[Editor's Note: This piece was first published in September 2012, but we thought that it was worth revisiting today, on the eve of yet another New York Fashion Week.]
The official start of New York Fashion Week is a mere 48 hours away, and as always, we’ll be covering the best bags and accessories that come down the runway at Lincoln Center and beyond. (Looking for shoes? Check out the coverage at our sister site, TalkShoes.) Today, though, I’d like to give you a little behind-the-scenes peek at what it’s like to be a rank-and-file fashion person working the shows from the editorial side of the runway.
For famous fashion editors at the very top of the industry, Fashion Week is busy, but just as glamourous as you’d expect. For everyone else, it’s a little bit different, but still about as much fun as you can have atop a pair of five-inch heels. The parties and the swag are as good as you think they are, but actually attending the shows is a bit different (and a bit more absurd) than you might expect. After the jump, I’ll break down what it’s really like to spend a week at Lincoln Center.
1. Everyone hates Fashion’s Night Out. We grin and bear it because we like our jobs and we all have a vague, nagging fear in the backs of our heads that Anna Wintour will find a way to smite us from afar for dissing her event, but oh man, do we hate Fashion’s Night Out. Everyone involved with it hates it, as far as I can tell. Everyone except Beliebers looking to catch a glimpse of their boy-god during a stunt appearance at some random boutique. (As I write this, I expect that I’m being added to some sort of blacklist at Conde Nast.)
I can’t see why any non-fashion person would want to wade into that mess in Soho, where nary a special discount or open taxi can be found. If you want to come into the city and spot celebrities and look at fancy things, wander around the West Village on any sunny afternoon or go to lunch at ABC Kitchen – you’ll have a better time and there is virtually no chance of being punched in the face by a feisty Belieber.
2. At its core, Fashion Week is just a trade show dunked in glitter. It’s not all that different from the Detroit Auto Show or the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas every year. The attendees are skinnier and the shoes are better, but at its core, Fashion Week still serves a trade purpose: to show editors and buyers what’s available for editorial use and retail orders. As a result, it has the same procedural problems that all trade shows have; namely, Fashion Week is a lot of people in one place, all trying to do the same thing at the same time, but none of those people want to work together toward that goal.
Inside Lincoln Center, there are approximately four seats available for the people in the huge press crops that covers the event to plug in their laptops and file a story. This will be my third season covering Fashion Week in person, and I’ve still never been able to figure out how to get on the WiFi, which may be an intellectual failing on my part as much as anything. A lot of people end up sitting on the floor while waiting between two shows, and just when you think you’ve found a quiet spot to sit, other people notice you’re there and bite your idea. Yes, come sit near me. Talk loudly about your self-righteous fury over being given a standing-room-only seat assignment. How could they disrespect your Tumblr like that?
The upside, of course, is that you can have all the free Diet Pepsi you can drink. So there’s that!
3. It’s not all black cars and private drivers. You know how I get to Fashion Week? On the M79 Crosstown bus, just like an elderly lady going to the Met (and often, with a lot of elderly ladies going to the Met). Then I transfer to the South Ferry-bound 1 train and get off at Lincoln Center. Have I rolled up to Lincoln Center in a Mercedes with a driver? A couple of times. Sometimes I take a cab if my mental state is feeling particularly fragile or if my feet really, truly hurt. (All those people who say their heels are comfortable are lying liars, and you can spot most of them stepping out of their Louboutins to take a break at Lincoln Center when they think no one is looking.) Generally, though, for me and for most people I know in the industry, it’s the good ol’ MTA.
4. It’s also not all dinners at ABC Kitchen and drinks at The Standard. No one who covers shows on deadline ever schedules in lunch or dinner for themselves, and there’s no official schedule break for any meal. Even if there were, NYFW has a ton of off-schedule shows, including many of the biggest shows of the week. Last season, I found myself in need of a trip back to my apartment to charge my phone with around an hour and a half to get home, eat dinner and get to the next event, and if you’re familiar with traveling around the city at rush hour, you know that’s not enough time to make all of that happen. I ordered a delivery cheeseburger in the cab on the way home, it showed up a few minutes after I got back to my apartment and I whipped off my shirt to eat so that I wouldn’t get food stains on my clothes from a greasy burger. There I sat, topless, eating out of a styrofoam container. Fashion is so glamourous, you guys. (It was a damn good burger, though. Not mad it.)
5. FiberOne is an official sponsor. In and of itself, that’s not a problem. FiberOne makes a good product, one that I regularly consume myself. I have a box of FiberOne chewy bars on my desk right now as I type this. The problem happens when you give the chewy bars out to unsuspecting, stressed, hungry people who have not gone through the appropriate isolation period when they start eating FiberOne. The granola bars cause some, uh, gastrointestinal side effects for the first few days, particularly on an empty stomach. (And everyone’s stomach is empty at Fashion Week because none of these people have eaten a carb in at least six weeks in anticipation, but we’ll talk about that in a second.) There’s no delicate way to say this: At any given time, dozens of perfectly coiffed fashion girls at Lincoln Center are trying to stifle a fart.
6. By Day 5, you’re not wearing outfits anymore, you’re just wearing clothes. Every season, New York Fashion Week starts on a Thursday and runs through the weekend to the next Wednesday. Not only does that mean that most people work 12 days in a row (sometimes more, on the designer side) to pull this whole thing off, but it means that you have to dress yourself for work for two weeks straight with no breaks for dry cleaning or laundry day, and for seven of those days, you should be impeccable.
