New York City’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week took place on September 5-12.More than 200 designers showcased their Spring 2008 collections at Bryant Park and around the city. For eight days, everyone who is anyone gathers to see what top designers have in store. While most people are planning what to wear this fall, fashionistas from around the world are deciding what will be hot next spring. And this year, I was one of them. Clutching my coveted press pass, I made my way past the paparazzi and street gawkers and stepped into the tents.
To get past the burley security guards perched outside the tents, you must be an editor, designer, sponsor or famous. But getting inside doesn’t guarantee you entry into the shows. Designers handpick who to invite, as seating is limited and attendance is reserved for the prestigious. Where you sit in the show represents where you fall in fashion hierarchy. The front row is reserved for celebrities, editor-in-chiefs, top editors from around the world and socialites. Everyone under the tents is dressed to impress. Designer shoes and $1,000 handbags line the runways, and everything from cocktail dresses to glittering frocks act as everyday wardrobe.
BCBG was the first show that took my Fashion Week V-Card, but being a newbie in the tents didn’t really faze me. I felt like I belonged there. Somehow I knew how to navigate Fashion Week. It was like a sixth-fashion-sense kicked in the minute I entered Bryant Park.
Every day I packed my bag with the essentials: bottled water, a notebook and pen to take notes during the show, snacks to munch on (because sometimes there were no breaks for food) and one of the most important but never talked about items: a pair of comfortable sandals. I’d be left crippled if I had to run around the city for eight days in four-inch heels. Even the chicest fashion editors could be seen on a side street slipping out of their Havianas and into their Jimmy Choos.
But like anything else, Fashion Week is a game, and if you learn the tricks of the trade you’ll be sitting next to the elite and networking with fashion editors in no time. If you aren’t lucky enough to have an assigned seat, chances are you’re given “standing room,” which allows you to stand behind the last row of seats. Standing room is really just one step ahead of being outside because you can’t see much from there.
Every show has “no shows,” people who either don’t attend or are stuck in a late-running show. Just before the show starts, the empty seats are filled by people from standing room. I scored a second row seat for the Heatherette show and found myself face to face with P. Diddy.
After the first day, it was like I was in a permanent state of intoxication, but not from alcohol. I was obsessed. As one show would end, I would stare, wide-eyed and grinning, craving the next. Each show was completely different; you never knew what was coming. You could literally feel the anticipation building as the first model took the runway.
Sounds like a 24-hour party, right? Well, not exactly. Some people may think Fashion Week is all parties, pretty clothes and free swag. What people don’t see are the 12-hour days, the bruised feet and the crowds of hundreds crammed together like sardines waiting in line to get into shows. So why do people put themselves through it? For the love of fashion. If you love clothes as much as I do, waking up at 8 a.m. to go see Vera Wang is a privilege, not a burden.
Besides being the first to view the new collections, I must admit editors are pampered. I attended “The Daily Suite,” an event held at a suite in the Bryant Park Hotel that offered editors a break from fashion shows with free manicures, massages, makeovers from Jane Iredale Cosmetics, skin consultations, more free goodies and, of course, an open bar.
There was never a shortage of alcohol. I think the publicists figure that a few drinks might help editors forgive some of the hiccups of Fashion Week: waiting for 45 minutes in the 85 degree heat for a show (Cynthia Rowley); the air conditioner breaking in a show (Ruffian); stolen gift bags (Lacoste); seat stealers (every show); waiting in the rain for an hour (Heatherette); and standing in line for a show that’s running two hours late (Marc Jacobs).
But once you take your seat, all is forgiven. You realize that it takes months, sometimes years, of work and dozens of people to put together a fashion show. You then appreciate it for the work of art that it is. Each show is unique and ranges from laidback presentations to over-the-top, show-stopping numbers.
Besides offering a flawless collection and memorable clothes, designers must do something that stands out. For some it’s the venue, others décor and some the extravagant gift bags. At Heatherette, guests were treated to a surprise performance by Lil’ Mama singing “Lip Gloss.” At Pegah Anvarian, models lounged around Hotel QT’s indoor pool in the designer’s new collection as editors sipped champagne and got up close and personal with the outfits. Cynthia Rowley ended her show with the models riding off the runway in 1950s-style bikes. Guests attending the Karen Walker show, held at the Soho Grand, were greeted with a Budweiser beer and Fiji water. Their gift bags included more beer, makeup and a $300 pair of Karen Walker sunglasses.
I can use two words to sum up Fashion Week: inspiring and influential. To see so many talented people in one place is remarkable, and the impact that these seemingly short 15-minute shows have on fashion, trends, the economy and the general public is monumental. And it was truly a pleasure to witness it all.