), evoke an atmosphere to help you better internalise the information it projects. Nor will you get any street cred for watching a video versus actually being present.

Dress for the Occasion, not the Parade

A fashion week can appear more colourful, more expressive - even more ridiculous- than Carnival. But don’t be put off by the street style shots of London or Paris with outfits that make more sense as visual candy than they do as practical, everyday garb. Amsterdam in particular stays true to the city’s overall be-as-you-are vibe, but what I am going to say can apply to all cities. Once my attendance to Amsterdam Fashion Week was solidified, my clothes wilted with wardrobe doubt. Should I go buy something new? Is this … cool enough? In the end, I put together a polished outfit I felt good in. One that I wore, not the other way around. Whichever outfit you chose, go with your mood du jour - not the mode du jour - and have faith in the items you already have.

Go Chat with People, You’ll Be Pleasantly Surprised (I Promise!)

We’re all not chatty Cathys or talkative Tims. Day one at Amsterdam Fashion Week felt like day one in second grade. I scanned the crowd of unfamiliar faces, wondering, “Who the hell am I going to talk to?” After finding the courage to put down my iPhone, which I employed as a social shield, I talked with a few people. And the discussions we had! Everything from streetwear’s influence on fashion to the beauty of imperfection and hip hop music’s widening definition. I met fashion journalists, bloggers, editors and business owners - information churning machines with seasoned perspectives - in one go. You never know who could pop up in your life months or years to come. What I always remember is that first conversations lead to future familiar faces, if you’re willing to push past that sometimes uncomfortable hello.

Before we end, let’s take two steps way back. It’s actually pretty cool to be at a runway show, wherever it is or however publicised. Witness fashion history and present mingle every look that comes down the runway. Envision what the Twitterers and Instagrammers will broadcast seconds later. You have permission to have a little fun, and soften your wardrobe doubts or social fears with drink. Just think: an army of designers, agencies, events organizers, stylists, models and everyone else involved worked month and months and months to make this event run as smooth as warm milk. Siting down and absorbing the atmosphere like a super-thirsty sponge is the best thing you can do for yourself.