The bright lights, the beautiful people, the glitz and the glamour of New York Fashion Week has seeped into my very being, my very soul after popping my fashion cherry at the Rachel Zoe (pronounced "Zoh," drop the "e." You drop the "e" when you're famous enough. Literally.) and J. Mendel shows. OK, not really. I'd like my fashion cherry back.
So it is with a light heart that I put fingers to keyboard. My first high fashion week experience has come to an end, in what will most likely be my last-attended runway extravaganza.
And what an extravaganza it was! 30 total action-packed minutes of sleek models strutting and turning left (in one case turning right! I hope she wasn't fired, poor dear) broken up by 45 minutes of hovering amongst the beautiful people, and those trying to impress the beautiful people.
For those wondering why I, a senior editor at the Huffington Post, attended if I have no real knowledge or personal interest in fashion: it is part of my job to be as well-rounded as possible, in as many subjects as possible, so when the Huffington Post Style editors offered me a ticket to a couple shows to get my impressions, I could hardly turn them down. I'm also a huge sucker.
Not to poo-poo the fashion industry, or the effort that it takes to put on shows of such famous brands, but to the eyes of a non-fashion type attendee, it's much ado about very little. That can be better seen on the internet. After the fact.
For example, my view of the first part of Rachel Zoe's show:
Hairbun all up in my grill.
On the internet, after the fact:
"Effortless cool," or something.
So who attends these things?
There are seven very distinct types of people in attendance. Fashion designers, celebrities (so I was told, I didn't recognize anyone, especially Elizabeth Moss), models, fashion editors, photographers, PR and a group of people trying entirely too hard to be seen. The event staff don't count, they're non-persons, meant to either make you feel like you belong and hand you your ticket with indifference, or tell you there's standing room only with a sorrowful frown ... and indifference.
If you are not one of these types of people, you'd be very hard-pressed to enjoy yourself at the shows unless easily star-struck, and I doubt that half of those above actually truly enjoy themselves. The fashion designers are stressed, the celebrities have to smile, the models are on the tail ends of month-long diets, the fashion editors get to see things they've seen a million times (I noticed one high profile editor at the J. Mendel show trying very hard not to look bored). The photographers have to bunch up in an orgy of equipment at the end of the runway of every show, the PR people get slapped in the face by French journalists, and those trying to get seen get completely ignored.
If a person's true interest lies in seeing the designs, the clothes, the stars, then there is nothing to be gained by actually attending the show that you couldn't find posted all over the internet within 15 minutes of it ending. Those photographers in the pit are good at their jobs: they get great shots for major publications that are better than most of the room's view of the show aside from the first row.
If you're on the sidelines and not in the first couple rows, the bright lights look great in person, but trying to get a few shots from an iPhone is nearly impossible.
Look! An angel! Wait...it's just the lighting.
But to be in the first row, to be seen in the first row, you must be one of the following: involved in the fashion business, a celebrity, or a big shot. So what's the point for the rest of the huddled masses snapping those poor quality photos?
"I was there! At [insert big designer's name] show! I saw [insert celeb here]." That's the point. There's clout to be found in attending, even if you're not discovered, can't score that interview, or get that perfect sideboob shot. There's clout. You're in The Club. I was there, man! I was there!
But clout only goes so far. You see, I now perfectly understand why our lovely Style editors offered me their tickets. They already have the clout. They're in The Club. They've done it a million times. They're tired. Why not let some random guy attend and see what he thinks. Clever, clever.
But what the HuffPost Style editors probably wouldn't expect from my experience is my newfound respect for models' catwalking abilities. People can poke fun at them all they want for having to walk and look serious as a career, but that walk looks extremely difficult in person. There was one model in the Rachel Zoe show who was leaning back at a perfect 25 degree angle the entire runway up and back. It looked uncomfortable, and must have been even more so on an empty stomach. Kudos to her.
Regardless, model runway fail videos are still hilarious.
What did not impress me was the food selection, or lack thereof. If you go to one of these events, don't go if you're hungry and care about eating. I couldn't find food. Let me be clear, I'm not trying to be antagonistic, I'm well-aware the "starving model" is the best known fashion stereotype. But seriously, where was the food? Between shows I did see two people carrying sandwiches on plates. Two people. I have no idea where they got such deliciousness, but my stomach was jealous.
When I wasn't thinking about food, the conversations that I managed to overhear were befuddling. I overheard one well-dressed man say to an even better-dressed woman, "The influence is more French equestrian countryside than English equestrian countryside obviously."
I want to understand what that means, I really do.
I wanted to know what the fuss is all about under the tents. I wanted a taste of high fashion. I got it, and I'm not convinced. And if you're in the fashion industry and reading this, I still want to understand, still want to give the high fashion runway experience a chance and am open to being convinced these things aren't always so utterly boring.
So go on and hit me with your best shot, even if it is French equestrian countryside-inspired.
Follow Chris C. Anderson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hintman