In the fashion world, as superficial as it may be, you are where you sit.
And, while the catwalk may be perfectly choreographed, the seating arrangement of guests is just as, if not more, thought out.
Considered a statement of ranking, the dynamics of show seating has shifted over the years, but one thing you can guarantee is that the more important you are, the closer you are to the action.
“The unique reality of a fashion show format that sets it apart from the way other industries launch new product is that it lines the whole industry up, staring at each other in a clear hierarchy from front row back,” say co-founders Ash and Ella of Ella Dror PR – the powerhouse PR firm responsible for ground-breaking designers like Nasir Mazhar, Bobby Abley, Liam Hodges and Ashley Williams.
“It’s this element that makes it a delicate process and why seating someone in the wrong row causes such offence – when it goes wrong everyone can see it and it can be embarrassing for all involved.”
It’s a sartorial game of chess that requires an astute knowledge of the hierarchies of the fashion industry, and one that publicists know all too well.
But, there’s often a lot more happening on the front row than there might appear.
“It’s not just editors, buyers and celebrities but also sponsors, collaborators, agents, industry organisations, consultants, friends and family of the brand and much more besides.
“Ultimately a seat on the front row comes down to a mixture of professional respect, decision making influence and relevance to any given brand.”
Nonetheless, at a fashion show, the golden ticket is the front row; a spot usually reserved for the stylish elite.
Before now, it has been earmarked for the most important fashion editors – think British Vogue’s Alexandra Shulman, GQ’s Dylan Jones and critic Suzy Menkes – plus a gaggle of A-list celebs.
Sitting here is crucial to these attendees but, in spite of its posturing, who claims these spots is also critical for the designers.
“It’s important to have a balance across all the various industry areas at a show, there’s no point filling a front row with editors if there are no buyers there to buy it, and likewise, no point filling a show with buyers if there’s no media there to communicate it to the customer.
“Ultimately the designers have the final say.”
Critiqued just as harshly on their garb as who sits in these prised seats, the crème de la crème of the fashion world sit front row, and front row only.
That being said, the fashion show seating plan has in recent years been infiltrated by a whole new democratic voice.
In contrast to the traditional order, the front row has begun to shift its allegiances towards a younger and more social media-savvy crowd.
Vogue may have damned style bloggers as “desperate” and accused them of heralding “the end of style”, but the appeal to fashion labels is clear.
Online influencers exist almost exclusively for endorsement and an F-row full of social media-savvy celebs is guaranteed to create instant publicity.
For Ella Dror PR though, it takes more than just starting a blog to get a seat at one of their clients’ shows.
“For us there’s only a handful of bloggers that we invite to our shows, and in most cases they are professionally active in the industry outside of their blog and a personality in their own right.
“Anyone can start a blog, that in itself doesn’t mean you need to attend a fashion show.
“Influencers are increasingly important and everyone wants the right mix of them at their show. It’s about generating enough social media activity on the right mix of accounts so that as soon as the show starts the target customer’s Instagram feed is flooded with content.”
The ground beneath the establishment’s feet has certainly shifted but, as a new order stakes its place, the assumed seats of fashion professionals could be under threat.
Something we’re sure could inspire a churlish tête-à-tête, but Ella Dror PR insist there’s no point taking these things personally.
“It’s important to remember that everyone is just trying to do a job. Sometimes you genuinely don’t have the seat to offer despite wanting to (if I could magic seats out of thin air I would have been a magician).