This time last year, I chucked everything into three suitcases — jumped up and down on them until they shut — and paid a hefty excess baggage charge at the airport. So as I type this, in the midst of packing for Milan and Paris men's fashion week, I'm super nervous about the inevitable editing process that is about to follow. Why? Shouldn't I have learnt my lesson from the last fall/winter season? Well, yes and no.
For starters, it's super cold in Europe right now you guys! I just checked the weather report for Milan and Paris over the next 10 days, and it's highs of 3°C to 5°C degrees in the day (in the day!) and down to -7°C at night. The Weather Channel says to expect 'snow showers'. What the deuce? I live in Singapore where it's always a balmy 33°C every day, how am I going to survive two weeks of near freezing temperatures without a rotating wardrobe of coats and layers upon layers of dope AF sweaters? If I had it my way, I'd just ship my entire closet across. That's the safest bet. But since I only have 64 kgs of check-in luggage available — plus 2 x 12kg hand luggage (thankfully) — I'm going to have to pack efficiently. Ugh. Efficiently.
I know some of you won't believe this, but I've actually learnt some tips and tricks when it comes to packing for fashion week. Okay, some tips, but more tricks. Some to do with actual packing, some about navigating airport check-ins. Whatever. In anycase, let me share them with you and maybe, just maybe, they might come into good use the next time you're stuffing a suitcase for getaway...
First things first, check the weather forecast for your destination. No sh*t Sherlock. IKR. But how many times have you expected it to be sunny — it's summer in New York for crying out loud! — only to be confronted by some freak cold weather system when you get there. Uh huh. Summer my ass.
Do you have friends travelling to fashion week that you can con into bringing things for you? Take them out for coffee and just casually throw in, "Hey, I have this great jacket that you should totally wear for fashion week! It will look amaze on you! We can share it. Of course I have to wear it first, because it's mine and all, but if you take it in your suitcase, you can wear it after me."
If your fashion week friend is hesitant to the idea of sharing looks, just remind them of how generous you are: "You don't have to thank me, I totally don't mind sharing looks with you. I'll bring it over tonight. Great! How fun is this?" And just like that, you've bought yourself an extra two to three kilos for the price of a coffee. Well done.
When it comes to packing your own suitcase, start with shoes. Think: How many formal occassions and events do I have to look schmick for? Then pack your lace-ups / heels / patent leather loafers first. Max two pairs. Preferrably one. It's dark at night people, and unless you're going to multiple award ceremonies and expect to be up on some stage making speeches, no one is going to really notice okay.
Casual shoes next. My general rule for fashion week? Divide the number of show days by three. So, since there are 11 show days for Milan and Paris, I'm going to pack about four pairs of shoes. Ideally this should also include the one formal pair, 'cos you can wear Oxfords in the day too. Obv.
For me, the next thing I consider is hats. How many, what type and where the heck am I going to pack them. I used to carry a hat box. But after forgetting that bloody hat box twice on two separate flights to Europe, I've decided to pack hats in the suitcase — hat within hat, from smallest to largest, and then filled with socks and underwear to help them keep shape. I'm taking four.
Head and toes sorted, let's hit up suiting. At this juncture, it's that delicate balance of packing for yourself, and also packing pieces to support the brands of the shows that you're attending at fashion week. For example: Fendi suit for the Fendi show, Zegna suit for Alessasndro Sartori's debut menswear collection in Milan, and so on and so forth. This season I'm going with two; one has to be grey — super versatile as it goes with everything.
Because it's winter, it's all about coats. I want to bring like 15. Luggage says no. Will probably squeeze in about 7. I can't repeat coats at fashion week guys; at least, not in the same city.
When fashion week migrates from Milan to Paris, find that odd friend / colleague / loose acquaintance that's flying back to Singapore instead of heading to the City of Lights. Some peeps only do Milan and skip Paris. What does this mean? Besides the fact that their missing a goldmine opportunity to shop all the French brands at lower prices compared to Singapore (especially when you include the VAT deduction)? You have a mule to transport things that you've already worn — and don't want to repeat — back home!
How do you convince someone to take stuff back for you? All you need is flattery mixed with a good guilt trip: "Where is that jacket from? Dries Van Noten? I thought so. You have such good taste. Hey, can you do me small favour? I need to buy some stuff for my [insert family member's name / loved one / sob story here] in Paris, and you will be doing a HUGE favour if you could take some stuff back for me. Yes? Awesome, it's just three pairs of boots. Thanks!"
Back to packing: What about trousers and jeans? Depends on your stylistic preferences, but since I'm not the loud pant-wearing type, I'm gonna stash four staple pairs that I can wear again and again: Black skinnies, white jeans, dark selvedge denims and a khaki flat front. If need be, I still have the trousers from the two suits that I've already packed to swing into rotation.
Shirts and tees? Whites and blues, jammed into my new Tumi 19 Degree aluminium cabin luggage to allocate more check-in space for those coats. How many? Number of show days divided by two, so approximately three shirts and three T-shirts.
Oh, and this season, I'm bringing a white turtleneck. Everyone else will be wearing black or grey options, so I'm banking on this to: (a) keep me warm; and (b) provide a refreshingly bright inner layer as a foundation for all my outerwear.
Grey marl cashmere pullover. Check. Crew-neck for the players, V-neck for the uncles that accidentally found themselves in the fashion throng on the way home from work.
When you've finally packed everything and find yourself at the airport, make sure you check your luggage in early. The earlier you're there, the less likely the attendant at the check-in counter is going to be pissed off by the fact that your luggage is overweight. Two reasons: It's just the beginning of his or her shift, thus probably hasn't encountered that many drainer.com passengers yet; and, because it's still early the plane still appears 'light' and they might turn a blind eye to a few extra kilos.
When you walk up to the check-in counter, remember to smile and flirt. Like crazy. Ask them about their day so far, how long they've been working for the airline, mention that you love flying with the airline if you're really on a roll, and generally do anything to turn their eye (and mind) away from the weight monitor.
Make sure you're wearing your favourite scent. Something that will make them think: "This man is discerning and sophisticated. He obviously has good taste. Sure, his luggage is ridiculously over the weight limit, but it's to fit all the pieces of his well-travelled life. It's probably a beautiful present for his family. For his wife? No, for his loving grandmother waiting at home for him. Wow, he's such a great guy."
No signature scent? At the very least, shower before you arrive at check-in.
And whatever you do, don't wear PJs. Even if it's a night flight. Change on the plane if you have to, but that check-in attendant is your luggage gatekeeper. It's all riding on you making a good impression for goodness sake.
This is so obvious that I hesitate to even mention it: You are wearing at least four layers as you check-in right? Every gram makes a difference.
When all else fails, lie: "I'm moving to Milan so please excuse the excess luggage." Or try: "My family needs some extra blankets and coats for winter. Bless them. It's so cold that they're currently all sleeping in the same room for warmth. The same room that my great grandfather built. With his bare hands. During the war."
How not to pack for fashion week
Check back every Monday for another @MusingMutley column from Norman Tan, Editor-in-Chief of Buro 24/7 Singapore. For more columns from @MusingMutley, click here.
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