I had the opportunity to work with designer Darlene Ritz of DCR Studios as her assistant designer, and for the last 5 months we have been preparing for the emerging designers show at London Fashion Week.

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So what all goes into preparing for something like fashion week? The idea is that you are showing a collection, but besides the runway looks, there is a lot that needs to be prepared. For us, we not only had our runway samples that needed to be ready to go, but also full line sheets and look books of everything in the collection, including things that did not end up on the runway. Fabric needed to be sourced, patterns need to be prepared, and the technical flats and all information needed to be in the look books ready for the buyers. Many designers will work full time for half a year on their season that they will be showing, but for many emerging designers, such as us, we have other full-time commitments we have as well. I mean, we all have to pay our bills, and showing at fashion week is not cheap.

It felt like we had worked pretty much non stop the months leading up to LFW. Then the time came, and Darlene was still sewing 30 minutes before she had to be at the airport. Just to sort of put in perspective how much sewing there still was to do. We knew we had loose ends to tie up, but we figured we could get it all busted out within the first day or two at the flat in London.  Here’s what really happened.

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After recovering from jetlag, we started bright and early the next day, in our flat in London. We had a game plan. We had all of the looks styled; we just needed to finish up some flats, and redo the layout for the look books. We also needed to type up a runway order for the buyers and get everything to a print shop by the next morning. Okay, that doesn’t sound so bad. Then once that was done we would just have some sewing to finish up, but we brought a little portable singer sewing machine, we were set.

12 hours later

I should have mentioned, one habit I’m sure many of us designers have, is timing things out in our heads according to a best-case scenario. Not realistic case scenario. To summarize, getting certain details finished on flats based on sewing adjustments alone took up more time than I had expected of myself.  Then we worked well into the night finishing up all of our final look books. And. Then. Our. Computer. Crashed. At 4 am.

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Friendly reminder here to everyone to SAVE your files.  I know we are all guilty of this. You get into a groove and then you forget that simple little click that without doing, will ruin your life.

So where are we now? The morning that everything should be printing, and that we should be sewing, is now damage control time on top of sewing time. Hand sewing snaps, and blind hemming hems, all of this takes time. We managed to recruit some help, but looking out the window, it’s dark again, I’ve lost count of how many days have gone by. Leftover pizza got us through the morning, coffee got us through lunch, and by the evening we managed to leave the apartment once to get real food, just so we could get back home and keep pushing.

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The rest is honestly a blur, but the week pretty much looked like this. Once we got everything done, we thought we were in the clear, but between printing crises, model recalls, and post-fitting model adjustments, (which took some time considering our portable sewing machine stopped working immediately) we worked non stop up until show day. Then come show day, one of our models didn’t bring shoes, so we had to figure that out 20 minutes before show time.

And then it was show time. And it was worth it. Every single tear, breakdown, sleepless night, all lead up to one amazing, polished show and I could not have been more proud of us. This was an authentic, real, down and dirty experience that we managed to pull off as a side hustle. Imagine what we could pull off if we allowed ourselves the luxury of uninterrupted time and commitment?

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So, here are my tips on surviving fashion week. From experience.

  1. Whatever time you think you have to get something done, double it.
  2. Make sure you bring extra of everything. Especially sewing needles.
  3. Think on your feet. Models you requested suddenly may not be available. You may have 20 minutes to find shoes for someone.
  4. Triple-check your emails. So much goes on the week of show and there is so much correspondence, that it is easy to miss a little detail which you will later find out was a very important one.
  5. Just don’t even try to print in another country. Make the time beforehand. Trust me on this.
  6. Go with it. It’s not going to be what you expect. It will be better. At the end of the day, we worked our hardest and prepared as much as we possibly could with the time allotted to us. And we rocked it.
London Fashion Week

Alexandra Knox on the left, Darlene Ritz on the right