The budgets and rules fashion editors swear by when packing for fashion week

Style Statement
Veronika Heilbrunner

Fashion editors spend two months a year at fashion week: that’s approximately 50 days of living out of a suitcase, and facing a daily barrage of street style photographers. As New York kicks off the international AW17 shows, we quizzed seasoned experts, including Veronika Heilbrunner and The Telegraph’s Lisa Armstrong, on how they immaculately plan their wardrobes. Immaculate planning that throws up some useful wardrobe tips when thinking about how to update your own wardrobe….

Decide your annual clothing budget in advance – and stick to it

Katherine Ormerod
Katherine Ormerod, Editorial Director at Lyst, at New York Fashion Week CREDIT: JESSIE BUSH

Katherine Ormerod, Editorial Director at Lyst, decides what she’s going to spend on clothes that season – and then spends three months scoping out her purchases so she gets maximum return for her money. “I spend probably about £1,500 a season for fashion week – but not all in one go,” she tells us. “I spread it out over three months or so, and really, really think about about what I’m buying. I keep money aside for the sales, but never touch my savings pot.”

Chloe Faye handbag 
Katherine Ormerod’s Chloe Faye handbag 

To ensure her pieces have longevity, Katherine plans ahead. “For the spring/summer season, which is often bitterly cold, it’s all about the coats and boots which are obviously not the cheapest purchases,” she says. “A lot of my buys come from the sales – this season I’ve bought three coats (Maje, Sandro, Claudie Pierlot) and two pairs of boots (Dorothee Schumacher, Acne) as well as a skirt (Alexander Wang) and sweater (Acne), all within my budget. As I work at Lyst, I spend all day looking at the very best prices over the sales—it definitely helps the whole process. Then every year there is a silly purchase that happens —this year it was those Gucci horsebit boots. I know £1,500 is a lot of money, but in a world where a handbag costs £2k, I think I do pretty well.”

Invest in a coat – that will get maximum visibility

The Telegraph‘s Fashion Director Lisa Armstrong makes considered purchases before fashion week – starting with outerwear. “At my age I would rather make something that is a really considered buy. Coats from Celine are life-long purchases but you really, really need to think about it before you buy it and I think that’s a good thing. When you can buy something too easily, it’s lovely, but it sits in your wardrobe, you’re bored of it and go and buy something else.”

Lisa Armstrong
Lisa Armstrong, Fashion Directot at The Telegraph at Fashion Week CREDIT: REX

Look in discount outlets and online stores

Last winter, Lisa went to retail outlet mecca Bicester before fashion week kicked off.  “I’ve bought a Celine coat from Bicester, a pair of Celine trousers because they fit me and they really last, they don’t bag and cost per wear they are ok.  At the start of last season I also nipped into Gucci for some shoes and ended up also buying a grey Gucci blazer. That was quite spontaneous for me but I’d been looking for about four years for  a replacement for an old grey Antonio Berardi jacket I wore to death), I also bought a high V neck Anna Valentine jumper, a calf- length Narciso Rodrigues skirt, one pair of cropped trousers from Goat and velvet Jil Sander sandals in midnight blue.”

Street style favourite Veronika Heilbrunner looks to affordable online retailers, such as Zalando, for eclectic details that can be purchased and delivered around the globe when travelling. Talking to The Telegraphat Berlin’s Bread and Butter event, she described how important it is to stay true to your personal style amidst the street style furore. “A lot of brands now dress people in total looks for coverage. For me, I’m excited when I see people making trend items their own.” The lithe German editor was a natural fit for Zalando’s AW16 campaign, because of her original style and skill at accessorising.

Veronika Heilbrunner, star of Zalando's AW16 campaign
Veronika Heilbrunner, star of Zalando’s AW16 campaign CREDIT: INSTAGRAM/ZALANDO

Be considered with your clothes – but not too obviously thought through

Lisa Armstrong admits that her clothes are thought through – depending on what designer she’s meeting that day. “I think it’s different if you’re a newspaper fashion reporter because you’re supposed to be objective, so why would I turn up to a show in something by that designer? It makes me look like a groupie. But if I was going to interview Miuccia Prada I wouldn’t turn up wearing another Italian designer and I’d either try to find something in my wardrobe that’s Prada or wear something that’s British.”

