Tuesday was the last sunny day in the courtyard, and my last day street style sketching. As far as fashion weeks go, this one in London has been a bit adverse. I got food poisoning on the weekend and lost two days, missed a couple of the few shows I did get invitations for. Since then I’ve been operating on an empty stomach and Fear Of Missing Out.
Once I was sketching in the yard, I forgot how bad I felt. Tuesday was much busier – a lot more action. More people to draw, more people who came and said hey. It was non-stop until the sun disappeared around 3:30pm and I felt shivery.
At that point I was kindly handed an invitation to Aminaka Wilmont and got to go inside the big tent for the first and only time this season. As I sat down in my fourth row seat, I felt a veil of negative emotion settle over me. I don’t like to think of myself as much of a downer, but I think the effort I had asked of my shattered constitution had broken me down too far.
In that moment I understood that love is not the only intention you can channel into creativity. You can also use the negative. As I absorbed the show (it wasn’t like watching) I let my arm go like a limp automaton, not even trying to avoid spraying paint on my unlucky seat mates. The music and the beauty was appropriately dark, though I don’t remember much about the clothing.
The resulting sketches were wet and sticky, and without a doubt the best I had done all week. I put them on one of the big speakers at the end of the runway to dry as the audience was filing out. It was in this very conspicuous position, where the catwalk meets the doors backstage, where I felt as if all my years of hopes and dreams were dripping off of me like so much wet paint, and I burst into tears. I had been working all week, trying so hard to do good work, to get attention and appreciation, so I was both devastated and relieved to be completely alone and ignored in the blind eye of the hurricane.
I stuffed the sketches into my Sainsbury’s shopping bag, smudging and ruining most of them, and got on the bus to go home, disappearing into the crowd of London’s uncaring commuters.
On reflection, that must be how so many designers must feel in that very same physical position. Except they must feel it exponentially, because the stakes are so much higher. Imagine working so hard, season after season, long after your status as the hot new thing has cooled off. Any recognition you get stops feeling good, because no matter who says you’re great, you’re still struggling and any progress is so incremental. And no matter how much effort and money you spend, you could still experience a career-ending reversal of fortune on the fulcrum of fickle fashion.
An emotional hangover after fashion week isn’t uncommon, this one felt deeper and darker than usual.