Fashion Week. A week for fashions! Well, that's how it started anyway. I consulted with a leading academic on the subject (wikipedia), and discovered that New York Fashion Week began during WWII as a way for NYC-based fashion honchos to see new collections when they were unable to travel to Paris due to those pesky Nazis and what not. Nazis, right!? Always getting in the way of fashion.
Anyway, I've been attending Fashion Week in some form or another since I was about 12, but I've always done so as somewhat of an outsider. It started with my mother, then a prominent stylist, who would take me as her plus one to a show whenever possible. I remember being swept up in the pomp, drama and creative spirit of it all. I was really into theater as a kid and whole thing came off as a fabulous performance piece: the runway, the dramatic lighting, the elite in the front row, the wannabe elite in the second row, us, the peasants, standing in the back, the billowing regalia, the hungry models swimming in it and their ability to walk in a straight line despite the sea of flashbulbs blowing up in their faces. It was all was pretty magical in my gay little 12-year-old eyes.
But I also worshipped my mom, loved getting a look into her professional world and back in those days ("back when ol' granddad was a kid!"), Fashion Week was still very much an insider's game. I remember that, for better or worse, my mom knew almost everyone that was at each show. They were other stylists, models, magazine staff, buyers, photographers, editors and the like. While grand and sumptuous, it was also still very much a trade show, a "press week" as wiki describes it. When Paris Hilton showed up to a Luca Luca show one year, everyone scoffed and turned up their noses. "Haha, oh that ridiculous Paris Hilton with her blonde hair! What is she doing here?! My word! Oh, heavens!" said a pompous British fashion editor that I just made up in my head.
As I became a teenager and discovered pot and hip hop, I grew much less interested in Fashion Week (and pretty much everything else) and started to skip my mom and I's biannual trips up to Bryant Park. I didn't really make my grand return ("grand" as in no one cared or noticed or knows I am) until my 20s, when I started to take DJing more seriously and my mother and sister, now running an online magazine together, thought I should get out there and "network." "Network? But I don't' work in fashion!" I remember saying to my cat who really just glared back at me, perplexed (hungry?).
What I didn't know was that the new Fashion Week wasn't just for fashion anymore. The Fashion Week I returned to, now known as #NYFW #FASHION #Werehereandyourenot, had become a very different place than the one that had swept me away as a child. How would I even go about getting invited to fashion shows, I wondered? This really didn't matter, I quickly discovered as the "networking" that I was being encouraged to do was mostly at the new heart of #NYFW: branded parties. Here a branded party, there are branded party, branded parties everywhere!
"Fancy Feast presents DKNY at Pier 53!" "The Revlon Lovley Lips Lounge!" "The Diesel Heineken Hut!' (Again, using my imagination here but you get the idea). These events weren't marketed to the fashion industry insiders looking to catch a cocktail after a long day of looking at new collections, but to everyone (who could get on a list). It was basically a typical Thursday in New York nightlife, the events upon which I make my very living, with fashion brand names attached. Indeed, most of the attendees at the Pizza Hut Presents Marc Jacobs Urban Oasis hadn't even seen a single fashion show. They were hipsters, mostly working in or aspiring to work in creative industries, there for the free hooch and to see and be seen, the "networking," and maybe to catch a fleeting glimpse of Anna Della Russo or better yet, Selena Gomez.
You see, what my made-up British fashion editor and all the rest of those who were in the gilded fashion bubble on the '80s and '90s failed to realize was that Paris Hilton showing up at the Luca Luca show was just the beginning of a massive sea change. Now instead of a industry trade show, this was a bloated week-long combination of the celebrity blitz of the Oscars (except no one wins) and a social media contest orgy for everyone else the likes of which, according to me, the world has never known before (and again, no one wins).
Nowadays, what seemed like the entirety of New York converged on a week-long bout of pretentious deja-vu, #humblebragging on social media about what parties you're at, seeing the same people, awkwardly sussing out your place in the social hierarchy of New York City and posing for and taking the same pictures season in and season out. And oh, the picture taking. People taking pictures of other people and then having their pictures taken by those same people who they had just taking pictures of, while that person turns around to take picture of yet another person and that person takes a ridiculously puckered selfie. Are you getting your picture taken? Who's taking your picture? Do I look pic-able enough today!? Does anyone even know where all these pictures go!?
The problem was that the "fashion" part of Fashion Week seemed, at least in my pedestrian eyes, to be completely lost in the shuffle. "What are we even celebrating, here?!" I'd scream at a swanky party to no one in particular (sometimes, I drink too much at swanky parties).
After a week of this, I would leave #NYFW #fashionz #bestweekever feeling an overwhelming sense of #depression and I knew exactly why: Sure, a party and selfie-ing can be fun once in a while. Who doesn't like putting on a cute outfit, drinking some free vodka, then taking an inverted iPhone camera picture of you drinking free vodka in your cute outfit? Furthermore, being hired to DJ these events is often a great honor: I respect many of these brands individually and I love being invited to do the thing I love for a new audience.
But a week of posing for cell phone camera pictures when I don't have a substantial reason for being there (i.e. being hired to perform) left me despairing at what a waste of time it all was for me. Wouldn't my week have been better spent working on my craft, the things I was passionate about? The feeling inside my stomach at the end of #NYFW was akin to waking up after an empty night of drinking with a group of people I knew I had no business hanging out with in the first place, but had been driven to anyway by loneliness and a strange, lifelong desire to be accepted and fit in.
And much like a wicked hangover, following every #NYFW I'd tell myself, "I'm never doing this again," but had never had the fortitude to follow through. Until this year. This past fashion week (#SS14, as the Gods have ordained it) I hit the "fuck it" button. I DJ'ed the events that I was hired for, the only ones I had a reason to be at, and skipped the rest of it. I went to yoga, I worked on my production, I wrote this article, I walked my dog to the river and drank wine with my friends.
And can I just tell you all: Best #NYFW Ever! I've never been happier.
Look: It's not at all that I'm looking down on fashion as a whole. To the contrary I think fashion, at it's best, is an incredible form of artistic self-expression and I also love getting dressed! I grew up around fashion and designers. It's been an integral part of my life since birth. In fact, I'd love to go to a Fashion Week that was more about showing art to the people who appreciate it then it is about the attention-seekers attending after-parties. I'd love to go a fashion week that celebrated artists who think outside the box, and not those who can secure an appearance by Julianne Hough or the most bloggers taking "street style" pictures outside, thereby rendering all "street style" photos completely meaningless.
Unfortunately, Fashion Week and #NYFW are two very different things. And considering that I don't work in the industry and am not invited to many actual fashion shows, the only part of the week I'd have a real interest in, I'm not sure any amount of "networking" is worth the pretension, empty posing that aforementioned despair. I have enough of that in my chosen industry. So while I may make a slight return to #NYFW next season, don't be surprised if you don't see me at the Canon Present Express Jeans Lemonade TeePee hosted by Kelly Osborne. For me, the whole thing has kinda just gone out of style.