To ensure a considered approach to packing, Veronika recommends planning outfits day by day.  “I lay all my outfits down in a row in my hallway, then I see which shoes and bags will work best with most outfits. The accessories that are the most versatile make it into my suitcase.”

Lisa Armstrong’s Couture Paris Fashion Week wardrobe

Never pay more than £1000 for a coat or more than £500 for shoes

Sure, great accessories have longevity – but it’s still important to know your limits. “I have a cut off in my head above which I wouldn’t go. I would never ever pay more than £1000 for a coat or more than £500 for shoes tops. Every year I try to keep a running tally of how much  I spend, but then I know I’m not very honest and deliberately forget things!”

Work out your clothing budget as a percentage of your total expenditure

Yes, this might sound like hard work but a lot of fashion editors are amazingly mathematical about their clothing spend – which helps both justify and make sense of your seasonal splurges. “I remember when I was at Vogue 20 years ago one of the editors told me she spent £3,000 a year on clothes so for years I had that figure in my head and realised that didn’t make sense any more as there was inflation. Now I do it more as a percentage of my total expenditure,” says Lisa. Talking of maths, do you know the exact heel height for a pair of shoes that’s comfortable all day long is 70mm? Yes, we’ve done the fashion sums.

Caroline Issa
Caroline Issa Fashion Editor at Tank Magazine at Fashion WeekCREDIT: REX

Remain pragmatic – and weather appropriate

“I love romantic pieces, I work in fashion because I love to dream,” says  Veronika, “but I also need to work and get around, so I style things very practically. I always wear sneakers or sandals. And if I buy a coat it has to have pockets.”

Fashion Editor at Tank Magazine, Caroline Issa, concedes that, “I’m much more pragmatic than fashionable these days – winter coats often take up most of the room in my suitcase. And I’m happy to pull out of my out-of-date coats to stay warm!” Veronika concurs: “The weather app is my best friend.” The Zalando campaign star packs a plentiful supply of tights and turtlenecks to layer underneath dresses in case the forecast shifts.

Bags need to be roomy and practical, too

“I’ll usually buy a few of the new season shoes and one new season bag. It’s easy to dress up older clothes with brand new accessories and still be able to make a statement,” street style favourite Caroline, continues. “I’ve just bought Prada’s metallic shoes and the new Hugo Boss bag which is really useful, but also really colourful. There’s a lot of invites, snacks and kindles one has to carry to survive the show pace.”

Caroline Issa

Remain true to your original style

For Frances Davison, Fashion Editor of So It Goes Mag, fashion week isn’t a time to splash out. She never spends more than £200 per season – on up to five items. Her budget works by hunting for purse-friendly vintage pieces from Mint in Stoke Newington, Beyond Retro and Market Cartel in Hackney, and she’ll buy a new pair of trainers and basics each season.

Frances Davison, Fashion Editor at So It Goes Mag at Fashion Week

“I think the coolest looking people are those who look comfortable in themselves – the street style photographers see that too,” says Frances. “A girl in a white t shirt and vintage Levis is just as likely to be photographed as someone in head to toe Celine.”

Don’t panic buy…

Hannah Almassi, Editorial Director of Who What Wear UK, doesn’t change how she dresses (or shops) for fashion week. “I may have a meltdown moment the weekend before the shows kick off, when I think I don’t have anything to wear, but that’s a pretty regular occurrence for any style conscious girl on any given day!” says Hannah. “But I don’t make snap judgement pre-fashion week purchases just so that I’ve got something fresh – I’ve made that mistake in the past.”

Hannah Almassi
Hannah Almassi, Editorial Director at Who What Wear UK

If your shoes are up to date, your look will immediately seem fresh

“I always make sure I’ve got a good selection of shoes or boots that don’t hurt my feet but still look up-to-date and chic,” explains Hannah of the defining feature of her fashion week wardrobe. “I’m so happy that midi heels have been embraced that sometimes when I find the right pair I’ll get them in two colourways, like these LK Bennett boots.”

But sometimes it’s ok to eat toast for a month to allow you to afford a new coat…

In true Carrie Bradshaw style, Hannah does admit she’s done ridiculous things to add an investment piece to her wardrobe, though. “I can remember being an assistant and falling in love with a Sonia Rykiel coat that in the sale was still £650. It was way more than my rent that month but I loved it so much. I still wear it today, eight years later and feel pleased at my decision… Even if I did eat only toast for ages afterwards.”