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Fashion week disaster: Can MBFWA survive as the number of offsite shows continues to rise?

Words by Bianca O'Neill

Images via Getty Images

And how can it control the quality?

The process of applying to attend MBFWA is fairly simple; journalists fill out an official form, and designer PRs pick and choose from the list of attendees in order to extend invites to shows. But what happens when that master list falls into the wrong hands?

Among my usual influx of invites this year, I received an unusual request from Justin Cassin – a designer who has shown on the official schedule in previous years. The ‘invite’ stated that it wasn’t really an invite, and that I would have to ‘apply’ for a spot. They would supposedly then deem me worthy or not worthy of attending said show, and only then would I receive a real invite.

Um, ok then.

Let’s not go into the team’s mind-bending thought process of approaching already-approved media and telling them they have to prove if they are worthy enough to attend a runway – because that should have been covered in PR 101. But beyond that… why are you emailing me if you don’t want me to attend? And if you DO want me to attend, why offend me straight out of the gate with a non-invite?

Anyway, I acquiesced and filled out the form. I was told I would receive a response within 24 hours either way, but received nothing and moved on with my life.

A few weeks later, a friend said she received a ‘VIP invite’ to the same show, so I emailed them asking if they had a response for me. Again, no reply.

Two days before the show, I received an email telling me I was on the list and would receive specific ticketing details for attending the show I was never invited to in the first place and never received a response to.

One day before the show, I was emailed (to a different email address) that I wasn’t on the list, and would need to fill out a form ‘urgently’ if I wanted to attend.

On the day of the show, I received an email saying that I should have received my ticket via email (I didn’t) and that I should text the PR if I hadn’t received it.

Quite frankly, it seemed like a shit show in the making. So I skipped it. AND THANK GOD I DID.

The Age/SMH’s National Fashion Editor Melissa Singer shared some piping hot tea on her Instagram stories overnight (@mellysinger), explaining in excruciating detail:

  • the 2 hour wait for the show to start
  • a ‘Kyle Sandilands wet dream’ of various musical acts prior to the runway
  • the ‘VIP’ section which was so far away they couldn’t see the clothing
  • the ‘RSL style’ setup

I have received a few DMs this morning about the show, which was described to me as ‘completely and utterly ridiculous’ and ‘hell’. Meanwhile, Jiawa Liu (@beigerenegade) shared on her stories that she waited 1.5hrs to get in, only to decide to leave due to how bad the experience was, and was subsequently accosted by staff for taking ‘professional photos’ outside of the runway location at Luna Park.

It begs the question: How can MBFWA retain its status as a premium fashion event when they have no management over the increasing number of offsite shows? This was, incredibly, a show on the official schedule – so is it too much to ask for MBFWA to do a little quality control here?

Sure, many of the offsite shows this year were beautiful and reasonably well set up, but they were also the source of huge delays, with many journalists missing important runways like The Innovators due to huge over-runs as media tried desperately to get from one end of the city to another, and back again.

On Monday, for example, thirty or so media attendees missed half of Jonathan Simkhai’s much-anticipated show due to an hour overrun from the previous show. Photographers and journalists spent the nail-biting 30-minute transfer on the official bus wondering if they’d make it, only to be disappointed as attendees began to live stream the show while we battled peak hour traffic mere metres away.

Quality control is core to MBFWA retaining their prominence on the international fashion week calendar. And if they can’t deliver, media will begin to wonder if it’s all worth the time, cost and effort.

After all, you can’t run a fashion week on influencers and B grade reality show contestants alone.

Follow Bianca’s MBFWA coverage at @bianca.oneill

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