Philippine Fashion Week is upon us this long weekend, and everyone is vying for the seats with the best view: the front row. The vantage point from the front row not only allows people to have an unobstructed view of the collection, but it also asserts their value in the fashion world. Those seated at the front row are big names: those at the top of magazine mastheads, fashion reporters, buyers, and celebrities.
PR agencies are in charge of the seating arrangements during fashion shows. There’s a limited number of seats and an unlimited number of people who believe they’re important enough to sit there. Of course, PR agencies know that deciding who will sit at the front row isn’t just a matter of arbitrarily deciding who’s important enough to be there; the occupants of the coveted seats are just as important for the designers. Significant people—like editors in chief and celebrities—who sit at the front row and watch the show intently draw attention to the designers and give them instant publicity.
When it comes to celebrities’ appearance at fashion shows, sometimes it’s contractual. Rihanna was rumored to have been paid $97,500 to attend Karl Lagerfeld’s fall 2012 show in Paris. Blake Lively and Kim Kardashian are said to be paid around $50,000 for attending shows.
Aside from deciding who gets to sit at the front row, PR agencies also consider how to distribute them. Adam Worling, who handles his own PR agency in Australia, tells Australian Vogue, “Always sit competitive titles apart—it is not that they don’t like each other but rather they want to be able to discuss designs in confidence.”
So are there really politics involved in this game of sartorial musical chairs? Sam*, the owner of a local PR agency, says, “We always prioritize important press personalities from [print and online publications], the show’s sponsors, and the biggest buyers.” When asked on how she weighs in importance she says simply, “by the relevance of the title or personality to the brand or entity being shown.”
Mary*, from another PR agency that has handled major fashion shows through the years, runs the numbers: It’s five seats per magazine, and two for broadsheets and online publications. Top priority is given to “editors or the ones who will really do the [reviews].”
Of course, there will be people who feel entitled to those coveted seats. Mary recalls an instance where a group insisted on being seated in front, claiming they were “VIPs.” For Sam’s experience, on the other hand, a certain personality was, first of all, not invited to the show and second, wanted to claim seats reserved for a big-time buyer. She said, “It is usually the ones on the front row who are the nicest, even choosing to give way to those who claim seats in front, but are undeserving.”
So there are gate crashers and front row seats thieves. What usually happens in cases like these? The first course of action is to politely inform them that the seats they’re occupying are reserved, then offer to relocate them somewhere else. If that doesn’t work, call security, which, although dramatic, may be necessary.
In both local and international fashion shows, front row seats are never requested. Chances are, if you have to ask for one, then you probably shouldn’t be sitting there in the first place.
*Names were changed at the request of the people interviewed