That Time I Crashed Fashion Week

Photo by Thanassi Karageorgiou
Note:This image is not of me crashing a fashion show

Growing up in New York you either directly or indirectly experience some amazing things, the GOP Convention- I’m playing, an episode of  Law + Order being shot, a performance outside of the  MTV Awards and of course Fashion Week. See back in the nineties, it was called Seventh on Sixth, as many designers had showrooms on Seventh Avenue also known as Fashion Avenue and the fashion  shows would take place at Bryant Park which is located on Sixth Avenue, see Seventh on Sixth. Before blogs, social media and the Kardashians, the only way I was able to feed my hunger for the fashion industry was by watching the 11 o’clock news and reading the newspapers. My Grandmother was very good at harboring my interest in fashion. She would take every article she saw in the newspaper and save it for me. She also gifted me with numerous magazine subscriptions including YM and Harper’s Bazaar-truly fostering my career. 

Back at my school, my peers were not so much into fashion as they were into labels. I came of age in the Biggie era and my fellow classmates swore that if it wasn’t Tommy Hilfiger, Polo, DKNY or Nautica it wasn’t fashion. I wasn't huge on labels, correction, my mother wasn't huge on what she thought was hyper advertising for brands not known for appreciating their customers-she was right. 
My wardrobe was less logo more, Gucci on a Gap budget. I attempted to style myself as I saw in magazines, with the minimalist aspects of the 1990s. I wore lots of black and gray and thought I was sleek and chic not goth. 

 In my free time, I relished every show dedicated to style and fashion, including MTV’s House of Style, Elsa Klench on CNN, and the highlight of my Sunday evenings was turning on Vh1- pre ratchet reality shows and watching Canadian based Fashion TV.  My cousin and I would finish our dinner and turn on our huge floor model television  to catch  backstage interviews with Karl Lagerfeld, and sound bites  from Andre Leon Talley and the late Kal Ruttenstein. The half hour show was the highlight of my weekend and I would then follow up everything I learned by perfecting our walk and poses a la Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks in the living room. 

 Watching  every episode of Video Fashion Weekly, or reading every Vogue cover to cover, I dreamed that one day I would attend a fashion show. It was my destiny to  sit front row with the likes of Anna Wintour and Andre Leon Talley   with  all my pre-gentrified Brooklyn coolness, as Cindy, Naomi and Claudia would  sashay past me and I would run backstage and   we would air kiss and I would sip champagne. I know there is a diary in my Mother’s basement that has that same line, bit by bit. I dreamed it, I envisioned it but  I had no hook ups in the industry, I  knew no one and I had no clue on  how to attend a show but, time, place and creativity creates a chance.

I had headshots made, while I was still in high school, I thought I would be a supermodel. Oh yes, all five feet four inches and a mouth full of orthodontics.  I thought I had a shot so I had some images taken- at a dark damp sleazy photographer’s studio- I’ll save that story for another time.  At some point, I had to pick up my headshots and low and behold, I passed by the Bryant Park tents and I see tons of people, town cars  pulling up with editors, models running to the next show and I felt a bolt of electricity. I crowd watched  for almost an hour and I studied everything.  I watched how people flashed their invitations and were let in and they wore head to toe black and looked chic and confident and started to hatch a plan.

That night, I decided  I would try to get into a show and figured the worse they could do was arrest me- yeah, I thought you could be arrested for crashing a fashion show but, I still figured I’d give it a try.  I looked at the calendar of shows that was listed in the newspaper- perfect there was a show, even better it was a Black designer, Byron Lars. I was going to go to the Byron Lars fashion show by claiming I was an editor for Essence magazine.  Why Essence, well, they were the prevailing fashion magazine for Black women and I saw Byron Lars’ clothes mentioned in their fashion layouts plus, I was Black-duh, they wouldn’t suspect a thing.  Next up, the outfit, watching Fashion File  and other shows, gave me insight into what editors wore to fashion shows. It was all  black, it was sleek, well tailored.  I rummage my teenage wardrobe and  throw on my double breasted suede jacket that I’d gotten from Loehmann's, with my hugest Gap paycheck at that time.  On top a   black wool turtleneck from the $10 Dollar Store and a pair of  tapered at the ankle, high waist Gap Classic jeans, paired with some black leather boots from a Chelsea shoe store that is no longer around. My one accessory, an Andrea Jovine  silk scarf borrowed from my mother  and my non-prescription eyeglass frames I’d purchased off of St. Mark’s Street.  My hair was in a bun, slick backed off my face,  like  the editors  at the  Parisian shows. For makeup- a nude lip courtesy of teen beauty brand, Wet n’ Wild.

