Fashion Week is a social anthropologist's wet dream: as I wander through its offerings, I'm more fascinated by the people than the clothing. And upon further examination, the crowd seems to neatly break itself into five general categories:
1. Celebrities. Everyone wants them at their show. The level of celebrity (A-list, B-list, Reality Show, and so on...) that a designer can place in their front row speaks volumes about brand perception.
2. Socialites. Also a coveted front row staple that complements the celebrity presence. The difference between this and the Celeb category is definitely fluid, but Socials generally purchase more clothes from the designers while Celebs often just borrow.
3. Buyers. These are the behind-the-scenes power players of Fashion Week who decide what we'll see in the stores in six months. They sit anywhere from front row to the peanut gallery depending upon the size of their purchasing power.
4. Commentators. TV, web and print journalists are here to record the scene for posterity. Again, seating is determined by level of influence, though very few journalists sit in the front row of major shows (want to guess where I sit? Here's a hint: high-powered binoculars would help...).
5. Enthusiasts. These guests are not directly related to the proceedings, but are a colorful component nevertheless. They are fashion fans- some are invited by the show's commercial sponsor while others are lucky students who wrangled a ticket through creative means. This category either gets seats in the back or standing room.
Although there are distinct hierarchies, like any good ecosystem, it's all about synergy. Fashion Week attendees love to see and be seen. So the Celebs and the Socials sit in the spotlight and look at each other or pretend to not look at each other and instead play with their Blackberries. The Commentators watch the Celebrities and the Socialites looking at each other- then write about it. The Enthusiasts watch the Celebs, Socials, and Commentators writing about the Celebs and Socials- then talk about it.
That leaves the Buyers. They are the only ones really scrutinizing the clothes on the runway. It was easy to tell the Buyers by my second show. All I had to do was look down. They are the only ones who wear sensible shoes.
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