How to navigate Fashion Week like a pro

We spoke with three fashion industry natives about what they do to prepare for fashion week and how they find a sense of calm among the mayhem.

Left to Right:
Left to Right: Julian Daynov, Salomon DuBois Thiombiano, and Eduardo Xavier. Image credit: Supplied

This September is a big month for fashion. Thousands of stylists, designers, models, and big-name brands will descend upon New York, London, Milan, and Paris over the course of four weeks to showcase their latest collections and influence trends for the upcoming year. 

Getting through fashion week can be difficult, especially if it’s your first time. That’s why we sat down with three seasoned attendees of the fashion industry who’ve been to countless fashion weeks and know how to make the most of each industry event.

Stylist and creative director Salomon DuBois Thiombiano has worked and attended countless shows and knows how to make sure you stay on top of your game, from the first show to the last after-party. Custom clothier and stylist Eduardo Xavier has been to his fair share of fashion weeks and knows how to spot the next big trend. And trend analyst and fashion expert Julian Daynov, who travels frequently between the fashion week cities, knows the importance of booking appointments, shows, and meetings weeks in advance to make the week run smoothly.

How do fashion weeks differ between cities?

SDT: The public is different, the culture is different. Every city basically has its own set of characters when it comes to fashion week.

EX: It is quite tricky because the fashion industry is moving too fast; it is moving in a way that trends will not last longer than three months so we are seeing a rapid movement in the fashion industry, which is great for the fashion consumer but not so great for the normal public. 
We might see in Paris the glamor, and we might see in New York the more street-wear or more commercial approach, so I think it is really difficult to narrow down this just for us to talk about fashion week because things are moving too fast. We are getting surprises every single season.

JD: Each and every location somehow reflects the vibe and particular style of the city – in Paris you have on opulent mix of old chic, posh couture, and decent modern extravaganza; Milan always brings the color, brightness, and healthy overload of accessorizing; London still keeps its very distinct punk-street-style and is particularly strong in yet again bringing its bold and brave signature; New York blurs the…urban city look and causes hysterical media attention, but to me is still somehow way too uptight all-American recently.

How far in advance do you start preparing before a fashion week?

SDT: We’re talking a month, a solid 30 days before the schedule has even been populated. Because we work with so many brands and most of that work takes place during one or two days, it takes a lot of preparation.

EX: Things that are coming up in this fall fashion week have been developed probably last winter. I think as a designer and as a stylist, and if you have a house of designers, everything is curated in the pre-approach and through a lot of research from the news in England and Italy with what they are creating with new fabrics and new colors. 

JD: When it comes to show schedules and work meetings…I plan all my appointments, showroom visits, lunch chats, and dinner dates at least two weeks in advance. It is a very busy couple of days in every city and everyone is running wild, so…I want to have some anchors in my schedule to hold on to. 

What do you pack for fashion week?

SDT: During the winter season, I would take a number of coats with me. I wear hats all the time and that’s challenging to travel with, so I have these hat boxes with me.
If I have an assistant with me, then it is easy to bring three to four suitcases, but when it is just me, I want to be mobile as I go through the airport…I try and make sure everything is compact into one or two suitcases and then I have a big backpack that can hold about 50 pounds of items — that is really a game-changer.

EX: I pack things that are unique, things that are very individual and close to my personality. In my approach, I go for small, extravagant pieces. In terms of fall/winter fashion weeks, I would say tweeds, flannels, and fabrics with a lot of texture.

JD: I basically never leave the house without sanitizer — for surfaces and hands — but of course I end up dragging a lot of things along for those weeks of show-hopping. 
There is a very distinct order in my suitcases: pants and shirts go in the middle, shoes and accessories go on the sides, coats and jackets end up on top and hug the whole package. Accessories have a separate suitcase and usually they end up in my carry-on luggage in case my bigger bags arrive after me — it happens a lot! I have a very pronounced weakness for kimonos recently — I love wearing them at any time of the day. Oh, and of course the most essential thing: a steamer. I don’t trust hotel irons.

What can’t you live without during fashion week?

SDT: Vitamins. It’s essential…stress runs high and sometimes you can get dehydrated because you don’t have time to really drink or eat so I try to make sure I always have some type of Vitamin D or C with me.

EX: This year, I am using something very natural…essential oils. I use essential oils in my water, I use essential oils on my skin.

