The first Fashion Week I attended taught me one very important lesson. There are two types of people in this industry: Work horses and show ponies.
I’d been living in New York for six days. The bowels of the Bronx, to be exact. I was eating oatmeal out of a pink plastic martini glass three times a day and flat-on-my-face broke when I was thrown into New York Fashion Week as an editorial intern.
My wardrobe was a complete disaster. I wasn’t trotting around to shows in pricey designer clothes or voguing in front of the camera. Frankly, I didn’t wear anything remotely interesting, or functional. But I made do with what I had. Sometimes that meant one dull outfit, three dull ways. I didn’t have the time or the money for grandiose displays of exhibitionism. And I had a job to do.
The learning curve was steep, and I experienced a lot of firsts that week. Like the first time I realized heels were a hideous idea at Fashion Week. Five shows in, and dozens of city blocks later, I lost feeling in three of my right toes and one of my shoes got caught in a subway grate. Rookie mistake, I know.
Then there was the day I interviewed André Leon Talley on the sidelines at Tracy Reese. I was wearing a nondescript black dress that was impossible to walk in. On my way over, I tripped on the plastic that covered the runway. If that wasn’t bad enough, when I asked him for an interview, he asked me where I was from, and I blurted out Columbus, Ohio.
Years have gone by since that rite of passage, but I’m thankful for the experience. My clothes may be more sophisticated now and I have a different title, but the lessons were learned. When I’m deciding on what to wear to Fashion Week, I’m not looking for what will get me noticed by the swarm of photographers buzzing in front of Lincoln Center. I think strategically. I need flats because I’ll be on my feet all day. Pants will allow me to move quickly in between back-to-back shows across town. Dresses need to be loose and below the knee, so when I crouch down for front row interviews, I’m sufficiently covered. If it happens to be a long night writing, I may re-wear something from earlier that week. But that’s real life. And guess what? Despite living in an age of digital narcissism, no one is keeping tally.