the complete guide to surviving your first IMATS – Sydney edition 

Stunning makeup by Martin Bray

I kind of had to write this post. I just attended my first ever IMATS in Sydney, Australia and, if I’m being honest here, I was absolutely terrified. I bought the tickets back in, like, June or something and I was a big ball of excitement. It’s gonna be so amazing! I’m gonna do so much shopping! and then the event loomed ever nearer and that excitement turned to oh God, I’m gonna be alone at a huge event I’ve never been to before… Which of course led to a frantic googling of what to expect at your first IMATS. Unfortunately, all the guides I read were for New York, London, Pasadena… Nothing for little old Sydney (feels weird referring to Sydney as little but you get what I mean).

So after having survived my first ever Sydney IMATS, here is my complete guide to making it the best day ever and not an exhausting, overwhelming shopping trip:

What to wear:

  1. FLAT SHOES. This, you will find on almost all IMATS guides. They’re totally right. You will be standing/walking for a lot of the day and it’s just not okay to be that girl walking around in public, barefoot, with a pair of heels in her hand. Not in the club, not in town, not at IMATS.
  2. A lightweight tote bag, like the charity kind you get pushed on you for an extra five dollars at Cotton On. Make it the kind of bag you can chuck over one shoulder or across your body. You definitely do not want to put your bag down, ever, or let it out of your sight. But you’ll get a lot of bags from stalls and it’s not comfortable to have a hundred plastic bags in your hands. So when you buy something, chuck it in your tote bag. 
  3. Something comfortable with short sleeves, so you can swatch on your hands and wrists without smearing makeup on your sleeves. 

    What to pack in your bag:

    1. Makeup wipes and tissues. You’ll be swatching a lot of stuff and you don’t want to get it all over your clothes or other people so tidy yourself up after each stall visit. A lot of the stalls have tissues and wipes but they run out, quick; and some of the stalls get so packed that it’s hard to get close to the counter to grab the wipes. They also ran out of toilet paper while I was there so I felt very glad to have a wad of tissues in my tote bag.
    2. Water and a snack. I’m serious. They sell food in there but it’s very overpriced. You will get hungry and you will not want to leave for food. Just bring a snack. And water is very important, especially if you’re there all day.
    3. A light jacket or jumper. Just in case.
    4. Cash. Lots of cash. I came with both cash and a credit card because some of the overseas IMATS guides I read said not all stalls take cash. This was not the case in Sydney and I ended up paying a $5 ATM fee to get more cash out. Which, in the scheme of things (I spent just over AU$500) isn’t so outrageous. But I had to lose my place in the line to go and do it.

    My top tips:

    1. Get there early with your ticket and ID ready. I got there about half an hour early and was among the first 40ish people there, so I don’t think you necessarily need to line up hours before it opens. Maybe in NY or Toronto where people line up two and a half hours before it opens, but not in Sydney. You don’t want to be much later than that, though.
    2. Know your bus routes and where you’re getting off and DO NOT DEVIATE. Story time: I planned out my route in advance. I knew which train to get, which bus to take, where to get off. It would have got me there 50 minutes before it opened, and since all the overseas guides I read insisted I be there an hour+ early, I was feeling confident. But then another two women going to IMATS were at the bus stop, and they got on a different bus. I asked them if they were sure that was the right bus, and one of the women was a Sydney local so I trusted them and followed. It was not the right bus. By the time I realised, we were a half hours walk from the venue. 
    3. Have an open mind about what you might get. I know a lot of guides will tell you to have a list of stuff you want, know the floor plan of vendors and have a plan of attack about where you’ll go first. The lines at some of the more popular stalls were so long I honestly didn’t bother. So if I’d set out thinking “I’m gonna get some NYX and some MAC!” I would have walked away disappointed. Treat it as an opportunity to try brands you’ve never tried before.
    4. If you are gonna go to MAC or NYX or Morphe or whatever, pick one and go there immediately. Do not wait. The line will get longer and longer and you will be fighting for a chance to get close enough to just swatch something and it’s stressful and not fun. 
    5. Save up and set a budget for individual items. I saved for months to have a huge shopping spree and it made the trip worth it, but I can’t imagine IMATS would be nearly as fun if you only had a hundred dollars to spend. I budgeted most of the money on a good set of brushes, a good chunk of money on lipsticks and lashes, and the rest on whatever looked fun for me to try.
    6.  If you’re spending the week in Sydney, plan your trip so IMATS is at the start of your holiday. I saved up a lot of money but I managed to spend about two thirds within the first few days. We don’t have a Sephora where I’m from and there are a lot of other tempting makeup and clothing shops in Sydney. I went to IMATS on the second to last day of my trip so by that point I had very little of my spending money left, and would definitely rather have spent it at IMATS.
    7. If you can’t bring a friend, it’s really not gonna be that bad. All the guides I read said “bring a friend, you’ll be spending three hours in line!”  which had me despairing that I was going alone. The lines aren’t really as long as in the bigger countries. You’re not going to be spending three hours waiting in line (unless you try to visit the MAC stall when it’s busy but three hours is a bit of a stretch…) so you’re not going to be super bored. Also, if you’re flying solo, you can visit the stalls you want to go to and not waste time at stalls your friend wants to go to.
    8. Catch some of the demonstrations, even if you’re only there for the shopping! It doesn’t matter if it’s something you don’t think you’re really interested in, just pick a stage, sit down, take a rest from shopping, and watch. You’ll learn stuff you never would have learned otherwise. Besides, you might only be interested in doing beauty but all good makeup artists should have a range of skills.

      So there you have it! My complete guide to surviving IMATS Sydney. If you guys have any tips of your own I would love to hear them, so drop me a comment! Also, if you were at Sydney IMATS 2016 I definitely wanna see your haul so tag me on Instagram – @michefrances

      My haul!

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