Diary of a Fashion-Week Fanatic: Two Days, 17 Shows and One Serious Loss of Sanity

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At any given moment during a fashion show, at least one-third of the crowd is snapping photos. Here, onlookers at Custo Barcelona's Fall/Winter 2012 show capture the collection with their smartphones.

Twice a year, hordes of editors, photographers, bloggers and fashionistas descend on Lincoln Center, MILK studios and other venues in Manhattan for the spectacle that is New York Fashion Week. As a fashion-industry follower, I decided to take in the full array of it all, crammed into one weekend. There’s an entire sub-universe of runway shows, parties, presentations and lounges — but just how much fashion can one reporter handle?

(PHOTOS: The Glamour and the Mayhem of New York Fashion Week)


10:15 a.m. – I wonder whether my actual bedhead hair can pass for the “I spent an hour trying to achieve this artfully tousled hair” look. The threat of snow has thrown a wrench into my wardrobe plans, and I eschew stilettos in favor of flat riding boots. My feet whisper a silent “thank you.”

11:02 a.m. – In a cab to Lincoln Center, I notice a run in my tights already. An auspicious start to the day.

11:18 a.m. – I arrive at Lincoln Center and head into the Jill Stuart show. I take out my Blackberry and pretend to be texting furiously and importantly, as approximately half the people in the room are doing the same. I’m in a bizarre universe where a room full of people are gathered wearing full makeup, sequins and six-inch heels before noon on a Saturday. Fashion Week is not for the faint of heart — or of wardrobe.

11:24 a.m. – Photographers and video crews mill about on the runway for the 30 minutes between the official and the actual start time of a runway show. A feeding frenzy then forms around any major or minor celebrity, who will attempt to sit down gracefully in their seat while incessant flashbulbs blind them.

11:31 a.m. – The show begins. The clothes have a pretty vibe with a hint of a hard edge. At any given moment at least one-third of the crowd is snapping a photo with their phone or iPad. A security guard sitting in the aisle looks like he’s falling asleep.

11:37 a.m. – When you observe them on the runway, models have a characteristic, exaggerated walk where they lead with their hips. Anyone trying this in a normal context would probably look like they had a joint problem.

(MORE: A Brief History of New York Fashion Week)

11:43 a.m. – The show is over, the lights are up and the crowd scurries onto the next one.

11:50 a.m. – I spot the coat check, brought to you by Barbie. I don’t remember the coat closet being one of the more notable rooms in my childhood Barbie Dream House.

12:01 p.m. – Time for the first of what I’m sure will be many complimentary Diet Pepsis. Even the straws are chic—they’re designed by Jonathan Adler.

12:09 p.m. – I enter the Son Jung Wan show and notice a woman in the front row wearing a hat that more than doubles the height of her head. It kind of resembles the Pope’s hat. How would you wear that on the subway? I hope she took a car service.

12:15 p.m. – P.R. girls rush around trying to fill every possible seat. The seating chart is a never-ending puzzle with moving pieces that only stops when the music starts and bright lights come on.

2:47  p.m. – The huge crush of people exiting the Mara Hoffman show and flooding into the lobby is claustrophobia-inducing. I spot a Fashion Week fixture, the man who wears crazy matching patterned suits. He must own at least 50.

2:52 p.m. – Entering the Rafael Cennamo presentation, I grab a glass of champagne and ogle the sparkly eveningwear. Presentations, in which models stand in a room and viewers walk around them, have become an increasingly popular alternative to the traditional runway show. They are less theatrical and remove the need for the crazy seating chart puzzle, and still provide a much more up close and personal view of the clothes.

3:00 p.m. – I take my front row seat at Herve Leger. The average heel height in the room looks to be about four inches. Fashion Week must be responsible for the livelihood of half the podiatrists in the city.

4:01 p.m. – I rush to make the Christian Siriano show downtown. Now I understand why editors always complain about the unforgiving nature of the schedule. It’s like Sophie’s Choice every hour, with a multitude of overlapping shows scheduled at Lincoln Center and various other venues across the city. When I arrive, I pay specific attention to the shoes in the collection to see what might turn up in his Payless line.

4:49 p.m. – In all my running around I realize I’ve forgotten to eat. Maybe this is a true supermodel diet? I wolf down a Fiber One bar that I grabbed from the tents.

6:31 p.m. – I go backstage for the L.A.M.B presentation. Teams of makeup artists are working on models, who sip coffee. “Tell them to put their shoes on!” yells a showrunner. There is another room for hair where more models sit in curlers. Five people fuss over one model at once, and I marvel at the coordination beneath the chaotic veneer.

7:04 p.m. – I take a seat for Monique Lhuillier. The show is lovely, with leather, gloves, and some serious sequins. Several models stumble over their long dresses, but they recover seamlessly.

8:15 p.m. – At the L.A.M.B presentation, we crowd around a podium that has been set up to look like a photo shoot. News that Whitney Houston has died spreads around the room, bringing a sad dose of reality into this fabricated world.

8:36 p.m. – I run into a friend who suggests going out for a drink. Craving human interaction after a day of staring at models, I accept.

10:43 p.m. – I get back to my apartment and collapse on the couch.

(MOREFive Questions with Model Liu Wen)

See Sunday’s diary on the next page.


9:30 a.m. – I wake up and still feel exhausted. Going for broke, I pick a pair of semi-comfortable 4-inch heels.

11:18 a.m. – Take my seat at Lela Rose. I’ve noticed a preponderance of children at Fashion Week this season. Are they being indoctrinated this early? Everyone I see has a familiar face. Is this because it’s the same group of people, or is it that everyone puts on the same stylish airs? I decide it’s a bit of both.

11:41 p.m. – I wonder if I will hear the beat of the bass in my sleep.

11:52 a.m. – A Mercedes-Benz photographer asks if he can take my picture next to one of the display cars. Initial flattery turns to awkwardness as I realize I don’t know how to pose stylishly, much less with a large prop like a car. Note to self: practice in front of a mirror before September Fashion Week.

2:12 p.m. – There is a star-studded front row at Tracy Reese, who shows lots of bright colors and cheery fabrics.

3:02 p.m. – I rush into the Joy Cioci presentation. There is a man in panda eye makeup, wearing a shirt with stuffed-animal pandas glued on. I will see him approximately eight more times today.

3:14 p.m. – While waiting in line for a seat assignment at Custo Barcelona, a pushy European man berates a p.r. rep who can’t find his name on the list: “I’ve covered Custo’s shows for the past four seasons. Custo adores me!” Everyone here is a superstar, if only in his or her own eyes.

3:27 p.m. – My eyes start to glaze over during the Custo show. Is he showing layered separates, or do I have double vision? Fashion, if not consumed in realistic doses, starts to blend together into one indistinguishable albeit colorful haze.

8:05 p.m. – I arrive at the Park Avenue Armory, a historic, theatrical venue in which Tommy Hilfiger will show his collection. In the building’s huge central vault, there are brick walls covered with vines, and small trees with fall flowers. It feels like we are outside in Paris, and Tommy’s equestrian-inspired collection re-energizes me.

(MORE: Five Questions with Tommy Hilfiger)

9:01 p.m. – I treat myself to a much-needed cocktail at the Tracy Reese after party in the Stone Rose Lounge. Filled with chic and stylish people, the party will go on into the wee hours, even if my own tired self will not. I feel a fashion hangover coming on.

What did I learn after 17 shows (and countless blisters)? The beat of fashion marches on incessantly. Don’t angle yourself head-on for the cameras. No one on a normal person’s salary, sadly, can afford most designer clothes. Oh, and always carry a spare pair of flats.

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