JD: Hand sanitizer, one or two power banks, mints, overnight eye patches, a good facial peeling, a decent enriching mask, a steamer. 

What do you do between shows?

SDT: There is very little time in-between. Most of the shows they will take one hour, so if you have one at 10 a.m. that ends at 11 a.m., then the next one starts automatically at 11 a.m., so the time in between is probably spent rushing to the next event. In Milan, this is kind of tough, sometimes you have to leave a show earlier than expected just because of travel time to get to the next one.

EX: I think it is about connections, to mingle with the right people. It is so good to meet people from different countries, different cultures, and to find out what they are doing. As a designer and stylist, you really need to observe new ideas from everybody and if you can mingle with those people, it is a positive and not just copying each other. 

One thing you might see a lot is a mix of silks and wools…those things will be the trends for the next fall and winter.

Eduardo Xavier, custom clothier

JD: There is basically no time between shows. One ends and everybody is rushing straight to the next one, which somehow always happens to be at the other end of town.
If there is a spare hour, I go through my email, chit-chat with other colleagues, exchange hugs and kisses with the crowd, or just use the time (to get) a smoothie or a light meal. 

What do you do first thing every morning before the day starts during fashion week?

SDT: There’s not much that I do for my beauty routine. When I wake up, I use this thing called Acumen energizing hydrating gel from American Crew that I use to take out any black spots under my eyes.

EX: It might not sound very fashionable, but if I don’t make my bed, my day is not going to go well, so I make my bed every morning. For me, it is a ritual, it helps me a lot. And an espresso, definitely.

JD: I go through my emails and Instagram messages, just to make sure nothing I have planned for that day has been rescheduled or someone had to cancel last minute. I put on a good facial scrub, a mask, and then eat something in the hotel room. Then the real struggle starts: what to wear… I very often end up leaving the hotel not too happy about my current look, but then, over the day and after the first good comments I hear about the outfit, I start to like it.

How do you find a sense of calm in what can be quite a fast-paced week?

SDT: I just try to listen to classical music on the road because that really calms me and brings me back to earth. Yann Tiersen is my favorite composer from France. It is really good music for the soul, it is not too saturated with words.

EX: I am a very spiritual person, so for me, I have a connection with spiritual things. I try to be around positiveness and be around positive people, so I think as long as I know who they are, I try to stay close to those people and personalities.

JD: There aren’t many slots for a calm moment in-between; the days are planned up to the last minute, sometimes even change and get more and more packed, so if I get a chance to not talk to anyone while riding with Blacklane, I consider it a calm moment or silent joy. 

How do you avoid the rush and crowds during fashion week?

SDT: So for fashion week, when it’s your first time you want to see everything and that is where the danger comes from. The schedule is just massive, it starts from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. and that doesn’t include the after-party. You can be out all day if you want to and I don’t think that’s the best.
When it comes to the schedule I think the first thing to do is to go through it and see which designers you really want to see or connect with. 
With the afterparties, I would say choose those carefully and thoughtfully so you don’t end up just getting into a burnout.
I would say dress well, but I would emphasize comfort. Wear something that you are comfortable with. Wear something you can walk all day in because basically if your hotel or wherever you are staying is not nearby the venue, then it is tough for you to get back to your place and get changed for other shows.

EX: It depends on where you’re at, if you know the city, if you have been there before. Preparation is important but at the same time you need to remember…there is a flow. You need to understand your schedule.

JD: Try to plan as much as you can in advance, pack enough looks, and try to stay hydrated and have a bite in-between. If there are fashion trade shows in the city or an exhibition you want to see, try to get your tickets before your trip and pre-block a time slot for those, so you know you are “booked” for that moment. 

Any tips on how to dress for fashion week?

SDT: I want to wear something that makes sense. Fall and winter are always my favorite seasons, so I always look out for a nice artisanal coat and I basically base all my looks from the coat.

EX: These days, I think the most powerful segment in the fashion industry is actually the fabrics. Fabrics are number one and that is what we should be looking at if you are thinking about developing a collection. I can actually say is that one thing you might see a lot is a mix of silks and wools…those things will be the trends for the next fall and winter.

JD: Of course fashion weeks are not about comfort, but about gorgeous looks and extravagant styling. The one thing around fashion week though is that there are no rules — you can wear fur in summer, sandals in winter, anything is possible, anything is welcome, just be brave and yourself.