 Following day, I head  to class  and during lunch I told a few people my plan. Many looked at me nonchalantly; fashion didn’t carry the weight it does now. The most glamorous thing to my peers was well; actually I don’t know what was glamorous to them.  I was focused, even if no one thought it was cool, I was determined.  3p.m, school is out and I hop on the train and head to Midtown to put my plan to work. 42ND Street, Bryant Park, I exit and decide to  first watch from the sidewalk. Like the previous day, I study how some attendees enter with no issue, I see how some are blocked. I make a dash for it.

“Hi, I’m from Essence and I’m here for Byron Lars.”

The security guard lets me in, braces and all. No decline, no issue, no hassle. Either he was a fool or I am a damn good con-artist. I make it inside of the tents, I can’t believe it, and if this was present day I probably would have taken a selfie but instead, I just have a moleskin notebook, my all black outfit and a Coach bag, my Mother didn’t want. I’m waiting for the show to start; I assume that I’m good. I wait, all I see are people crowding around, standing and giving everyone once overs. Where’s the show? I see an older man with a headset and repeat my same line “Hi, I’m from Essence and I’m here for Byron Lars.”

“Check-in, is over there sweetheart.”

Check-in, I thought I had checked in. I head over to the table, there is a line or more a blob of people speaking to three young ladies seated with papers in front of them. I’m scared, how am I going to get past them? I think about slipping in with someone but I’m not that bold. I think about saying “I’m with her or him.” Hell, I look around the tent hoping to see Susan Taylor or Mikki Taylor and plead my story but it doesn’t happen.
My mind’s racing, telling me to stay patient. I walk over to the table, I state my name and  faux affiliation.
They look through the list, once, twice.
 “I’m sorry who are you?”
I say my name again.
“Do you have a card?”
“I just started I’m assisting.”
She rolls her eyes, gives me an index card marked S. The security lets me through I walk up the stairs, I head to two young ladies also in all black who seemed to look like ushers, “S for Byron Lars, I say boldly”

“Standing, is over there if there is an available seat after everyone is seated you can take it.”

I stand in the designated area, I’m nervous, any moment someone is going to walk over and ask me to leave. Every random person who makes eye contact knows I don’t belong. I wait; I fear someone from Essence is going to point me out. I want to run home and walk my dog before my Mom gets home but, I’ve come too far. Someone touches me, I go rigid, oh no, the jig is up.
“Miss, you can sit in any of the last two rows.”

I take my seat, dead center in the second to the last row, some would call it nosebleeds, that day, I had the best seat in the house, I was in my element. From my view, I see Essence editors,  Susan and Mikki Taylor, front row opposite side.  I smirk to myself, an older lady sits next to me, the show starts, and regal models of color head down the runway. I take it all in, I watch the front row across from me, I see how they  don’t cheer or clap like my school’s fashion show, they nod, take notes and act nonchalant. I tell myself that will be me, when I make it, I’ll act just like that.
Ten minutes later, shows over, Byron walks down the runway, wearing his signature bandanna, a Black model on each arm, and the lady next to me says “What publication are you from?”

I say “Oh, I’m still in high school.”
Unknown said...

This blog post reads like an article in Essence magazine, Bravo!

Unknown said...

This blog post reads like an article in Essence magazine, Bravo!

Lo' Diva said...