The scenario is an all-too-common one during London’s fashion week. Front-row-only goodie bags are stuffed with hair products and fragrances, spa and spray-tan vouchers, posh notebooks, gourmet popcorn and designer water. A harried front-row guest arrives late, lights go down, show unfolds, lights go back up again. Oh, look, there’s a goodie bag under my seat. And surprise! It’s been picked clean—of everything but the press release. So who are those dastardly types who dare to nick their neighbors’ loot, the fashion show guests who could put Fagin and the Artful Dodger to shame.
“Generally, it’s the people who arrive early—the standers, the fourth-row girls, the people who come with the sponsors,” says one veteran p.r. executive. “And it’s not that difficult to take a bag if you’re passing by the front row. Also, it’s easy for the second row to reach under the benches and pick and choose what they please when it’s dark.”
A fellow publicist adds: “Sometimes these people just plunk themselves in the front row and you know they don’t belong there because they don’t make eye contact with you. Among the worst offenders are the freelance stylists’ assistants and the bloggers.”
Front row theft is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, one out-of-town p.r. person working in London said the thieves are something of an institution. “There’s always the pique-assiette people who take other people’s gifts,” he says, using the French phrase for “gatecrasher.”
One industry source says that any time Diptyque fragrances are included in a front-row goodie bag, all the candles are stolen, usually before the show has even started.
As a result, the goodie bag debate is often a lively one among p.r. firms, designers and show sponsors.
“Quite a lot of the brands we have worked with want everyone at the show to have a goodie bag, but they’re often bulky and we think it looks quite cheap,” notes another publicist.
Others actively discourage them or have done away with them altogether. “We have pretty much categorically passed on having goodie bags at the shows we organize, as it always gets so messy,” offers one London agent. “[Show] sponsors are offered the opportunity to courier their gifts pre- or post-show to the front-row editors, so that the product is given more directly,” says another p.r. executive.
No one appears to be bothered by this particular phenomenon, however, and some even sympathize with those who nick. “Maybe they’re only going to one or two shows all season, and most likely they’re really excited about a free gift,” one publicist adds. “And after all, how many bottles of hair serum do the front-row guests really need?”