“Umm, sorry… This is the front row. Are you sure you’re supposed to be here?”
At that very moment you start feeling the sweat drip under your arm, thinking: “Did I read my ticket right?”
Oh yes, I remember that feeling very well, as I covered my first fashion week back in 2009. I must admit, I wasn’t looking particularly like someone who belongs in those seats. I looked and felt out of place, dressed in my blue Levi’s jeans and a t-shirt- something I’d been wearing the whole day at work as a Reuters intern. Between running to Pretoria to cover a press conference from the GCIS (government communications and information system) and going to the shows, there was no time for me to go home to change, and my boss insisted: “Go!”
I recall the anxiety that befell me as I nervously checked my ticket while the usher, dressed in all-black and looking all profesh while I looked like I didn’t know what the fuck time it is. “Umm… I think so, that’s what it says on the ticket, no?”
Those ushers WILL make you feel VERY, VERY small, until you realise that, like bouncers at a club, they are just minions who thrive on the little bit of power they get for that minute moment. Not that they are all mean, some are very, very nice, but others will pounce at the opportunity to ‘put you in your place’ if you dare sit on those front row seats. And, sometimes, they are very necessary, because many, many people like to take chances. I’ve witnessed entitled bloggers refusing to move off those seats even though they know full well that the seat was not assigned to them. I’ve seen editors throwing hissy fits because they were put in second row, and celebrities looking like deers caught in headlights, shocked that anyone would dare move them from the FROW (front row).
As most of you most probably already know- and are perhaps begging, borrowing and even stealing from all closets within reach- SA Fashion Week’s SS16 collections start showcasing tonight at the Crowne Plaza in Rosebank, Johannesburg. Let the FROW scrambling begin!!!
Now, we all know that fashion week is no longer just an industry vibe, but more of a place for all kinds of ‘likers’ to be seen and to clock in those all important social media likes. Smartphone battery on one hunnid? Check! If it didn’t happen on Instagram, it didn’t happen at all, after all. Hashtag ‘fashion insider’ while you’re at it, even though your ass know you’re sitting on a front row seat that was NOT designated for your thrift store realness-clad ass.
Anyone who is a front row fixture has their first FROW experience, so I decided to ask three of local fashion’s top fashion influencers to spill the tea on theirs!
Raya Rossi (centre), ‘A Fashion Friend’ Fashion & Content Editor
“Established media weren’t too happy seeing a digital person who hadn’t been around for very long time slide comfortably into that seat. Let’s be real though, how else do you share live to social media, in focus and instantly if you aren’t in row 1? Sharing the front row experience on social media allows our readers and followers direct access, creates awareness of the designer and ultimately makes fashion accessible to anyone with a smartphone.”
Siyabonga Beyile, The Threaded Man
“After moving up to Joburg to study at LISOF, I decided to intern at African Fashion International as one of the ushers. The golden rule that we were told was that Dr (Precious Moloi) Motsepe’s seats must always be cleared at all times for her VIP guests. It was the last show – Fabiani – so I decided to steal one of her seats and watched the show. Let’s say I have never interned since then (laughs).”
Anelisa Mangcu, The Creative
“I attended my first fashion week at age 17 as Fashion Editor Asanda Sizani’s mentee. Two years later, I had a very glamorous experience. It was a Saturday morning and I was invited by Mercedes Benz to attend all the shows for the day. I had a tag that allowed me to sit front row for every show. It was crazy having someone who was part of the Mercedes Benz lounge crew walk me to my seat. At the time, I didn’t understand the politics of the fashion industry, so I was pleasant. I got so many bitchy looks from editors who had been in the game for years. I was so attentive at every show and didn’t understand why everyone was on their phone, or pretending to have something valid to say to the person sitting next to them.”
By Sandiso Ngubane