The backstage world before a fashion show can be a weird and wonderful place. My experience at Topshop Unique was especially so on Saturday, not for any specific lightning bolt reason, but more because of a culmination of many small experiences.
I gathered a lot of information that afternoon (and a lot of poor quality pictures) and decided it was worth a re-telling. So, put on your special all-access wristband and follow me:
1:30: Arrive at train station, to creepy unused old Eurostar section. Get wristband and head up a long ramp and non-functioning escalator. Oh! There’s a glass ceiling and tons of light. No longer creepy.
1:35: I notice that the models all have gold paint in their hair. And I also say hi to Charlotte Free, the pink-haired model who was a fixture for a season or two on the runways. She still has pink hair.
1:45: Time to scope out the beauty looks. This look is all about the hair, so the faces are kept relatively neutral, with a layer of Topshop’s Skin Glow.
2:00: I watch the hair stylist apply a little more gold leaf to a model’s hair, a process which looks like a big, fat pain in the neck. After applying a special gel to a section of hair, you take a bit of the gold leaf (looks like foil), carefully stick it on, then use the pointy edge of a comb to smooth it and then mess it up a little. It must have taken them forever to do that on every girl’s head. (Kudos to Paul Hanlon at Julian Watson for having the patience and skill.)
2:15: It’s becoming very clear to me why the Unique invitation had a picture of Liz Taylor’s Cleopatra on it. The accessories are gold leaves, gold beetles, gold cats, gold flatform sandals. It’s very Egypt-meets-the-street.
2:30: I wander over to watch a few nail techs at work. Sophy Robson, one of our fave nail artists, conceived the looks. Alternating nails are painted gold, pink, and aqua, then nail transfers–made to look like hieroglyphics–are applied. (I think the nail techs have one of the hardest jobs backstage. Every time I see one, they’re usually contorting themselves under the leg of a table to get at a finger or toe and to avoid being stepped on by hair and makeup people.) Several models didn’t want me to take pictures of their golden toenails. “No feet!” I don’t really blame them.
2:45: First looks. Models start putting on the very gold, tight-fitting outfits. A cameraman is loudly reprimanded for filming during first looks. Girls are naked here, dude. Not cool.
3:00: Since I don’t have an all-access pass, I have to head back outside and enter the venue through the front to see the show. The street style photogs are out in full force. I follow Mr. Newton and snap him as he shoots Olivia Palermo. How meta is that? Then I follow Olivia Palermo up the non-functioning escalator and watch her pose for the paps up there.
3:01: Topshop set up a cafe. With champagne! Oh, I shouldn’t. It’s only 3pm and I’m working. (I have a sip. Two sips.)3:05: Naomi Campbell is standing two feet away from me chatting with a friend. She doesn’t want to talk to any press, but is happy to have a photo snapped. I escape unscathed–and kind of starstruck–and turn around to see…
3:07:…none other than Sir Philip Green, owner of Topshop.
Me: Now that Kate’s gone, there have been rumors about Florence Welch, John Galliano, and Gwyneth Paltrow [doing a collab]. Is any of that happening?
SPG: Lots of people talk to us!
Me: Like who else? (borderline whine)
SPG: We’re not thinking about anybody at the moment.
Me: Any more plans for more US stores? I know that Chicago just opened.
SPG: We’re going to Vegas, Toronto, Australia, then Brazil.
Me: Is Topshop weathering this whole financial nightmare?
SPG: We’re here!
3:10: Find seat and chat with Marie Claire staffers and a cute niece, who is totally pulling off a menswear blazer. This is her first fashion show.
3:20: Anna Wintour is six feet away from me. She has the healthiest looking hair. Seriously. I should ask her what products she uses. I’m going to. (Yeah, right.)
3:25: Shhh! The show’s starting. Uncross your legs!
*Photos: Me, which explains the quality.