You know who has enough clothes to do that? NO ONE. Most rank-and-file fashion industry people only have like three outfits that they want their peers to judge. Stretching three outfits into seven to 12 days where you see the same people all the time is a tricky math problem, and none of us became fashion writers because we’re good at math. Personally, I make it until circa Day Five of Fashion Week before I’m all, “FORGET IT SOMEONE HAND ME A PAIR OF LEGGINGS AND YES I’M GOING TO LEAVE THE HOUSE WITH MY HAIR LOOKING LIKE THIS WE’RE GOING TO PRETEND IT’S HOBO CHIC BECAUSE I FEEL SORT OF LIKE A FASHION HOBO RIGHT NOW OK?” Which brings us to my next point…
7. You spend a lot of time worrying whether or not you look okay, but in reality, no one’s looking at you. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen someone tweet about their Fashion Week diet over the past six weeks, I’d have at least enough money to buy myself a Double Quarter Pounder with cheese. And it would be totally okay if I bought that and consumed the entire thing, because no one is going to be looking at me during Fashion Week, beyond the people who already know what I look like. I’m not Taylor Tomasi Hill. I could grow a second head and walk around arguing with it all day and everyone I know would be too concerned with whether or not they picked the right statement necklace that morning to notice.
Like people in most creative industries, fashion people tend to have simultaneous (probably related) issues with self-importance and insecurity. From the outside, the idea that an already slender, beautiful girl losing three pounds will make a difference at Fashion Week is maddeningly illogical. From the inside, it’s basically the Big, Giant Carnival of Illogic and Do I Look Fat In This? in here anyway, so you might as well throw that three pounds on the heap with the rest of the crazy. (See also: juice cleanses, mixing prints, standing in long lines to buy still-expensive things at sample sales. All of which I’ve done.)
8. Getting from the street into Lincoln Center is like running an obstacle course. The first problem you have to get past is the line of interns trying to stuff copies of Women’s Wear Daily and Daily Front Row and innumerable other pieces of paper into your hands. Then you have to sidestep all of the people hanging around near the fountain, trying to pitch themselves in front of a street style photographer who just wants to take his picture of Miroslava Duma and go home. The street style wannabes are not hard to dodge, though, because they’re all wearing Jeffrey Campbell shoes that they can’t walk in and therefore moving a bit slowly. As long as you don’t trip on one who’s toppled over, you’re fine.
If you linger in any one place too long, especially if you have a media credential visible on your person, someone awkward will ask you to get them in, presumably for all the free FiberOne bars and Diet Pepsi that can be had inside, because entrance to the facility doesn’t gain you entrance to any of the shows. Once you disappoint those people, you finally show your invitation or press badge to the people at the door while a bunch of police offers talk amongst themselves and glare at you from a few feet away. You’re in.
9. Inside, it’s about the same. The first thing you’re greeted with inside? Another battalion of interns whose marching orders instruct them that everyone entering the facility should do so with a periodical in their hands. It’s a bit like a game of Red Rover, but if you run at them fast enough, you can break through. You’ve already been warned about the FiberOne bars, so you grab a Diet Pepsi, wait in line to get your seating pass printed and then find the quietest spot available to sit down and check Twitter. All seems good. Or is it?
That seat pass you printed is on a little slip of receipt paper, the kind that’s prone to slipping out of your bag when you remove your phone and falling to the ground silently, without notice. Or the kind that you lay down next to you at a crowded press table and immediately forget that you ever possessed it. If either of those scenarios occur, someone who wasn’t invited (and somehow managed to slip past the crackerjack security. Shocking, I know.) will scoop it up and try to run off and use it to steal your seat. I know this because it’s happened to me more than once (which probably means I need to be more organized as much as anything else). I don’t know if those folks expected me not to tell them to GTFO or what, but if they didn’t, they were wrong.
10. The NYPD thinks that Omarion requires a police escort to Lincoln Center. On 9/11. If one story I have from my short time attending Fashion Week illustrates the stark absurdity of the entire thing, it’s this one. Two seasons ago, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I found myself sitting outside of Lincoln Center on a particularly cool September day to waste some time between shows in the nice weather. Because of the particularly notable anniversary, the police presence at the city’s landmarks and events was significantly heightened, and there were extra NYPD officers at the entrance to Fashion Week. All that sounded perfectly reasonable to me, despite the seemingly unlikely idea that terrorists would care about fashion week.
What I saw while I was outside, though, defied logic. First, a set of police motorcycles and cruisers turned down Columbus Avenue the wrong way, stopping all traffic that might try to cross in front of Lincoln Center. Behind them were several black Escalades, flanked by at least half a dozen police SUVs. Media and photographers started to notice the activity, which took at least a solid ten minutes to get situated on the street before anyone emerged from any of the cars, and by the time, the sidewalks were crowded with people waiting to see who was going to emerge. With that large of a police presence, especially on a day when the city’s police resources were significantly stretched because of fears of terrorism, it just had to be someone incredibly famous, right? Maybe Angelina Jolie or some other actress of her stature? Beyonce?
Then I remembered that there’s a separate entrance at the back of the tents for celebrities who usually create a disturbance by arriving at an event, so it had to be someone who desperately wanted the attention. When the Escalades’ doors finally opened, the man of the hour was…Omarion. Omarion! Whenever I try to conjure up Omarion’s face in my head, all I get is Nick Cannon, but Omarion’s presence at whatever show he was attending was so important that he required the attention of at least a dozen police officials and the temporary closure of an enormous avenue in the middle of the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Fashion Week is bizarro world, and we’re all just living in it.