An Insider’s Look at the Sleep-Deprived Fashion Week Grind You Don’t See

An Insider’s Look at the Sleep-Deprived Fashion Week Grind You Don’t See
Photo: Jame Jackson. Design: Cierra Miller/STYLECASTER.

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Fashion Month, the culmination of four Fashion Weeks in New York, London, Paris, and Milan, is an important time for fashion. There’s a steady stream of street style inspiration, celebrity sightings, and new trends to obsess over. In other words, a time for your inner Fashion Police to live its best life. However, when you’re actually working through the chaos, it feels less like a glamorous marathon and more like a sleep-deprived sprint. Don’t let Instagram fool you if you’re on the outside looking in.

I love what I do. Being a style and beauty editor along with running TheBlondeMisfit (a fashion and beauty digital brand dedicated to multicultural women) is challenging and rewarding. But whenever Fashion Month rolls around, I’m beyond exhausted and ready to throw it all in rice, if only for a moment. The assumption that working in front of and behind the runway is some enchanted experience has always been weird to be. Sure, I get to momentarily rub elbows with the fashion elite and witness the backstage shenanigans a designer probably wouldn’t want the Internet to see, but it’s a whirlwind of confusion if you don’t pace yourself. To be honest, it can feel the same way even if you’re the best Type A planner.

I’m almost always in work mode and carrying a backpack, which doesn’t really scream “sexy” to onlookers. More than anything, I’m accidentally hitting models with my laptop and avoiding cameramen who look like they’re ready to throw down. I’m not standing outside taking carefully-curated photos for my IG grid all day. It’s a grind rarely shown by people with major influence (most of whom aren’t PoC). So before the madness dies down and this all becomes a distant memory, here’s what a couple of days during Fashion Week–in my case, the New York edition–looks like from an insider’s point-of-view.

Thursday (Day 1)

6:45 P.M.

Although #NYFW doesn’t officially begin until tomorrow, tonight is VFILES and I’ve been invited to watch the show and visit the backstage are. This season, the brand partnered with Depop to give their platform to four emerging designers.

vfiles 1 An Insiders Look at the Sleep Deprived Fashion Week Grind You Dont See

Jame Jackson.

It’s a madhouse outside Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and it takes over half an hour to get backstage. I immediately spot my friend Shavonne and make a note to find her when the show begins, but push past everyone else to get to hair and makeup before the models are called. Again, it’s chaotic backstage, but I find a few models who are gracious enough to let me snap some social footage.

vfiles 2 An Insiders Look at the Sleep Deprived Fashion Week Grind You Dont See

Jame Jackson.

According to MAC’s makeup artist Louise Zizzo, “the idea is to have a painterly feel, almost as if the girls have done this themselves.” Another look included bold brown lipstick (I love brown lips), which was actually eyeshadow. MAC Pro Artist Tiffany Johnston used “Espresso” eyeshadow on the lip for deeper skin tones and “Cork” eyeshadow for lighter skin tones. Um, I was sold.

Sunday (Day 4)

7:30 A.M.

My alarm goes off and I am annoyed. I didn’t get home until about 1 AM from an event the night before, and all I want to do is sleep. Even though my first show for the day isn’t until noon, I need the morning to knock out some things for The Blonde Misfit. Begrudgingly, I peel myself off the bed to catch up on emails (at this point, my personal inbox is at 400) and finish scouring runway footage from yesterday.

jame jackson no makeup An Insiders Look at the Sleep Deprived Fashion Week Grind You Dont See

Jame Jackson.

10 A.M.

I’m up and getting dressed. Since it’s going to be a long day, I decide to nix putting on makeup. I know that a lot of people probably think it’s weird for me to do this one, in an industry so visual-focused, and two, during the one week where street style photographers are literally everywhere. However, considering I already haven’t slept more than five hours a night for the past three days, I’m doing whatever I can to preserve my skin.

Right now, my favorite cleanser is Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser, followed by African Shea butter to lock in hydration. I do, however, decide to out on lipstick. I never skip this step. Today, I’m rocking MAC’s “Marrakesh,” which is one of my favorite reds for when I’m not trying to look intense.

My #OOTD is a purple-and-white Prabal Gurung dress, which I immediately realize is a beauty recipe for disaster, otherwise known as one of my boobs falling out. So I look in my closet and pull out a thrifted beige blazer, throw on my black-and-white Jordans, and grab my weekender Telfar bag. I love big bags, and this comes in handy since I plan to work on my laptop in the city between shows.

12:15 P.M.

I’m finally in my seat at Romeo and the backstage assistants pull some strings so a friend and I can sit together. When you’re Black and working in fashion (runway not included), you stick out like a sore thumb. There aren’t many of us navigating the Fashion Month chaos, so whenever I run into someone, I have to stop and take in the moment.

jame jackson laquan smith An Insiders Look at the Sleep Deprived Fashion Week Grind You Dont See

Jame Jackson.

1 P.M.

The show ends and people trickle out for another nearby show or to leave. The next show is LaQuan Smith, whose celebrity-approved designs have been worn by Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian. Thankfully, his can’t-miss show is right next door and we’re able to get in smoothly. The space and star power are bigger here. Kehlani walks by me (ahh!), and I also spot Fantasia and a few others. LaQuan’s show is very clean and polished, and I know Sir John is behind the makeup looks. I love that the brand also partnered with Cantu Beauty for hair and UOMA for makeup this season. In other words, everything is for us and by us.

