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Nanette Lepore Headshot

Fashion Week Whirlwind -- Looking Back

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Now that it's over I see the days leading up to the show like a movie reel spinning faster and faster. Insanity. Is it safe to look back??

Five days before the show and it's brutal. Every muscle in my body aches. We drag, the only energy left at work seems to be the whirring of the sewing machines tiny engines. Days blur into night, then into each other: Is it tomorrow?

Four days left and the delinquent shoes finally arrive, detained by high winds. The shoes are gorgeous but our house model can't walk 3 feet in the first pair without the shoes flying off of her feet. Three designers spend an entire day finding a solution. Next style. Oh nooo, the model can't fit her foot into the narrow clog! A decree goes out: No models with wide feet in the clogs.

Three days and the run of show is meant to be finalized and presented to my in-house jury today. The jury only sees bits and pieces as 8 of us run in and out of my cramped office trying desperately to finish the last minute looks. Yelling to the youngest of the design team: "cut this in purple!", "add 2 inches of length to this dress!", "recut these pants in leather and have them ready by 9:00 tomorrow morning!", "quick, get me Ellen!" (my head patternmaker) "the dress is collapsing between her legs!" Jeong, Allyn, Nancy, Irene all run in and out with their dresses and jackets for last minute fixes as Sue, the artistic hand-beader, adds sequins, and ribbons. We must be ready: The models arrive tomorrow for their fittings, 18 in one day, back to back, half an hour apart.

Two days to go. It's 9 pm and I'm home: wine, aching feet, hair a disaster. Only fitted 11 of the 18 models and wondering why I didn't kick off my high heels till 4 in the afternoon. Also wondering if the week in Mustique at the end of March will restore me to the goddess I wish I was. I'm so tired I can barely form a word and I noticed some of the 20 year olds were having trouble speaking today too. Post-verbal??? It's at the point where you laugh till you cry over the most absurd things. The amount of work we cram into a four-week period is just ridiculous. When will I grow up and confront a new season without waiting till the last minute? Instead I clean out my desk, try on clothes, sort through old copies of WWD, anything, everything but facing the beast that is waiting to be tackled.

Last night was my daughter's 11th birthday. Have I really been putting on runway shows since she was 6 months old? That means I have been through this 20 times and it hasn't gotten any easier. For Violet's birthday we ate dinner at Sweetie Pie restaurant in a birdcage that seats 5. Violet and her friends Paloma and Ella (bright and chatty as the opulent magpies that inspired the show) live charmed lives and will charm their way through life. Oh, I hope I live to be 100 to see what these girls do.

Showtime. Despite the insanity, I'm calm, knowing it's too late to turn back.

Covering my tired looks with the biggest sunglasses I can find, I enter the tent, greet the hair and makeup teams, and get in line: I need it bad and with twenty backstage interviews lined up it's essential. Now it's time to form words and make sentences that sound intelligent. What's my inspiration? What's the one must-have piece? Who is my customer? What do I do to relax? Where do I go on vacation? Oh, jeez, did I give the same answers the last time? Is the gig up? When will they get tired of me going blah blah blah. Does my nose look big? I hate when they shoot me from the side. And then I'm asked: Is your job fun? Well. It's stressful, the hours are grueling, and it's hard to put yourself on the line to be judged. But I love it. I feel so lucky to be living my dream. Some days when I look around my design room and realize it's mine I get this rush of excitement. I pinch myself. I still do.

The show is over, the buyers loved it, I was told it looked like a painting. Now we load the collection back onto the truck and head back to the office to scramble to get the entire line ready for the buyers by Friday morning. Sadly, no wild dance party that we've all grown to love - another casualty of the economy. We will work through one more weekend before it is complete, racing to finish the line and think of smart, sexy names for all of my new babies. ;)