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Why NYC Fashion Week Is Just Like Your High School Cafeteria

Posted: 02/14/2012 9:13 am

Nostalgic for soggy fries, sloppy joes and riblets?  You're out of luck.  Missing social awkwardness, seating politics and confusing outfits, we got you! Just when Clark and Sarah thought the closest they would come to reliving the "high school experience" was watching an episode of Teen Mom, they found Fashion Week.  After countless shows, parties and events that we didn't understand, but went to anyway, we started to realize that we were stuck in an adolescent time warp.   

It matters where you sit.  Fashion shows have assigned seating.  High school cafeterias basically do as well.  Are you sitting with the cool kids or are you a solo sitter? Are you at the table nearest to the door or are you wedged next to the fry station? A big fashion show win is to get seated in the front row.  You can either allow them to place you there or you can employ Clark's move: go rogue and sit where you want.  If you sit in the front row you can make sure everyone is looking at you while you preen, plus it's easier to take pictures.  The drawback: when you start laughing hysterically because the models have spray painted halos on their heads, everyone can see you.  Sarah actually preferred standing, it felt more rebellious and little like skipping lunch all together to smoke cigarettes in the bathroom.  It also allowed for a quick exit and easy access to the bar.    
  
Everyone is staring at you. Remember how you thought everyone in high school was looking at you, even when you weren't stoned?  It's that paranoia that always seems to accompany adolescence.  Everything you think, do, and say is the center of the universe.   Fashion week is just like that.  Every time you walk into the room half the people in it give you the hairy eyeball.  That dreaded covert eye flick accompanied by a completely neutral facial expression that 16-year-olds all over the world seem to have perfected.  The kind of glance that send chills down your spine and has you wondering if your left shoe is waving a white tepee flag across the floor.   

It's all about the buzz. The cafeteria food line and the runway have more than a little overlap. Remember how it was the first place to hear what "everyone is talking about"? Gossip, buzz and hype are just as prevalent along the runways at fashion week. We can't tell you how many times we heard things like the following. "Is she serious with that outfit?" "I can't believe Lindsay Lohan did that at the AMFAR dinner." Nothing's changed.

It matters who you know.  Remember this scene?  It's lunch period on Friday.  You heard Dougie is having an amazing party at his house while his parents are in Myrtle Beach.  You thought Sue might invite you because you were besties in 7th grade.  You thought wrong.  If you want to go to Dougie's party you better show your credentials or somehow prove to Sue that you are going to up her cool factor.  As if that was even possible, she already shops at Contempo Casual instead of the Limited Too.  Fashion week = Friday lunch period.  There are places you are going to want to go if you want to remain socially "relevant" but unless the cool kids invite you can forget it.   The saving grace, unlike high school there is some rational adult part of yourself that remembers that you really didn't want to go there anyway. 

It's full of social castes.   NYC Fashion week is full of complex, daunting social intricacies that in many ways are just like high school.  Missing the head cheerleader? Look no further than Anna Wintour.  Everyone love/hates her and she's the coolest girl in the room.  You want to sit near her, but you would never actually talk to her because she'd probably make fun of your jeans.  Plus there is no way in hell she is inviting you to her party on Friday night.   What about the varsity football players? Oh don't worry, they are there too.  Except now they all work the door at New York's most exclusive night clubs.  You know the ones where you perform all manner of demeaning acts to enter, only to get in and realize it's the worst place on earth.   Art nerds.  Check.  Now creative directors and designers, they have moved from sticking things in the hall display cases to pinning them on people.  

Sure, the cafeteria factor is just one aspect of fashion week.  There are plenty of hidden gems that come in the form of great outfits, funny PR girls and people who seemed to have accidentally wandered into the wrong event.  Hell, we even saw a few of our fan favorites from Sundance.  This was obviously our least favorite part and while "we joke, we joke" let's get real about something.  Fashion week is interesting and does add some value in respect to art, design and self expression.  The problem with all the unpleasant social politics that get layered over the top is it takes away from what the experience should be about.  No one really wants to go back to high school, unless as Sarah's sister likes to say you "peaked too early."  It was an awkward time when many people were tormented just so a few other people could feel better about themselves.  Forcing people to relive that social trauma shouldn't be linked to what we will all be wearing in six months.  So we hope that next year, smiling, accessibility and substance become the new top trends in fashion.

 

Follow Sarah Hall on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HarleyandCo

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