The PFW infiltrator

A City suit is determined to photobomb his way into fashion’s front line, but who is really getting the exposure?


"The board has agreed you should attend Paris Fashion Week to explore business opportunities with luxury brands. Simon Hedge, CFO.”

John St John reread the email in amazement and looked at his trusted secretary with her Smythson planner.

“Confirm those Eurostar seats,” he said with a wink, as he shut his MacBook and reached for the slimline Berluti briefcase that had cost half a month’s salary.

“And the Q4 presentation?” she asked.

“Get a researcher onto it.”


“No buts.”

As Susan teetered off in a huff, John checked his iPhone – still only a few likes on his last post about Rick Owens and the Human Backpack. How does Zebedee do it? Twenty thousand likes for every post.

John St John had read the business pages and the fashion rags – these digital-generation kids were living the dream, earning six-figure sums while jetting between the fashion capitals and partying with a glam gaggle of Alexas and Gigis. He wanted in. And attending PFW was the opportunity he’d engineered, like the finest Japanese denim, to make it happen. It was all about boosting his digital profile. Which reminded him… he needed to get back to Vicious magazine to see if they’d still take that article – “JSJ @ PFW: Private-equity associate infiltrates the FROW”. Just the sort of thing they loved.

The response came quickly. Yes, but they wouldn’t pay for it. Still, great for his profile. Greenbacks and glamour would come later. John’s phone pinged with another email: “CEO says to remind you that black turtlenecks and trainers are not considered work attire at Harley & Associates, Simon.

John looked down at his Valentino tennis shoes and decided the sooner he was padding along Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré the better. And four hours later that’s exactly where he was, having left the office with all the panache of Marc Jacobs leaving Vuitton in ’13.


That night at Hôtel Costes, as fashion’s finest swirled around him to the beat of tepid house music, John thought of all the shows he had invites to: Ackermann, Balmain, Chloé. Oh how his Instagram account would explode. He took a photo of his champagne glass on a Hôtel Costes coaster and posted it on his iPhone.

He was halfway to becoming a digital sensation. The first like soon rolled in – his mother’s – then another, much more significant one: Zebedee, “worldwide creative brand director, digital innovator and influencer” ne plus ultra. John’s euphoria, however, was short-lived. He attended show after show, but was making no decent contacts, had not been invited to any parties and his number of followers on Instagram had hardly budged.

On the way to his last hurrah he tried to feel more positive. But having loitered around theGrand Palais, hoping to feature on a street-style blog, he soon found himself in a familiar situation – seated near the back being resolutely ignored by his neighbours as they took photos of themselves and sipped free coconut water.

On the way out, while awkwardly trying to orchestrate a selfie with Karl Lagerfeld in the background, John bumped into Zebedee. Mind in overdrive, he imagined hanging out with him and photobombing his social-media snaps – though on balance, Zebedee didn’t look very impressive for BoF’s Fashion Influencer of the Year and acted very sheepish when John suggested a bite to eat.

They sat down in the very now Le Perchoir. Zebedee said nothing, his face illuminated regularly in the phone light as the Instagram likes rolled in. John remained in the dark, his phone silent.

“I looked for you at Hôtel Costes,” said John. “You posted that pic of a glass of champagne, but I couldn’t find…”

“I’m sorry!” blurted out Zebedee. “I reposted your photo with a different crop. I was actually on the coach outside Lille.”

“The coach?”

“Yeah. I’m sleeping on a mate’s sofa.”

John felt the very fabric of the fashion world ripping around him. Like a paparazzi snap of Kate Moss exiting a low car in a short skirt and no knickers, the illusion was shattered, the glamour gone.

“But you’re the greatest influencer of our generation,” murmured John.


“Some marketing guys came up with it. I use it to wangle party invites and freebies. Are you paying? ’Cos I’m broke and haven’t eaten since the canapés at last night’s Chloé afterparty.”

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