Sophie Cullinane | Features Editor | Saturday, 19 September 2015

Where Do All Those Fit Waiters At Fashion Week Actually Come From?

Where Do All Those Fit Male Waiters At Fashion Week Actually Come From?

The Debrief: They seem to come out of nowhere, but they’re completely ubiquitous at London Fashion Week - where do all the fit waiters and bar staff actually come from?

At any London Fashion Week party, certain things will be ubiquitous. There will be black clothes. Lots and lots of black clothes. There will DJs playing a mixture of achingly cool music no has heard of and more recognisable club bangers, probably played in a semi ’ironic’ manner by a surly looking DJ with lots of tattoos. Photographers will be milling about, lazily taking photographs of people pretending not to notice it’s happening, until Jaime Winstone or Daisy Lowe arrive and everyone else in the party is completely ignored. And there will waiters and waitresses. Gorgeous waiters and waitresses. More gorgeous waiters and waitresses than you would see eating out in London every night for three years. It’s unnerving and more than a little bit perplexing - where on earth do they all come from? 

‘A lot of us come from, for want of a better word, “cool” catering companies specialising in putting on the kind of events you’ll see in ES magazine,’ Ben Fisher, 24, tells The Debrief. ‘For most of the year, I work with a company that puts on street food markets, pop ups and supper clubs, mostly in and around East and Central London. If you don’t mind working like a dog on the weekend and during evenings, you can stand to get a lot of work during Fashion Week - especially if you’re good looking. It’s never said explicitly when you’re getting hired, but the vast majority of the people who are taken on by my particular company are all better-than-average looking. Seven of them are models, there’s a couple of actors and a few DJs, but everyone’s a “slash”. Have you heard that Hole song that talks about a ‘hooker/waitress/model/actress’? It could have been written about the place I work. It works both ways, the work is ad hoc so you can pick it up or drop it whenever your “day job” isn’t going so well and everyone likes to be served by good looking, flirty people don’t they? It’s not that Fashion Week specifically seeks out good looking catering companies, but I think catering companies themselves are aware that having beautiful, “cool” people working for them elevates their brand.’

If it all sounds contrived to an almost sickening level, that’s because that’s exactly what it is. When I anonymously spoke to one of the owners of a ‘cool’ catering company that provided wait staff to some of Fashion Week’s biggest parties last season, I heard how a good looking waiter will <always> be hired over someone less attractive, even if they have slightly less experience. Most candidate’s social media feeds will be scoped to see if they’re ‘brand appropriate’ [read: fit]. The thinking, I was told, behind this pretty objectionable hiring process is that most of the waiters will be expected to flyer other events going on around the company as well as waiting on the Fashion Week clientele, and good looking people are just more likely to flyer affectively. It’s basic supply and demand - if you’ve ever taken a flyer off someone in the street simply because you thought they were fit, you’re really to blame for all this stuff. Apparently. You awful human. 

If you don’t mind working like a dog on the weekend and during evenings, you can stand to get a lot of work during Fashion Week - especially if you’re good looking.

If you’re one of the lucky ones deemed prepossessing enough to work Fashion Week, you can stand to make quite a lot of money. ‘I can make £200 a night for not very much work,’ explains Ella Young, 22, who’s worked as a waitress at seven Fashion Week parties whilst modelling and interning at several different jewellery designers in London. ‘Especially if you work on the door - I get work through a friend who works in PR - which can pay really well. Waitressing is less well paid, but it’s often cash in hand and, if you work a few parties in one night, it can be really lucrative. It’s really long hours, but it means I can afford to intern when the modelling work isn’t coming through. It’s better paid and easier than working in a bar.’

But is the money worth it? If there’s one thing the fashion world is famous for, being accommodating to the ‘little people’ isn’t exactly one of them. ‘Yeah people can be rude, but you just learn to take it on the chin,’ explains Luke Peters, a 23 year old DJ who has worked at Fashion Week parties for the last three years. ‘People get confused about what you’re actually there for and there’s a few times I’ve been treated a bit like their personal assistant or a slave. I’ve been sent out to buy fags and tampons before. I don’t care as long as they tip me. Also, it’s a really good way to get laid - all the guys talk about it. Plus I’ve been scouted by a modelling agency whilst waiting on people. Nothing came of it in the end, but it’s always flattering.’

For others, working as a waiter at a Fashion Week event is just an essential part of climbing the career ladder. ‘For anyone who wants to make it in events, it’s just an essential part of the business,’ explains Charlie Wilson, who spent the first two years of his six year career in events waiting after people at fashion parties. ‘You sort of have to grin a bare it and it can feel a long way away from where you’ve got to be, but we’ve all been there as interns and it’s all hands on deck for the big events - if a catering company hasn’t been hired you’re expected to get your hands dirty. But if you get a particularly screwy looking waiter at an event at Fashion Week, it might be down to the fact they really really don’t want to be there.’


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Tags: London Fashion Week, Fashion Week