How Street Style Photographer Christina Fragkou Gets It Done

Image: Samantha Hahn

For this fashion week special of How I Get It Done, we ask successful women how they are shaping their careers and lives during this busy time of year.

Christina Fragkou has been documenting Fashion Week for over eight years. As a freelance street style and fashion photographer, it’s by far her busiest season as she travels from city to city capturing content for the biggest fashion brands and magazines around the world (including cut!).

An experienced photographer, she has worked for brands such as Dior, Rick Owens, JW Anderson, Balenciaga, Acne Studios, Chanel, Schiaparelli, Loewe, Gabriela Hearst and Prada. When not working for shows, she’s catching street style for publications like The Cut, Fashion, DAZED, Hypebeast and more. She captured iconic moments like Karl Lagerfeld’s last show for Chanel, the late Queen of England Arriving for London Fashion Week February 2018, and Virgil Abloh, Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber backstage at Off White in 2017.

Born in Greece and raised in South Africa, Fragkou (who uses she/she pronouns) graduated from college in 2012. Although initially unsure what type of photography she wanted to focus on, she decided to apply to Condé Nast College for fashion and design in London. First an internship at TANK magazine, where she shot a mixture of documentary and fashion together, and it clicked: that’s what she liked best. She filmed her first fashion week in London in 2015 and this season was her first New York Fashion Week since the pandemic. This is how she manages it.

On an average day during Fashion Week:
I go to bed around 2:30 am and get up around 7:30 am. The more tired I get, the more I have to force myself to get up a little earlier because it just takes so much longer in the morning. I can’t just get up and get out. I’m a morning shower and always have a decaffeinated coffee on the go: Oatmilk Flat White, even when I’m running late. I carry a bunch of shit around with me during the day. I have my camera, my phone and my laptop with me. I have two lenses because I shoot backstage and street style. I’ll be on the street shooting street style until sunset. On average I probably shoot two or three shows a day backstage and then four to five different street style shows. I try to say no to late night shows unless it’s for a client I’ve worked with for a long time and it’s a show I’m going to enjoy, or it’s a big buck. While I usually walk from show to show or take public transportation, I do take an Uber home late at night. I definitely don’t get on the subway or subway, not for safety reasons just because I’m tired. And then I want to sit on my phone for 20 minutes and feel like a human before editing for the night.

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How to find work:
When I started I sent so many emails. I still email quite a bit, but it’s the classic story you hear about a snowball effect. I got a small job from a girl who saw me on a post I went to college with who worked at a small magazine. I tried to get to Refinery29 but they didn’t write back and the next season they reached out to me. A lot also has to do with image editing programs. It’s their job to find photographers and I’m fortunate that I’ve been doing this long enough now and have worked with such a wide variety of publications that I’m on their radar when people are looking for photographers, especially around the fashion week.

What drives her:
I dance my heart out When my headphones aren’t in and the music isn’t pumping, I sleep, cry, or yell at people. I always start with a bit of Florence + the Machine. There’s always “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield. Then there’s a lot of ’90s R&B and a lot of ’70s dad jewels and ’80s pop. Oh, and a little bit of Justin Bieber. I have to keep the mood going and it really carries me through because my body is moving. I find if I keep moving I can stay up.

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About the community of photographers she works with:
We have a small family that travels together. It’s a wild thing to see your friend on the street and say, “Hey, see you tomorrow,” and you know it’s going to be in a different country. I calculated: I spend more days a year with them than with my family. We know each other’s personalities. You can see when someone has a day off. We have different places where we stand and shoot and there’s a connection there, which is nice. We’re just moving completely. We often share apartments or at least stay in the same areas.

How much she spends:
My expenses skyrocket during fashion week, but I do it on purpose. I navigate this space in a way that I know is most beneficial to me. During fashion week, I give myself a decent amount of money so I know I can grab what I want, when I want it, and I’m not stressed about having to spend it. In recent years it has become increasingly important to make sure that I sleep in a place that is comfortable for me. That comes as you work longer and start working more consistently and you get better at what you do and you get better at the comprehension rate. I can handle it, but it’s expensive as hell. I was shocked when I looked at the prices in New York this time. I usually keep a budget for my spend per fashion week and I just refer to it to calculate how much I should be spending and this year it was twice as much money. I almost had to email and say, “I don’t think I can do it.” And then I found a friend from South Africa who goes there and I rent a second room from him.

About eating out:
On the first day in a new place, I go to the store and get chocolate and lots of chips. I fool myself by buying some healthy snacks that I’ll probably snack on, but won’t eat. But I usually eat out. I often take my laptop with me to dinner, which I really enjoy. We also go out for dinner with a group most nights and we have consistent places to eat out.

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For packing:
I mostly look for outfits out of a suitcase, so I pack for a couple of months and go around with the same two bags. It’s not minimal at all, but there is a checklist. I need smart pants, very loose fitting track pants, white pants because I like white, and cargo pants. I always pack shorts. Shoes are a pair of sandals, boots, running shoes and hiking shoes. There are many small tops and vests. I piously wear LA based brand Online Ceramics and they do a lot of printed tops. On the day it depends on how comfortable I can be to work in these clothes. I switch between Do I want to look beautiful and somehow slim today? Do I want to look edgy and cool today? Or do I want to look like a boy today?

Looking at the less glamorous side of things:
It’s so easy to see the experience in one direction. While it’s so exciting to have access to a brand like YSL, it can also be like, “The show was supposed to start at nine and now it doesn’t start until ten and I’ve been sitting on this podium for two hours. It’s zero degrees and I can not breath. I don’t know if I’m still that excited.” But it’s a balance and it’s all a paradox. And it’s best if you rely on that yin and yang and be able to hold the excitement and know that the excitement doesn’t lessen the frustration that can come with work. You must remember that the excitement does not compensate for the exhaustion.

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