Are you an Anna or a Phoebe?

Anna Dello Russo

Anna Dello Russo

Image via Stockholm Streetstyle

In the cycle from brain to blog, this post has undergone several working titles. The first was “Why I’ll Always Dress Up For Fashion Week.” That got scrapped partially because my dear friend Naomi just published a really excellent piece stating the exact opposite so doing so would have felt a little pointed. Plus, who knows whether I’ll cave in a couple of seasons a take to show going in UGG boots and a cashmere onesie. Another was “Sneakers V Stilettos” but that seemed redundant. Everyone knows trainers are the show footwear du jour for cool kids and those with an aversion to blisters these days… I mean duh, we all have Instagram. I felt that the best way to broach this was to compare two opposite types of fashion week females that seem to have arisen in recent seasons, or as I like to call them, the Anna Dello Russos and the Phoebe Philos. It’s worth stating here that I know Phoebe ain’t no fashion week-er. But her style is one aspired to by so many show goers it just seems simplest to use her as my example here. My brain has also been reduced to the mushiest of mush by a week of 13 hour working days in the library and doesn’t have the capacity to be more imaginative right now.

I probably don’t need to explain the differences between these two sartorial specimens but just in case, here goes. Anna Dello Russos adore, nay, worship at the alter of flamboyant, ebullient fashion in all it’s embellished, multicoloured, look-at-me glory. They show their support to designers by wearing a full catwalk look on the FROW at their shows, or at least the absolute bloody closest they can get to doing so. Bare legs in January and multiple changes per day are de rigueur and if you suggested swapping their six inchers for Stan Smith’s the ADR woman would laugh in your face, or possibly faint, she does love a spot of drama.

By contrast, the Phoebe wouldn’t dream of forcing herself to wear footwear that could double as weaponry for umpteen days straight, regardless of the fact she has multiple minions and a driver. Admittedly most Phoebes-who-aren’t-actually-Phoebe probably have to run around like headless chickens and maybe even, shock horror, mingle with non fashion folk on public transport making comfy kicks all the more justifiable. Ms PP is stylish don’t get me wrong, effortlessly, achingly so. But hers is an understated, “I woke up like this” chicness involving vaguely weather appropriate clothing and denim. Does she pose for street style photographers? Good God no. Save for the occasional “ok I’ll indulge you this once” distracted stationary snap (most likely while on her phone), the Phoebe is always captured in motion while the Anna stops, poses, twirls and revels in showing of her finery to her adoring public.

anna dello russo

Image via

Ok, I got a little carried away with that “brief” description, but you get my point. Or if you didn’t and suspected I was enjoying a bit of a self indulgent ramble (which tbf I kind of was) then here goes. When fashion months arrive, different people choose to adopt different styles for the shows. For some, dressing up for the shows is as much a part of the experience as what they see on the catwalk. For others, their own attire serves as something to keep them chic yet crucially, comfortable while they survey the new collections. But at the end of the day, the vast majority of people at fashion week are there to do a job. Whether that is to feature what they see in a publication, decide whether to stock a designer’s work or support them by sharing their show with a vast social media audience, it’s work, albeit an amped up and (in my opinion) exhilarating and hugely enjoyable part of it. Some choose to do this work in sensible shoes and low key ensembles – which I admit, often look seriously cool – others embrace the opportunity to spend however many weeks getting their FASH on.

In recent seasons there has been a lot of talk about street style induced “peacocking” and whether the spectacle outside the tents distracts from the magic within. Much of this has been aimed at bloggers with IMG planning to enforce a clamp down over forthcoming New York Fashion Weeks. I discussed this last year in response to Suzy Menkes’ piece on the circus of fashion so I won’t regurgitate that argument (you can jog your memories here). But I stand by what I said then and while the Anna V Phoebe dichotomy is, on one level about personal style and pain thresholds, it is also indicative of a wider debate. Should fashion week be strictly business; conscientious journos, buyers and editors shuttling from show to show? Or does the decision of some people, be they a blogger making their debut or a seasoned pro running a global business, to get their inevitably impractical gladrags on add to the atmosphere of excitement, inspiration and self expression that fashion is fundamentally all about?

Personally, I think both are equally valid and indulging in the sheer joy of dressing up, regardless of the potential health risks involved, or admitting that you don’t actively dislike having your photo taken for doesn’t reduce one’s validity as a fashion week attendee. Provided, of course, that you still do what you’re there to do. If forcing yourself into mini dress and Manolos will stop you making Burberry on time then it would be downright ridiculous to do so. But if you want to rock a chiffon cocktail dress at 9am on a chilly Sunday morning and feel confident that coldness will only spur you on then why the hell not! A while back I was lucky enough to interview Paula Reed, a woman whose career, kindness and style I admire hugely. When discussing fashion week she told me that everyone had to ‘earn their seat’ at the shows by essentially providing something in return; an honest review, social media buzz, the potential to get their gear into a fabulous shop. Surely if you’ve earned your seat through hard graft, you’ve earned the right to dress up (or not) and maybe even stop for a street style shot in between shows. Plus, if no one peacocked it would put a lot of photographers out of business and a lot of writers out of article fodder.

So, only one question remains, which fashion week woman are YOU?

Love Ella x

Ps) this question is hypothetical and goes way beyond the small proportion of the population that are active show goers, I’m pretty confident that Anna’s and Phoebe’s exist in all fields… And I suspect you know which camp I fall into.

2 Thoughts on Are you an Anna or a Phoebe?

  1. pinkschmink says:

    This is a really great post, and I share your point of view completely. As Tommy Ton said once, “If you can’t wear a head-to-toe runway look to the shows, then where?”

    Though I do moan about feeling the need to dress up for the shows, when it actually comes time to pick what I’m wearing, I secretly revel in being able to wear full-on sequins at breakfast time. I don’t personally do it for the street style photographers, because when they point a camera at me, this happens. Having said that, I love it when people pay me compliments about what I’m wearing, and I don’t think there’s any shame in that.

    I sometimes wish I could be a Phoebe, and manage to look effortlessly cool in Oxford bags and Stan Smiths, but that just isn’t me. I’m so glad that you don’t feel the need to follow the Philo-philes either! 🙂 xxx

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