Hello friends! Allow me a stream of consciousness for a moment. I started coming to the shows in 2009 when I was 24 years old. It was a pretty bold move for someone so young and inexperienced, but it was literally a situation where ignorance was bliss — I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I remember flying into Milan for the first time and knowing two people — both of whom were backstage photographers, so I’d hang out backstage assisting them as they worked, and then go out and watch the shows and look around hoping someone would come up and say hi (which, of course, they never did).
It was an incredibly intimidating experience. I was younger than everyone, they all greeted each other like family, I was from a country at the bottom of the world, and I was surrounded by people I read about in magazines and on the internet every day of the week. You know what it’s like when you meet someone semi famous and you’re suddenly struck dumb? That was me. I’d attempt to make friends but always come off as kinda nervous and awkward which makes encounters difficult for the other person because it’s like you’re waiting for them to direct the conversation which is never a good time. You know what I’m talking about, people who come up to you to talk then don’t say anything. It’s terrible.
Thanks to my deal with Telecom New Zealand back then, I’d spend countless minutes (and hundreds of their dollars) on the phone calling my Mum and Dad and sister and my friends back home and complain about how scary everybody was and how mean they were and how it was impossible to have a conversation with anybody over the age of 21.
I was lucky that I made friends with a bunch of the male models in my backstage sojourns, so I could hang out with similarly aged people at the end of the day and go to parties and stuff like that, but during the day it was always the same.
To be honest, I kind of hated the entire thing. I kept doing it because I had this overwhelming feeling that it was essential and that it was hopefully leading to something, but by the end of the season I’d be just about ready to throw it all in.
Then I moved to New York — assisted, of course, by the contacts I’d made in my three years going to the shows in Europe — and decided that it probably wouldn’t matter if I stopped going to the shows in Europe.
Looking back, I’d say that was probably the most detrimental thing I’ve done in my career thus far. My favourite saying is from Woody Allen: “80% of success is showing up.” And I stopped showing up.
Fast forward two years, and I got the hunger back. I decided it was time to hit Milan and Paris again. This time, my good friend Richard Haines was coming, too, and having a friend along for the ride who knew people and who’d happily share a taxi or get lunch or email you the directions to a show made the world of difference.
I went to the GQ event tonight and got talking to Michael Hainey and this wonderful young photographer named Joshua Woods who’s in his first season over here in Europe (and absolutely winning at life on the social front — I swear he knows more people than me already), and I was saying that just having one wingman is like when you’re a kid playing at the park and you can see your Mum sitting on a bench and it gives you the confidence to run around and swing on the swings and talk to other kids and go down the slide because you know she’s got your back no matter what. Richard’s been that guy for me, and I feel incredibly grateful for it.
The other thing I wanted to mention was that this job writing for The Business of Fashion has really changed my outlook on this whole experience. Some of you who’ve been reading my blog since the beginning might remember an interview I did with Pilot Magazine back in 2009 where I said: “I’d like to be the world’s first fashion writer who never mentions the clothes.”
The thing that brought me recognition in the first place was my articles about the industry — the news and analysis and opinions and all that good stuff. However, whenever I came to the shows I’d throw all that out the window and suddenly become this guy who was trying to be a show reviewer. That never brought me any success at all. Why go to a guy who doesn’t want to review fashion shows for fashion show reviews? Just because I loved Tim Blanks’ work didn’t mean that I should try and replicate it.
So guess what happened? Whenever I’d pay all this money to come over to the shows, my readership would suddenly drop. I’d be experiencing all these amazing things and seeing these incredible shows and flying from Milan to Paris with a plane-full of the biggest names in the industry, and nobody seemed to care.
This season, I’ve been writing the exact articles that I’ve always dreamed of writing for one of the most respected publications around. I love doing it, and I’ve had an immediate response from people who’ve told me that the things I’m writing are hitting a chord with them. Because I truly believe that when you’re doing the thing that you’re supposed to do, people notice. I don’t care if you’re a waiter or a CEO or a teacher or a lawyer or a priest or a fashion blogger. If you love what you’re doing and you take pride in your work, it’s abundantly apparent to everyone around.
I’m a nosy guy who loves nothing more than peering behind the velvet curtain and taking people along for the ride, so obviously getting to rub shoulders with these seemingly untouchable people and ask them questions like, “How much did you pay to fly all the journalists and buyers over to Florence from London?” THEN getting to share that information with others is my favourite thing ever. I’ve only done two articles so far, and I’m already having a better time than any other fashion week I’ve gone to.
So I guess the points I’m trying to make are…
Don’t ever rest on your laurels.
Do the things you love.
Persevere, no matter how difficult the situation might be.
People are never as scary as you think they’re going to be, so there’s no need to be an awkward weirdo.
And most importantly, be true to yourself. Don’t spend years trying to master baseball if your actual talent is playing the piano.
One thing that Michael Hainey said tonight was that the GQ team goes to every fashion show and every appointment when they come to Europe. The reason? Jim Moore (GQ‘s Creative Director) says that you never know when you’re going to see something special, and that it’s a matter of respect for these people who are working incredibly hard to build a brand in this difficult business.
I love that. They’re the biggest men’s magazine on the planet, and they could act like divas any day of the week and people would still bend over backwards for them. But they don’t, because they’ve got respect.
Oh, and in case anybody is interested in what I’m wearing… Jacket — James Loft; sweater — La Paz; shirt — Brooks Brothers Black Fleece; pants — Little Brother (from the winter season I designed that never got made); boots — Red Wing for J. Crew.
I LIKE YOU!