I spot Shayla (aka MakeupShayla) in front of me and internally melt. As I’m leaving the show, I introduce myself before we take a selfie and chat. How cool?!

jame jackson rosie assoulin An Insiders Look at the Sleep Deprived Fashion Week Grind You Dont See

Jame Jackson.

6 P.M.

I’m back home after shows. I stayed in the city for a few hours and went to Rosie Assoulin’s presentation (above), but my phone died! Now that I’m back home, I’m going through all the footage of the day to start posting on social as well as writing out notes on what I want to share on TBM. By this point, I’m exhausted, but the night is far from over, so I plan to work just for an hour and then take a nap.

8 P.M.

My alarm goes off and I’m back up. The show of all shows, Pyer Moss, is happening tonight and I am excited, nervous, scared, and excited (again). The setting is King’s Theater in Brooklyn, and I’m wondering how a fashion show can take out an entire theater and actually keep my attention. I know that I’m going for a streetwear look to stay true to the brand, but I’m actually going to wear makeup this time.

In case people think beauty editors have only glamorous cabinets of beauty products, THIS is what my stash normally look like, especially during Fashion Week:

jame makeup bag An Insiders Look at the Sleep Deprived Fashion Week Grind You Dont See

Jame Jackson.

After putting on my foundation, I set my face with Laura Mercier’s Translucent Powder and contour with Fenty’s Mocha Mami Bronzer. I realize that my lips need something bold to offset my outfit, so I go for Kat Von D’s liquid lipstick in the shade “Malice.” Perfect!

My outfit works out just the way I want — I rock a Pyer Moss colorblock jacket overtop an “All Black Lives Matter” t-shirt by an indie Black-owned brand, black leggings, Margielas, and my Telfar bag. Thankfully the King’s Theater isn’t far from my house, so we’re on time. Let’s go!

9:15 P.M.

I arrive at the venue and get in with ease, despite the fact that there are droves of people outside. Apparently, there were close to a thousand people at the venue just to try and buy tickets to the show. Because there’s security and so many people have to get in, it’s over an hour before the show even begins. On a positive note, I run into a few people that I know, and I get to take a photo with iconic stylist Misa Hylton.

jame jackson justine skye An Insiders Look at the Sleep Deprived Fashion Week Grind You Dont See

Jame Jackson.

1 A.M.

The show has ended, and Kerby Jean-Raymond’s having an after-party in the theater. Though fatigue is slowly creeping its way back in, I hang back to socialize (and meet Justine Skye!). Once I get home, I immediately sit on my floor and cry. The show was something indescribable, both for Black America and for fashion. It’s a night I will never forget. I am filled with gratitude, but tomorrow is another busy day and I have to sleep.

3 A.M.

After doing some work, I have just enough energy to wash my face off — I use the Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm to remove the excess makeup, and then go back in with the Kiehl’s cleanser for a thorough wash. Goodnight!

the blonds backstage An Insiders Look at the Sleep Deprived Fashion Week Grind You Dont See

Jame Jackson.

Monday (Day 5)

6 P.M.

I’ve been in the office all day and working on show reviews for TheBlondeMisfit. To say I’m tired is an understatement, but I’m pressing on. Tonight is The Blonds and I’m excited to go backstage and get a taste of the hair and makeup.

the blonds mac makeup An Insiders Look at the Sleep Deprived Fashion Week Grind You Dont See

Jame Jackson.

Anyone who has ever worked backstage knows that it’s a madhouse, but there’s a designated station for hair, makeup, and nails. Morrocanoil is the hair sponsor, CND is handling nails, and my loves over at MAC Cosmetics are slaying the makeup. The eye was a glittery almond smokey-eye, and MAC’s makeup artist, Kabuki, used their Hype Real Glow Palettes to highlight the planes of the cheekbones and nose. I immediately want to recreate the look, but I don’t have a steady hand to save my life!

I even ran into Maria Borges, Denise Bidot, and Halima Aden backstage, and introduce myself to (Emmy winner!) Billy Porter as I’m leaving the theater. What a full-circle moment.

9 P.M.

I’m back home working on show reviews, checking emails and completing status updates for TBM projects. Having a 9-5 and a 5-whenever I surrender to sleep is definitely a challenge. What keeps me going is knowing that my platform exists to amplify the voices of marginalized communities in fashion and beauty.

11 P.M.

Friends and family know I’m also in grad school, so I finish a paper that’s due tonight. As soon as it’s done, I close my eyes for a 10-minute power nap. Once my alarm goes off, I’m back up and on my computer. By this point, I have blisters on my feet and am ready for a decent night’s sleep, but we still have a day or two left. No matter what, I always remember that I prayed for days like this, so I can’t complain. After making some hot water with lemon, I sit down and get back to work.

3:12 A.M.

I’ve done all I can do for the night and tomorrow is quickly on the horizon. I don’t have a lot on my plate but I know that I need a facial, food, and sleep. I shut down my laptop, look at photos of my puppies (who are currently staying with my parents while I’m in fashion week madness), and head to bed. Eventually, my whirlwind week is over, but the grind continues.