Fashion Week veterans reveal tricks of the trade

(left to right) Grace Lee, Terence Lee and Kenneth Goh with American supermodel Cindy Crawford.

Kenneth Goh, in his 40s, creative director of Harper's Bazaar Singapore

Goh has been going to fashion week in Paris and Milan for more than 10 years. His bold ensembles - always with a flamboyant finishing touch - have him representing Singapore overseas in style.

Which is your favourite fashion week and why?

Nothing beats the drama, excitement and grandeur of couture. That's when designers really go the extra mile because they can; and it's always heart-warming to see and hear customers and the fashion house's craftsmen applaud their favourite outfit when it comes down the runway.

What is your packing process like?

Packing can be an arduous process - more often than not, there is always a half-packed suitcase on my living room floor. I have to be specific with what I pack - what's the occasion, how many parties there are, how many front row seats, how many events and days.

There is a certain expectation from both the industry and your contemporaries to dress well - it doesn't mean you have to be in the latest fashion, but you have to put in the effort. A lot of time, effort and negotiating happens behind the scenes, with brands trying to find you the best seat possible at their shows, so it's only right as an editor that you show appreciation by looking chic and well-presented.

Has it become easier over time?

I have to say that due to the onslaught of street style photographers, it has become harder for me to pack just essentials. I get comments from them that I've worn that outfit or that coat before - a back-handed request to change my clothes!

What are your five essentials to surviving fashion week?

1. A good coat. It can be worn on the shoulders if temperatures get too warm but it's fabulous to cosy up when the rain or snow gets too much.

2. Good, comfortable boots with thick rubber heels to kick those pesky fashionista stilettos out of the way!

3. A nice clutch - not too small that you can't squeeze in all your essentials and not too bulky that it looks like you are carrying a pillow.

4. Mobile Wi-Fi - it allows you to roam everywhere with your phone. Nothing is more frustrating than being out of contact when the world is trying to get hold of you.

5. My rosaries - I take two or three, a prayer book and holy water. My faith keeps me safe and sound when I travel and stay in unknown rooms and places.

What is the strangest thing you have taken to fashion week?

I wouldn't call it strange but it was darn stupid - white jeans and shoes. Have you tried to keep anything clean and pristine in Paris? It looks white for two minutes before the rain or dirt on the Metro kills all those hours of bleaching!

What has been your most memorable fashion week experience?

It probably was Dior's 60th anniversary fall/winter haute couture show at Versailles in 2007. Then-designer John Galliano put all the supermodels - Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Amber Valletta, Shalom Harlow and Gisele Bundchen - on the runways and it was just spellbinding to witness the elegance of the show, against the pomp and grandeur of the Versailles Palace.

Grace Lee, 46, managing editor of Chinese magazine PIN Prestige

Lee has been visiting the Milan and Paris fashion weeks for more than 18 years now. Street style photographer Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist has featured her simple but unique looks on his blog.

Which is your favourite fashion week and why?

Paris. I go to about 30 out of the more than 100 shows there. The shows really inspire me but they are stressful too - especially with regard to whether or not I get an invite. Sometimes I gatecrash a show, explain to organisers what magazine I'm with and wait in the hope of getting let in at the last minute. I get in about 80 per cent of the time. Sometimes, other Asian media have extra invites and we help one another out.

What is your packing process like?

My suitcase and outfits are somewhat half-planned. I stick to items that can match and throw in a few more, sometimes chaotically. I stick to my own style but have to make sure I don't embarrass Singapore.

Before I leave, I make sure I have a good haircut that doesn't need much styling and a good lipstick that can distract people from my fatigue.

Has it become easier over time?

It used to be that I could get by with just one pair of shoes. I would sit on the floor, take my own photographs; it was all about doing whatever it took to get the job done. Now it's about being photographed as much as it is about the job. It's different.

What are your five essentials to surviving fashion week?

1. Snacks - sometimes there isn't time to eat, especially when you're busy chasing taxis or taking the train.

2. A good pair of shoes. Last season I wore sneakers that worked with all my dresses.

3. Sunglasses. They hide eyebags! Sometimes, you can wait up to 40 minutes for a show to start. It's too dim to read, so sometimes I take a short power nap with my sunglasses on.

4. A go-with-everything bag. Last season, I completely forgot to take a bag that could fit all my stuff - an umbrella, camera, pens and more - so I relied on my Marc by Marc Jacobs laptop case.

5. One pair of nice heels, necessary for evening events or cocktails. I prefer chunky heels over stilettos. I can't walk in stilettos, especially on cobblestone streets.

What is the strangest thing you have taken to fashion week?

I take a small electric kettle, bowl and spoon with me to fashion week because a lot of hotels don't have them. I like to cook my own breakfast, something warm and familiar, such as oatmeal.

What fashion shows have been the most memorable?

I really enjoy watching the Comme des Garcons show every season. It's one of those shows that I try to gatecrash even if I don't get an invite. Marc Jacobs' final show for Louis Vuitton last October was stunning as well.

In 2003, a photographer and I had to wait outside the Tuileries Garden for more than 45 minutes, hoping that we would be let into Olivier Theyskens' show for Rochas first for the brand. It was snowing and freezing - and unforgettable. We got in.

Terence Lee, 38, editor of Nuyou

Nuyou editor Lee has been attending fashion week in Paris and Milan for 10 years, starting memorably with Stefano Pilati's first season presenting for Yves Saint Laurent.

Which is your favourite fashion week and why?

I would say the fall/winter 2012 season in Paris. It is never guaranteed whether you get an invite to any show in Paris because fashion journalists from all over the world gather in the city to attend shows and there are a limited number of invites.

But that season, I got a lot of invites - surprisingly even to difficult-to-"score" ones from Comme des Garcons, Alexander McQueen and Junya Watanabe. That was also the season when Stefano Pilati presented his last collection for Yves Saint Laurent - it was quite emotional and unforgettable.

What is your packing process like?

It used to be spontaneous - for my first few fashion weeks, I would pack all my easy-to-match separates without much thought and hoped to have enough different looks to last the whole time.

But for the last few fashion weeks, I have planned my outfits beforehand - I made sure they were all coordinated and I snapped each one with my mobile phone, so I knew exactly what to wear each day.

Has it become easier over time?

Yes, I would think it has now that I plan more.

What are your five essentials to surviving fashion week?

1. A fully charged mobile phone to last a whole day, to snap pictures and upload onto social media, to type notes during shows, to reply to e-mail messages on the go and to record impromptu interviews.

2. Sunglasses - essential even for non-celebrities. We can look seriously tired after days of rushing from show to show.

3. Really comfortable shoes, such as loafers or sneakers for warmer seasons, and rubber-soled brogues for cooler seasons. Blisters are common after days of running around in Paris if one wears uncomfortable shoes.

4. An easy-to-remove and even easier-to-put-on coat during winter. Most show venues can be insanely warm, while the weather outside can be insanely cold; one needs to be fast to remove or put on a coat while rushing from show to show.

5. Name cards, which are must-haves for networking.

What is the strangest thing you have brought to fashion week?

Nothing I can remember - I am a quite a practical person.

What has been your most memorable fashion week experience?

Last October in Milan. That was my first season as the editor of Nuyou. I was previously the fashion director at Prestige magazine. Many brands kindly gave me a front-row seat. Celebrities and fashion bigwigs, such as Vogue editors Anna Wintour and Emmanuelle Alt, and actress Fann Wong, were in the front row too.

It felt good to be able to see exactly what shoes the models were wearing.


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