Ballpark Estimate: Free for fashion insiders guests; $650 to $775 per person for VIP packages
Londoners are known not only for their good taste but also for starting many style trends. This fact draws many Americans to make the long trip to attend London Fashion Week, where they can see first-hand the newest and most creative ideas to hit the European catwalks and soak all of the excitement right in.
A Trend-Setting Event
London Fashion Week is part of a four-city international circuit that insiders in the fashion industry attend twice a year to stay on top of the international styles and trends being spotlighted for the upcoming seasons. (The events start in NYC, then are held in London and Milan, and finally culminate with a grand finale in Paris) It is worth noting that there are also hundreds of fashion weeks held in smaller cities around the world, but those held in the four major fashion hubs is where the essence of great style begins. So if you pride yourself on your fashion forward edge, then you won’t want to miss the British version of this all-important event.
Londoners Have an Edge
What sets Fashion Week in London apart from the other similar shows is that this provides an important avenue not only for established designers to show off their latest looks but also for a variety of yet-to-be discovered talents to put themselves and their clothes in the public eye. This really gives London Fashion Week a unique and avant-garde bent. In fact, London has earned a reputation as being one of best locations for new designers to get their big break and make a name for themselves in the field.
The Big Event
London Fashion Week in its current form dates back to the 1980s. Today, this glamorous fashion show is held on the grounds of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, where as many as 200 well-known (and also unknown) designers play host to a wide audience. The designer shows include ready-to-wear clothing lines and a wide variety of accessories. Some of the items on display are updated versions of the classics, while other clothing pieces are truly unique displays of color, fabric and cut that will make attendees sit up and take a closer look. While not all of the runway clothing items will work for everyday, many of these pieces will be remade into more “wearable” versions that will be for sale in the coming seasons and will set the tone for what will be “in.”
The British Fashion Council
All of the activities that take place at London Fashion Week are organized by the British Fashion Council (BFC), which is a group that supports designers at all levels, from sponsoring those just starting out who can use help getting established to furthering those who are already very respected in the industry.
The Guest List
Attendance at fashion week is by invitation only. Each of the presenting designers approves his or her own guest list. Approximately 500 fashion buyers, fashionistas, media representatives and celebrities from all over the world participate in the exciting events.
Can You Buy Your Way In?
There is no cost to attend fashion week as an invited guest, and it is very difficult to buy your way in. No tickets are sold to the main designer catwalk events, with very few exceptions (see the section below on Hospitality Packages.) So if you are already on the VIP list, you can assume you will need to pay for only for travel arrangements, accommodations and an over-the-top outfit to wear. (Unless you are a big name celebrity, in which case the designer may gift you something extraordinary from his or her own line.)
If you don’t fall into any of the invited categories, your odds of attending fashion week will be pretty slim. However, there is one other possible way you can get in. There are some exclusive Hospitality Packages you can buy that offer you entry into a few of the shows, along with a few special perks. These are tailored for businesses that want to impress their clients by offering a special, once-in-a-lifetime experience. A variety of UK agencies and tour companies sell these packages online. You can find them by doing a search for “Fashion Week Hospitality Packages” to see the range of options that exist. Just keep in mind that a limited number of seats are available, so experts suggest you make your arrangement well in advance.
The prices for hospitality packages cost in the range of$650 to $775 U.S. dollars, plus VAT, which is a tax charged in Europe on many goods and services. (In England, this is usually at a 17.5 percent rate, which would add approximately another $110 to $125 more to the total bill.)
For this price, you get VIP seating at one of the designer catwalk shows, a talk by a representative from the fashion press on upcoming trends and usually a meal or snack as well. Some packages also include personalized color analysis and makeup advice.
London Fashion Weekend
While London Fashion Week is very exclusive and difficult to access, there is a big event following the designer shows that is geared to the general public and makes many fashion lovers in London and its surrounding areas very happy. Called London Fashion Weekend, this is a large shopping is extravaganza held on the grounds of the Natural History Museum to offer top designer clothing at discount prices. Shoppers from throughout Europe flock to the sale to take advantage of the many bargains available. In addition, fashion experts are often on hand to offer style advice to visitors.
Tickets for Fashion Weekend start at about $23 dollars for admission and go up to $110 (plus VAT) for a VIP package that includes complimentary beverage, food and other insider perks.
Buy a Chance to Win
Since so many people would love to attend Fashion Week and Weekend, many websites, stores and companies hold contests to raffle off tickets to their patrons. You can find such opportunities online relatively easily.
Final Note: Too Thin Is Never In
If you follow the international fashion scene, you may know a recent controversy surrounding fashion shows is whether to ban models who are too thin, since they send the wrong message to the audience and can foster unhealthy eating habits. In Milan and Madrid, the organizers of their fashion weeks have taken a stand by enforcing minimum weight requirements. In London, thin models have not been banned from the catwalks during the upcoming Fashion Week but the designers have been encouraged to hire only “healthy” people to model their clothes.