Fashion week is a beast.
It’s a living entity; a breathing microcosm of strangers united by an addiction that transcends cultural barriers. Thousands of people descend on the city at hand; a colorful myriad of requisite tastemakers, spectators and the generally fashion-obsessed. An industry that tends to be glossed over as superficial instantaneously becomes the city’s primary focus, names like Thierry Mugler and Rodarte eclipsing the familiar political headlines.
In almost any other setting, an emerging designer is received with a hollow smile and unfounded judgement- but during fashion week, you simultaneously become a rockstar and a martyr. Everyone speaks your language, and dusty fashion terminology lost on the general public is re-birthed as the preferred dialect. Your clout is measured by how many shows you plan to attend rather than how many letters come after your last name, and everyone gauges everyone else from behind Tom Ford sunglasses and sponsored cocktails waiting to make their move.
This fiery beast and I have met.
I’ve gone to Fashion Week with people who are so well-connected that we wandered into the front row at Dior’s couture show in Paris without a second glance, and I’ve been personally introduced to Tim Gunn at the private AMEX skybox in New York.
I’ve also waited outside Haider Ackermann’s S/S 2011 show at Place Vendome for 3 hours by myself, begging to go in with the biggest smile I could muster with no invitation, no French, no Euros to slip the gatekeeper, no nothing. And it worked.
For as long as I’ve been chasing this industry, I’ve been told the same things over and over- it’s vicious, it’s cutthroat, it’s inherently dishonorable. I’m repeatedly instructed to “be a bitch,” and that being nice will get me nowhere. But in the process of gaining my own insight, I’m starting to learn that that isn’t always the case.
Enter Fashion Week 2013, New York City. I was not going. I had no plans, no tickets, no hotel, no flight. But I’m launching a line in November, and to be brutally transparent, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. There are hundreds of resources offering checklists of how to do it “right,” but there really is no tried-and-true recipe. And what better resource is there, than to surround yourself with the industry’s best and brightest?
I booked a last-minute flight and showed up on the scene with a suitcase bursting at the seams with my moodiest drapey blacks and all of my most uncomfortable shoes, and put myself out there for the next 36 hours. November is less than two months away and I truly have nothing to lose. I smiled, I introduced myself, I gave whoever was talking my undivided attention- and people reciprocated. I managed to make some incredible connections I only could have dreamed of, and it all began with being the antithesis of a bitch.
Nice girls don’t always finish last.