My first fashion week consisted of seven days, 22 shows and 11 write-ups. I subsisted off York Peppermint Patties and Atkins bars (both readily available in the tent lobby, neither of which were very appealing after day three), the occasional shrimp and asparagus quesadilla (from Pax Wholesome Foods, much more nutritionally sound and satisfying) and sheer adrenaline (not to mention the espresso shots from the MAC kiosk).
A schizophrenic mixture of excitement and exhaustion propelled me to show after show, where I would scribble drafts of reviews while waiting in line to have my name checked off the list, and then jot notes as I sat before and during the show, observing everything my eyes and mind could absorb from the moment I entered the tent to the moment I departed.
After each day’s last show, I would arrive home and make a beeline to my laptop, where I would find myself momentarily paralyzed by the inability to cover all that I had seen, and then mobilized by determination to write what I could before forcing myself to sleep at 2 a.m.
The most frequent comment I heard from other fashion week attendees during the incessant pre-show waiting periods is that the brevity of the runway shows misrepresents all the activity that precedes them. Shows typically last no longer than 15 minutes, and always start at least half an hour late.
The pre-show process is much more arduous for the designer than his audience: from researching a concept to casting models, designers spend the entire six months between shows preparing for the next one. So despite the short time frame in which the shows take place, the significance of these 15 minutes are paramount for designers: their ambition, creativity and ego are held in the balance.
For the viewer, these 15 minutes can also be extraordinarily powerful, the amalgamation of art, theater and music culminates in something that runway photographs could never capture nor convey. The effect of the show may thus never reach the general public directly, but undoubtedly tempers the attitudes and viewpoints of the press, buyers and stylists in attendance. For me, an avid lover of art, theater, music and, of course, fashion, these shows were the perfect blend of disciplines, creating an experience that echoes far beyond brief spectatorship.
While it may be impossible to whittle down the experience into single moments and experiences, the list below represents the best effort to do so.
Best Overall Show: Heatherette
Best Debut: Sofada
Best Concept: “Eat the Rich,” Jeremy Scott
Best Overall Aesthetic: Temperly London
Best Swag Bag: Sebastian Evokativ Launch
Best Use of Diverse Models: Nanette Lepore
Most Endearing Designer Appearance: Wenlan Chia of Twinkle, who ran a lap around the runway with her dog after her show
Best Front Row Experience: Feeling the ground shake as each model stomped along the runway at Joanna Mastrionni
Best Soundtrack: Michael Kors (“Way We Get By,” Spoon; “Give a Little Bit,” Supertramp; “All You Need is Love,” The Beatles)
Runway Song Featured at Two Shows: Happy House by Siouxsie And The Banshees (at Sofada and Anna Sui)
Favorite Celeb Sighting: Kim Cattrall (who played Samantha on Sex and the City)
Most Humorous Celeb Sighting: Anna Wintour, who waited for the beginning of the Vera Wang show to put on her sunglasses, and, at the end of the show, literally ran down the runway and out the door (flanked by two security guards).
Best Boozing at an Inappropriate Hour: Bombay Sapphire cocktails served before the Venue Designers Showcase on an early Monday afternoon
Most Interesting Backstage Secret: Designers who borrow shoes for their collections have staff duct tape the soles and color the duct tape black with a marker so that after the show, they can peel the tape off and return the shoes to the vendor (where they will subsequently be sold in stores)… you can see black shoe prints from the rubbed-off marker on the beginning of the runway for these shows.
Highpoint of the Week: Casually chatting with Jay McCarroll (who is the exact person who he is on TV) for half an hour after Heatherette.