What it’s really like to volunteer at a fashion festival

Sorting myth from truth.

Volunteering at a fashion festival is an awesome way to figure out what path you might want to take in the fashion industry. When I volunteered this year it opened my eyes to a lot of new and exciting possibilities. It also gave me the opportunity to shadow some really cool people around the show and really gain some valuable information. I can say, however, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Let’s sort out a couple of myths and truths about fashion shows. Lord knows there’s a few.

Myth: All models are bitchy and stuck up.

Truth: Most models are perfectly pleasant if not fun and just as weirded out by you seeing them naked. Although you do get over that pretty quickly when you have exactly 11 seconds on the clock to change them out of a tribal outfit and into a wedding gown.

Myth: People will yell at you. And you will cry.

Truth: No one yells directly at you in a mean way, more in an inclusive and encompassing “EVERYONE NEEDS TO HEAR THIS RIGHT NOW OR ELSE WE ARE POTENTIALLY GOING TO MESS UP THIS SHOW SO LEND ME YOUR EARS PEOPLE” kind of way.

Myth: It’s a thankless job.

Truth: Sometimes yes but mostly no. The only times it will be thankless is when people are so busy and stressed they forget to thank you. Most other times, people can’t thank you enough for giving up your time to be there.

Myth: Designers will be difficult people to deal with.

Truth: Designers are actually super lovely. And even if they aren’t really friendly, they have knowledge and knowledge is power. I cannot stress this enough. Approach them, get to know them, ask if they need any assistance. Stick out from the crowd. You have a lot to learn from designers. It’s their designs going down the runway after all.

Myth: VIP is some exclusive and elusive title that only the fashion elite can grasp.

Truth: VIP is some exclusive and elusive title that only the people willing to fork out the money can grasp. Unless you want to be in the front row. Front row status is almost entirely sacred.

Myth: You have to look good all the time because everyone else will.

Truth: No one backstage looks good, unless you can rock the distressed look. By the distressed look I mean emotionally, not raw denim, Marques Almeida style. There’s a lot of dry shampoo and more eye bags than designer purses. Just work your ass off. That’s the best way to be noticed back stage.

Volunteering is great. There are panics and moments where hearts skip a beat, there are inconveniences and difficulties, challenges and altercations. But nothing beats the satisfaction of sending a model down the runway or watching them pose for pictures and knowing that in a small way you helped create a beautiful fashion moment. 

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