I’m afraid I’ll make a huge blunder. I don’t know the rules. I’m on the outside. Geez, what if I have to eat lunch alone in the cafeteria? Or worse, what if I find myself walking the halls naked?
For the past couple of years I’ve watched a few of the New York Fashion Week shows, outside of the shows. Like a tourist gawking at a new world, I gaped and sometimes took photos with my I-Phone for fun. This year is my first official fashion week—documenting the outfits, the personalities, the scene. It’s really only official in my eyes—nobody has sanctioned my coverage with a pass, or an invitation. My it accessory is my camera, with a lens that sticks out and draws attention. It says professional even though I feel like a fraud. I have covertly stepped into this clique of creatives, innovators, jet-setters, and some might say a few clowns.
Earlier in the day I had to make the most important decision of the day—what to wear! My choice would set the tone. Would I be bold and wear my role as blogger? Or should I look non-chalant, and casual as the chronicler? Stuck in-between.
I should talk here for a minute about one of the many controversies and dilemmas, which has surrounded fashion week the past few years (whether it’s New York, London, Milan or Paris). Social media and bloggers have changed the game in extraordinary ways, leaving the collective house of fashion running in heels to try to keep up. One of the ongoing commentaries is whether show goers, and the gathering of fashionistas and photographers outside the venues have co-opted true, organic style in favor of media attention. During fashion week there are as many motives for daily outfit selection, as there are shows in the jam-packed schedule. There are industry insiders who are there working in a traditional capacity, and shun the attention of the camera lens as they enter and exit the shows. It’s been written that now some even dress down, wearing basic looks to avoid the interest of the lens. Others see the shows as Halloween for the fashion set. Reverence is paid; there is pure joy in letting their fashion freak flag fly. Best fashion foot forward, they push the creative envelope a bit or a lot. And finally, there are the calculated, media hustlers who dress large, flashy, outrageously to get noticed. Some play this with earnest shtick. Others are posers playing a part–nobody wants to be tagged as that girl. Some of the OG resent this last group for debasing fashion week and creating an unwieldy circus.
Back to what to wear, because our look says something about us. By now I have returned to that intuitive, natural connection, knowing that what I’ll wear is what makes me feel good—feel like me–with a twist of something unique that doesn’t draw too much attention. My outfit has to be work-friendly, and authentic. The role then becomes secondary, and maybe I’ll be able to float between two worlds. Here’s what I wore.
Waist corsets are hot right now. I used a mini skirt as an ode to that definition, and as an edit to layering skirts over dresses.
When one is not yet an official part of the fashion week machine, ones main tool to find out where shows are is the NYFW schedule that is put out for the general public. I remember the first time that I showed up at a given location, and was so surprised that unfettered access was granted to everyone right outside the show. There is no cordoned or blocked off area to keep you from getting close to the action. I decide today to go to Adam Selman for my first show, thinking I’ll see on show goers what I want to photograph—wearable fashion with an edge. While shows like Jeremy Scott’s Moschino feature that wonderful circus of costumes and madcap personalities, I’m going for the less theatric here. I’m also hoping I might spot some of my favorite women of fashion, like Leandra Medine, founder of Man Repeller, or Garance Dore.
I’m looking for something different–the style, first, of older women who keep it fresh and chic.
Arriving at Adam Selman I survey the scene. I begin taking pictures slowly, on the outskirts of various groups of photographers–smudging the line between professional and onlooker. They have congregated at the end of the block, the first ones to snap show goers’ style on the street. Groups of photographers continue along the way, getting shots as subjects make their walk to the show entrance. I try different vantage points, more aware of not stepping on any toes (literally and figuratively) and staying out of people’s shot (somehow I knew this) than getting the right women. If I see the photographers scurrying to get a shot, I aim my attention that way too. The actual runway show is sandwiched between crowds coming and going, which lasts an hour, or so. I don’t realize until nearly the end that I’ve only reacted, following what everybody else is shooting. As I ponder who everyone clamors to photograph, I see that for many it’s prioritized first by distinction, then by trending style, followed by flash, outrageous looks, and lastly, everyday fashion. And while often the names bring the style too, (since that’s in part why they’re known) I’m looking for something different–the style, first, of older women who keep it fresh and chic. It probably comes as no surprise that there’s a minimal pool of older women to photograph at the shows. My inexperience at Adam Selman showcased even fewer photos of them. I’ll do better at the next show, Cushnie Et Ochs, and not follow the crowd.
I entered this scene unsure if, without any credentials, I’d be asked to leave. I was expecting another photographer to bust me, question me or at the very least act snarky to me. My experience was the opposite–in fact one guy gave me a photography tip. And most of the people getting photographed obliged, enthusiastically followed direction, and had fun with it. From my vantage, this is a community with respect for one another’s work, fueled by each other’s creativity, and guts. In fact it spurred me on to approach two amazing women whom I admire, and ask to photograph them–Fern Mallis and Leandra Medine. Check it out!
(Left) Fern Mallis, created New York Fashion Week, as it is known today. (Far Right) Leandra Medine, Founder Man Repeller, (Near Right) Amelia Diamond, Deputy Editor Man Repeller.
Photos: Dawn Bell Solich