An Insider Guide to London Fashion Week with Fashion Illustrator Jessica Bird

Mon, 9 September 2019

Fashion illustrator Jessica Bird shares her insider intel on the “it” places to dine, drink and dance during LFW.

While stopping for a seated meal in between shows is more of a luxury than a likelihood for most fashion editors, the city has some great grab-and-go dining options worth a look-see. Mealtimes sorted, we’re diverting our attention back to the clothes and plotting the best locale for our post-show debrief: a) a dimly lit drinking den, b) the back of the car en route to your next appointment, or c) in bed.

Here, fêted fashion illustrator Jessica Bird – her colourful chalk pastel and charcoal drawings have captured backstage activity and key runway season after season for the likes of SHOWStudio and MATCHESFASHION.COM – shares her go-to spots while in town.

Backstage with Jessica Bird…

What shows on the LFW schedule are you most looking forward to?

I always look forward to Molly Goddard, Rejina Pyo and Roksanda – they all use colour in such an exciting way.

How did get into fashion illustration?

Accidentally. I’ve always drawn but I went to art school assuming I would perhaps do fine art and ended up studying fashion design. I didn’t have any awareness of the fashion world at all before then. Like most of my fellow students I left thinking I would be a designer and I worked very hard heading down that path for a few years. I pushed myself to go to a life drawing class once a week if I could get away from work; it was a welcome relief from the intensity of the industry and allowed me to keep up my drawing skills. It was a natural progression from the nude figure to the clothed because of my love of colour, fabric and characters. It’s been a very gradual but very exciting journey since I quit that job to now being able to call myself (still rather sheepishly) a full time illustrator/ artist.

Any models in particular you get excited about sketching?

Not any particular names as such but I am drawn to unusual faces, exaggerated features, strong eyebrows and big ears.

What shows are we likely to see you backstage at this season?

It’s too early to say for certain, they like to keep you on tenterhooks until the last minute. All part of the fun!

An Insider Guide to London Fashion Week

The hottest spots to dine during London Fashion Week

1. The Counter at The Delaunay – This traditional Viennese café is close to the British Fashion Council show space at the Strand, so perfect for a reasonably priced relaxed lunch or a coffee. Later in the evening you can head to the main restaurant for something a little more formal.

2. Jolene – Heading back to East London after a long day at the shows, I’ll opt to go to this Newington Green gem for a late-night bite from its daily changing menu. It serves the best olives I’ve ever had, and has an amazing wine list too.

3. Senate Room at the Royal Academy of Arts – Overlooking Burlington Gardens and serving a selection of Italian inspired small plates/charcuterie, this is one of my favourite central London quiet spots to gather my thoughts and sort through my sketches in between shows.

4. Fernandez & Wells at Somerset House – Serving simple food and drink, this place is perfect for a quick lunchtime bite in a beautiful courtyard setting.

The best bars for drinking and dancing

1. My Place Soho – This is a favourite discovery among my friends and I. By day a café, it turns into a cute bar in the evenings, serving great cocktails with super friendly bar staff. It’s right in the heart of Soho on Berwick Street.

2. The Seven Stars – I love a pub. A very old (1602), no-frills pub behind the Royal Courts of Justice, The Seven Stars has really great food and a cat that wears a ruff around its neck – enough said, surely.

3. Trisha’s – A tiny tavern hidden under Greek Street, this is a go-to spot for late night drinks.

4. Lobby Bar at The London EDITION – This spot has a glamorous air to it – and a great mixologist behind the bar. Each night during Fashion Week, from 6pm until 8pm, I will be taking up residence in the Lobby Bar and creating individual 15-minute fashion portraits of the hotel’s guests and public alike, free of charge. 

Where to take a power nap

1. The Connaught – I spent a night here recently as a bit of a staycation. The spa/swimming pool is a total tranquil haven under busy Mount Street.

2. The London Edition – This is where the fashion crowd bed down while in the city; editors, influencers and buyers all under one roof.

3. The Hoxton, Southwark – The newest branch of the Hoxton Hotel – the interiors are reason enough to visit. I haven’t stayed yet but I do have a number of framed fashion illustrations hanging in their beautiful feature stairwell.

Where to shop your next show look

1. King & Tuckfield – Founder Stacey Wood creates perfectly simple, yet elegant pieces that are sustainably sourced and responsibly manufactured. The silhouettes are beautiful and the overall look is so effortless. Check out its online “hand-me-down” section where you can give pieces a second life for a reduced price.

2. Depop – In an effort to reduce my environmental impact I’m aiming to shop less from the high street. I have found SO many amazing things second hand on this app. I recently bought a new season Roksanda dress for under £50!

3. LF Markey – Another slow-fashion favourite, LF Markey makeS the most wonderfully bold coloured workwear pieces. Its boiler suits are perfect for me for LFW – totally practical and they look great.

The best places to recharge your batteries post/ during LFW

1. A life drawing class – There are plenty all over London. Try the website Meetup to find places near you.

2. Visit an exhibition for some inspiration – I recently saw Finnish artist Helene Schjerfbeck’s exhibition at the Royal Academy – it’s incredible, possibly the best I’ve ever seen. Her work was so ahead of its time, totally modern and you can really see a fashion influence in her portraits.

3. The South of France – That’s my plan anyway!

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