Style :
Taking a few days off blogging, I will leave you to the below question and TWO EXCLUSIVE World Blog Launches. 

 Follow @lsofd on Twitter to keep up-to-date with show news, pictures and comment from this season's menswear (and a smattering of women's) for the Autumn/Winter 2011 London collections. LSoD will be back later in the week to kick start photos, videos, comment and analysis from LFW. 

What is London Fashion Week like?

That was the same question I asked my then boss 10 seasons ago and the same musing so many of my readers, friends and family have season after season, year after year. With the event only five days away, I wanted to answer that question to give you a real insight into, what I think are, the best twelve days of the year.

For six days in February and six days in September, the decadent surroundings of Somerset House on London's The Strand is transformed. Whilst writers, stylists, photographers and fashion buyers are requesting tickets to their favoured shows, a large 'tent' is being erected in the court-yard of the famous landmark situated on the north bank of the River Thames.

The London Fashion Week tent

For this 'tent' is where, as many perceive, the magic happens. Inside this tent is where celebrities, other designers, women dressed in couture and men in fine tailoring drink endless amounts of champagne before all taking to the front row of a fashion show that lasts an hour. It is then where the hottest models and socialites dine on Michelin stared food only to then party the night away to the tunes of World renowned DJ's before retiring to bed.

Please note at the beginning of that last paragraph I said 'perceive' as that scenario can not be further from the truth. After rising at 7.00am this Friday, I will perform my daily absolutions and head out to Somerset House arriving at 8.30am to grab a quick coffee ready for the first Autumn/Winter 2011 show at 9.00am. This is the start of six days packed full of fashion shows, presentations, salon shows, exhibition stands, talks and store appointments every half an hour to an hour apart.

The 'tent' is a large white, raised collapsable structure that looks much like a marquee, housing the official British Fashion Council show space, the photographers lounge, the press lounge , the MAC make-up drop in lounge, the Tony and Guy blow-dry lounge and the 'holding pen' – the area in which you que for shows to start.

The show que

Yes, you que. You may be the most well respected Fashion Editor of the World's most read fashion magazine, but you still que and wait until your row is called. Contrary to popular opinion, there are more rows than just the front row, or 'frow' as it's been nicknamed. Sectioned into four parts on both sides of the catwalk, usually A,B,C and D, as well as numbered according to the amount of rows, usually six, people are seated according to importance. However, if people are not successfully seated, standing at the back of row six is the only option – all this depending on whether people have a ticket or not.

After waiting anything up to an hour to start from the specified time on my ticket, the lights will dim and the music will start before the model takes his or her first step. The anticipation of seeing the designers first look of their latest collection is incredibly exciting and justifies, sometimes, waiting for the show to begin. The show will last – from lights dimming until clapping in jubilation – around 8-12 minutes, maybe more for a larger collection. From here, I will gather my notes, phone, camera, Flip, the official show release and credits, goodie bag if front row and race to the next show.

 Front row at Felder Felder 

A celebrity front row in Milan

When I say race to the next show, I do mean exit the tent and travel at a fast pace to another show at another venue. This is because not all shows are based at the tent and can be up to a mile or more away from Somerset House. Whether going by taxi, pre-booked car or by foot, travelling to the next venue requires speed and skill – either my driver or myself knowing the best route possible. It is a sweaty and stressful operation and arriving at your next destination whilst battling hunger is just a fact of London Fashion Week.

Ah, yes, hunger. I eat breakfast and carry fruit or a nutritional bar because lunch is a distant, wishful memory. Because of the sheer number of goings on during London Fashion Week in the six days allotted, time is tight and a lunch hour can, if I am lucky, be a lunch ten minutes – whilst standing outside at 4.30pm whilst 300 people watch on in jealousy/horror was I gorge on a sandwich from Tesco Express.

The photographers at the end of the runway 

From there, if I do not have a show to go to, I will take the opportunity to look round the exhibition which is a showcase of various designers work, but up close. Although, I might have an appointment with a store to see their collection for this Spring/Summer 2011 or even attend a talk – anything except sit down with a coffee or preferably something stronger. If looking around the exhibition, I will take the information (usually tomes of material) of the designers I want to look further at or be reminded of. Then I will return during the week to talk to the stand-holder and take photo's or ask have some sent over to my email. Finally, it is off to something else – or home if I have time to change for the evening.

Again, contrary to popular belief, people don't change numerous times during the day but may do for the evening events. I can not lie, London Fashion Week parties are incredible – or can be. Often held at five star hotels, a boutique, a gallery or large, open space in 'town' i.e. central, central London, others maybe far out in east London in a run down warehouse. But which ever event it is, it will be oversubscribed by about 500 people which mean's queing again or just going to another event – or even home. Once inside, drinks and canapés will often be served – or just drinks depending on the venue but there is always a que for the loo's as well as a massive, gargantuan que for the bar. I often get two drinks just for myself at a time – as do many people. From there, it is a taxi, bus or tube home only to do it all again the next day.

One of many fashion week parties 

London Fashion Week is a six day long trade show that for hundreds of people, including me, is work. Yes, I get to see some incredible collections, meet world famous designers and attend parties where champagne flows (not so much champagne since the economy crashed) but it's long, hard work. It's sweaty, busy, tiresome waiting for shows to begin, sometimes a little boring but it's the best 12 days of the year for me.

Oh, and in between everything – and often at the same time – I am tweeting and blogging so you can share the greatness of London Fashion Week.  
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