Lauren Laverne: Don't smile, don't point and don't eat; things I learned at fashion week

From her prime spot on the 'frow' at her first London fashion week, Lauren Laverne learns that the professionals must follow strict codes of conduct – and know how to be pushy

There are no nerds in fashion, only people who dress up as nerds for fun. I ponder an inversion of Descartes' most famous proposition ("I think, therefore I'm not") as I watch a crowd of bloggers dressed as various era nerds (70s library nerd, 80s mum nerd, 90s rave nerd) one autumn afternoon in London's Sloane Square. They are photographing themselves pretending to look sad. I say "pretending" because there's no way they can actually be sad. They have tickets to the hottest show of the afternoon, by British duo Rag & Bone, who made their name in America and have returned home for their debut at London fashion Week. Queen of fashion Anna Wintour has a ticket, too. As do I, though I am the only one among our number visibly delighted.

Somehow, I've landed my dream gig. Over the next few days I, an overgrown indie kid from Sunderland, will tag along with the Observer and Guardian's fashion professionals ("fashessionals" – that's what I'm going to call them, they'll love it) at London fashion week, the biannual trade show during which the world's most fabulous people come together to create the planet's skinniest, most inappropriately dressed rugby scrum. From Friday to Tuesday, twice a year, some 5,000 attendees forgo sleep, food and good manners for the chance to watch some people walk up and down a small platform for 10 minutes, wearing some clothes. When you write it down, it looks quite mad. To gaze upon it, reader, is madder still. Yet it generates £100m of orders each season and is crucial to the fashion industry – itself worth £21bn to the UK economy.

A black LFW-branded Mercedes screeches to a halt beside me, quickly joined by two more. This is how the LFW pack get around (ours is driven by Kevin, a policeman most of the time, but for this week only a man who is unafraid to utter the phrase: "We've got to get a move on if we're going to get to Erdem"). My editor's studded slippers appear before the rest of her. She eyes the scrum outside the tent where the show will take place. The unmerry throng are only just bubbling under in a passive-aggressive display of ticket-toting, tutting and fringe-flicking. "Time to push," she says, with the solemn intensity of a midwife. I laugh but she isn't joking. So we do.

Rag & Bone showed luxe sports styling with delicious bursts of solid colour (according to the runways this LFW, spring/summer 2013 is going to be juicy). Other highlights included Preen's fresh take on snakeskin (paired with fecund peony prints and breezy nautical stripes) and Moschino Cheap and Chic, Louise Gray and Henry Holland's party-ready collections (the latter was held, acid house-style in an NCP car park. We arrived late and talked our way in, much to the annoyance of a confused family in a Fiat Punto that wanted parking). Most of all I loved the relentless perfection of Burberry: pieces of an uncompromising, almost pitiless beauty that it seemed impossible to imagine on an ordinary body, in the actual world. How strange and spectacular to see them in the hermetic cathedral created for the purpose – a sandstone-toned runway, lined by A-list stars – wrapped around limbs selected for their perfection and flown in from around the world.

As well as noting new directions, which will feature in the Observer Magazine in the coming months, I picked up the rules of fashion week, which I thought I might share with you now, so you can start planning for next time, should you fancy coming. They are as follows:

Pushing is OK. Pointing isn't. Even at a guy wearing chiffon dungarees and a horizontal feather headpiece you are genuinely worried is about to get stuck in the revolving doors of the St Martins Lane Hotel.

No smiling. Obviously.

Fashion people do not eat. It's gauche. Do not expect snacks.

Nor do they wee. Not just a rule – an actual reply I received when I asked about the facilities.

Fashion people drink, though. Vita Coco. Its website says it's a "mega electrolyte nut water". A phrase I haven't heard since my teenage boyfriend used it back in the 90s.

Stress is inevitable with a packed LFW schedule, but your recovery must be immediate – and chic. At one point during a highly distracted day, one of our team somehow managed to use her mobile to ring another mobile, which was in her other hand. In situations like this, your response must be instant: style it out. I followed her example later, when John Lewis called me to say my wallpaper delivery had been delayed while we were in the "frow" (front row, do catch up), causing ringtone embarrassment: I pretended it was Giles Deacon consulting me in a last-minute panic over hats.

Where you sit matters. I was placed in the frow a few times, what with being off the telly. Things I learned include: it's really nice being Pixie Lott (a bit like the whole world is one massive bouncy castle). It is technically possible to light a shot of Sambuca in your own mouth, then drink it. Sometimes fashion editors have secret crisps in their bags and will give them to interlopers they consider kindred spirits when nobody is looking.

The fashion crowd have a reputation for being aloof, but everyone was extremely sweet to me. They're human underneath. Underneath clothes that cost as much as a house.

Fashion is not a family affair. The shows are a triumph of unreality over the workaday. Nor are they the time to offer a model trying to eat a pomegranate a wet wipe, or to ask Daisy Lowe how her mam is, loudly. That would be uncool, guys. UNCOOL.

Last, and most important of all, you could probably get into any show you fancy if you look like a Japanese fashion blogger. I tailed a guy in cat ears, a blanket (in "nana-knees" tartan), neon trainers and city shorts and nobody ID'd him all day. See you there in February?


Lauren Laverne

The GuardianTramp

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