Ask Janie: How To Review A Fashion Show

Esquire's Fashion Director lists her step-by-step guide to making it out of fashion week alive.

BY Janie Cai | May 30, 2016 | Fashion

Howard Hawks

I kid you not when I describe fashion week in Milan and Paris as an Amazing Race adventure, akin to the most strenuous and anxiety-inducing timetables you can imagine, albeit fueled by hors d'oeuvres, champagne flutes and a high that comes from being one of the first in the world to see, up close and personal, a gobsmackingly genius collection (side nod to Mrs Prada and Mr Yamamoto).

With all the running around to get from show to show, interviews backstage, next-day re-sees with the brands, chi-chi cocktail events and brand meetings. Not to mention Instagram, Twitter and Facebook updates (you snapped Jenner? Yeah, well I got one with Kanye doing a half-smile. #instafamous). So with all that in mind, here’s my list of step-by-step instructions on how to review a fashion show and make it out with something coherent and enough to be beamed up, live and for all perpetuity, on the world wide web.

1 | Charge everything and have back-up
Forget those cute free chargers that look like lipstick cases. You need something with more juice if you are going to be running around all day and covering the shows. Bring one that can do a triple charge (some of us carry at least two portable chargers) and make sure it’s freshly charged when you leave each morning, nothing more frustrating that lugging around a pound of metal that doesn’t do anything.

2 | Do your ground work
We pick a line-up of 3-4 shows a day to review for online. Have a list of which shows you are focusing on for the week, do a daily line-up and strategize with your editors (both print and digital) on what content is required so you have a clear focus when you’re being shoved on the Frow by the arrival of last minute celebs. Have a short-list or a template saved on your phone so you can fill it in quickly and then save after each show. Basic information like show name, designer, the season can be filled in prior to the shows to save time.

3 | Find a different angle
Instagram: instead of shooting the runway looks, which everyone will be doing, aim for something a little different—like a backstage shot, a shot of the venue (if it looks cool), a celeb shot. I’m the worst celeb-spotter possible but a flurry of photographer flashes going off is usually an indication of a celebrity arriving, so use that as a cue. Or check with the brand manager just before the show. They usually have a list or line-up of the big names attending. Interesting street style shots outside the show venues also tend to garner more likes than just a snap of the runway looks, which will also be accessible online in a manner of minutes. So give your audience something unique.

4 | Use technology effectively
If you have a super large phone like me (Hello iPhone S6plus) that is great for watching videos but keeps me in morbid fear of dropping the phone on the runway mid-show and tripping over a model, then get a good case that you can grip onto well. And instead of taking physical notes, do little voice memos of the show so that you can see what is going on but still note down your insights, without tripping up anyone (but don’t yell into your phone like a footy commentator either). Keep it to short points like, “Big focus on madras checks this season, XXX’s silhouette inspired by sportswear” etc. Transcribe at the end of the day when you are in the comfort of your hotel. DO NOT TRY AND DO EVERYTHING. That is impossible and unnecessary. You are in another country to see a 10-minute presentation of someone’s life work. Focus. Don’t miss the show because you are too busy staring at your phone.

5 | Shoot and stagger
Stagger your posts. FOMO is real. Don’t give in to it. You’ll be much better off (mentally) if you just focus on posting what’s relevant instead of trying to cover everything. Which means be disciplined and stick to the schedule. But be flexible, in case something big/newsworthy happens (Like the time I looking for the washroom before the Berluti show, got lost in a narrow corridor in the Picasso museum where the show was being held, and bumped into Owen Wilson ).

6 | Save the press release
Shows usually come with a press release on the seat with the basic information of the designer’s inspiration, runway music credits, headliners etc. Keep this. You don’t have to keep the physical copy, just take a clear snap of the information and save it to a folder on your phone. That way you can fill in your review in the car on the way to the next show. If there isn’t one or you forget, don’t panic. Most brands will send links for show information the day after the show. You can also send out a request immediately after the show if you need the info urgently.

7 | Soak it in, then have a cuppa tea (or something stronger)
Your review done, don’t forget to take some time to absorb and digest, towards the 3rd day, your senses would have been bombarded with fashion overload. To maintain clarity and focus, take a break and a breather and mentally prep for the next few hours. Recharge yourself then plunge back in with enthusiasm.

8 | Spellcheck and Grammarly
Indispensable. What, you think you’re not going to need editing when you are typing up reviews till past midnight? Coupled with jet-lag, and information overload, I once woke up to find I had submitted a piece on voluminous trousers that went on to describe “a happy grey elephant wearing big pants.” Dream-typing is real guys, just saying.