Fake Glamour and Cheap Wine: The Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

Thursday was the start of another famous event here in New York. It was Fashion’s Night Out, marking the beginning of a one-week-episode during which fashion gurus take over this city. More and more cities have started FNO, which is basically the first night of Fashion Week, initiating models, designers, celebrities and everybody else to flock the streets, go shopping, or simply celebrate the advent of one of the most popular events in the industry. Of course the Big Apple is one of the leading milestones when it comes to nice dresses, bulimic tall and slim models, and arrogant sophisticated designers.

I am usually not into this industry, even though I occasionally have fun trying myself out as a model (not runway, of course). Just by crossing the streets in this town or riding the subway, I have encountered many people who can be described as “interesting” at best and “shocking” at worst. For example a guy with a very eccentric, white-fur winter jacket one morning in January. Or the girl with the shortest skirt and skinniest legs I have ever seen. Many models come here to make a living but I am not sure what the average quota of success is. I can only imagine that strutting down a runway in a popular show must be as amazing but arbitrary as landing a hit as a teenage singer.

When I came to New York I’ve vowed to be part of as many events as possible. Fashion Week makes it hard for the average traveler to get a glimpse of the most wanted shows because most of the time you need an invitation. How do you get these invitations? You need to know someone in the industry and you should make sure he/ she becomes your best friend during this time period. Some shows allow for tickets but these are seldom the ones you want to see. Lots of private fashion shows are going on in random places, such as a rented cathedral next to Grand Central. These shows are in adherence to Fashion Week but they are not in the main location, which is the Lincoln Center. Whatever goes down there is where you want to be as a fashion fanatic!

I was still rooming with the Belarusians back then. One of them was working for a French fashion brand in Chelsea. She had already indicated that she might be able to snag two invitations off her boss who had connections to Haute Couture designers. So one Thursday in February of 2011 I get a text shortly before my shift at work is over. “Come on over to the Lincoln Center! You have to be here by 6 PM otherwise doors will close” was the short and demanding text from her. I was so surprised, I didn’t know how to react at first.

Then I raced down to the subway, sprinted home, threw over a nice dress, tried it with some make-up, ran back to the subway station and somehow made it on the A-train to Columbus Circle. A short walk to the Lincoln Center and I was standing in front of a building that didn’t give anything away. No fancy models or celebrities outside, only some lone photographers. The action was clearly inside. Here it was that the other roomie greeted me and together we walked towards the entrance of the show. A line had already formed, reaching around a few corners. Somehow people were still expecting to buy their way in if a few ticketholders were willing to sell their cards or if some spots turned out to be empty. Along the waiting masses a few tables with free wine had been built up and the audience was able to drink before watching the show.

The Belarusian came out just in time and handed us two printed out forms. Not very glamorous, I thought, before being ushered through the white doors. We stood in a relatively small room with a few hundred other people, all standing and chatting away. The room was completely white. On the side tribune-like benches had been built up to accommodate the viewers. On a cue, the light dimmed and everyone stopped what they were doing to take a seat. The photographers built up their equipment to the left of us, right in camera shot of the runway. We were sitting with other coworkers of the Belarusian and tried to keep a straight face. Whatever you see on TV, seat-wise and room-wise, is pretty much what reality looks like. The furniture is spartanic and fulfills only one purpose: Presenting the show and then getting the people out of there.

Photographers in action

Loud music started playing; the light was completely turned off by now. I had the feeling I was in an underground club.

Suddenly a spotlight turned on, casting light on the first model walking down the runway. She wore Naeem Khan’s collection elegantly, posing here and there in front of the cameras and then strutting back. Not all models did their job as well. Among the beautiful dresses and exotic make-up I had a hard time recognizing the persons underneath the masks. Hollow eyes looked straight ahead when their turn was up, most of which did not have a personality at all.

Naeem Khan Fashion Show

“Designers really do use their models only as a better piece of equipment” I thought. I felt my skin cringe when I saw the bony back of one of the girls. Bulimia and anorexia must still be an issue, even after the new “guidelines” of model types had been introduced. I didn’t feel too comfortable seeing the sickish girls and had a hard time focusing on the dresses. It put a damper on things but most people in the room must have been used to it. They were able to admire the dresses and to clap once the designer Naeem came out. An Indian native who had made it to the top through hard work and the right connections in this industry. A total of 40 dresses for the autumn/winter collection of 2011 were introduced in his show and I have no doubt they were successfully sold out that night.

The after party included free wine. It certainly was not the expensive stuff but two glasses of red fulfilled their purpose. We were introduced to a funky looking couple of dancers and more fun people. Not everyone at Fashion Week is stuck up but you do have the occasional eccentric. Such as the girl who wore wings and was walking through the crowd, oblivious to the fact that they bothered people who were struck by them.

I enjoyed being part of it but I don’t really have too much motivation to go back. It’s one of those events where once you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. Unless you are a true fashion fanatic and want to check up on the newest (and most beautiful) fashion, then this is just the right place for you to be. For New York will represent the best of the best of the best – that’s a promise!

[Author’s note: Excuse the horrible image quality! I had to take screenshots from an old video I uploaded and that’s what it turned out to look like. Unfortunately I don’t have the pictures anymore due to a bad hardware problem with my old computer… BOOOH!]

6 thoughts on “Fake Glamour and Cheap Wine: The Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

  1. OMG, I read this article earlier today and had a mini fit. I love fashion shows and wish I was there. Yeah, when it comes to most fashion shows one only pay attention to what the model is wearing, their accessories, make up, and hair. Not all the time to the body unless it is really noticeable than all the distraction on him or her.

  2. i’m not that into the fashion world either, except i do admit that rubbing elbows with some fashion elites during fashion week in nyc would be a great deal of fun at one point in my life! 🙂

    • Yeah, it seems like it would. I actually wouldn’t mind going back, after all, it has been one and a half years. Maybe I do have to make friends with someone in the industry again… 😉

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