Here is Mercedes-Benz FashionWeek as explained by a construction worker across the street from Lincoln Center yesterday, on whom I eavesdropped because I was too scared to talk to anyone else:
"There's two a year, one now and one in spring. They used to do it over on 42nd Street. Fashion people from all over the world come, and they have a ton of fun."
42nd Street is "Bryant Park," for those who learned New York from Tim Gunn and Project Runway. Fashion Week took place there, in the Garment District, for 17 years, before it was moved to Lincoln Center in 2010. Semi-annual Fashion Weeks, held in cities around the world in spring and fall, are a time for designers to showcase their upcoming collections (shown two seasons in advance, meaning the clothes we see now are for the labels' spring/summer 2013 lines), for Project Runway's finale to film, and for bloggers to take pictures of one another's Street Style.
Street Style is any kind of clothing you wear, ever, in public. Many people who have Street Style are not models, however many models also have Street Style. An example of Street Style is an old man wearing a classic fedora, or a young woman wearing many gold bracelets and shrugging her shoulders, or a brightly colored belt.
These are things I have recently learned. I do not know about Fashion Week or Street Style. Luckily, my editors had set out fairly modest goals: "Just, like, walk around and crash into shit," A.J. suggested. "Wear a tracksuit. Fall into a waiter. Wash your feet in the punch bowl. Talk to people and give us your observations."
On the morning of Baby's First Fashion week, I write an important blog post about Jon Hamm's penis. I eat two chocolate scones and then another chocolate scone, and then take the subway uptown. I listen to my favorite instrumental from the About a Boy soundtrack on the way, and think of my task not as a stressful challenge in which I will be forced to interact and, on occasion, deceive people who intimidate me, but, rather, as a brief moment in the montage of my life.
Upon arriving near-ish to Lincoln Center, I immediately become lost. I have only been in this area once before, to observe the filming of Gossip Girl on a cold night last fall. I start asking people in uniforms—security guards, information desk workers, dogcatchers—the way to Lincoln Center, then the way to the New York Public Library branch at Lincoln Center, then the way to the fashion show, then the way to the runway.
I arrive at the Mark McNairy New Amsterdam show shortly before it ends. In industry parlance, I have arrived "fashionably late." I stand just inside the doorway at the foot of the catwalk with a large group of tall men. We are all wearing a lot of clothes on our bodies, so it's pretty clear we know from fashion. I lift up my cellphone to take a picture of the runway, because that's what everyone else is doing and I want to fit in with my new friends. Hip hop is blasting. I realize, after a few seconds of standing, that music is still emanating from my in-ear earbuds and consider removing them, before deciding that this will be my affectation. A burst of confetti goes off at the entrance of the runway and everyone gasps because confetti is frightening. Rapper Danny Brown bounds down the runway in a gold jacket and everyone murmurs about what a treat it is to see rapper and author of The Da Vinci Code Danny Brown here in front of us wearing a gold jacket.
When the show ends, the crowd suddenly realizes that they are in a public library that is merely masquerading as a fashion venue, and they book it out of there. A man near the exit is handing out boxes of Crest White Strips, so I take one. My review of the Mark McNairy New Amsterdam show is that it was like a loud concert where all the attendees received Crest White Strips.
Outside, Lincoln Center Plaza is awash with sunlight. If the weather is any indication, God hates both Republicans and Democrats but loves fashion (Fashists). Over and over again, I watch people stand in the middle of the sun-bleached plaza and casually strike poses (hand on hip, gazing blankly into the distance) that show off their Street Style, in the hopes that a Street Style Photographer will approach them and ask to snap a photo.
Unfortunately, the only people anyone wants to photograph for their Street Style are the people already being photographed for their Street Style. It's a great day for black women wearing tribal prints who have great Street Style.
I sit down next to some construction workers because all of the Fashion People have either friends or very straight hair, which I find intimidating. I take notes on their conversation because I love the way my ballpoint pen writes.
Later in the afternoon, I walk to a different building, in which are housed the famous Fashion Week tents. There are hordes of security guards manning every door, but none of them asks to see my credentials or to even photograph me because they love my Street Style. I spot a sign for Reem Acra, the show I'm due to attend, and ask a man standing by an electronic check-in kiosk what I should do if I don't have a printed invitation or confirmation number, as everyone else seems to.
"Don't worry about it. Just give them your name at the front and you'll be set."
The reason I do not have a printed invitation or confirmation number is because I am not on the list for this show. I am not really on the lists for any shows. Fortunately, another acquaintance is, and she can't make it. Before getting to the front of the line, I practice my delivery of her name over and over in my head.
Jane Doe. Hello, Jane Doe. Hi! Jane Doe! D-O-E, Jane?
With one attendee ahead of me, I study the four women checking reservations and decide one of them, a blonde woman, is mean. She will see right through my ruse. I hope I don't get her.
I get her. She does not see through the ruse. I spell my fake name correctly.
Inside the tent, I feel a burning desire to step on the runway, which is shiny and black.
The woman in front of me steps on the runway.
"YOU CAN'T STEP ON THE RUNWAY!" Assistants swoop in from all sides to chastise her. I shake my head because the nerve of some people, stepping on the runway.
Everyone whispers that I have great Street Style as I pick my way through the crowd, and Anna Wintour considers approaching me but feels suddenly self-conscious and also she isn't there.
I reach my assigned seat and am disappointed to see it is one row higher than the seats that receive free gifts in tiny red Santa sacks. I consider pocketing a tiny red Santa sack in retribution for my not being given a tiny red Santa sack but worry someone will notice.
To my left sits a girl with very straight hair and many purple geode rings. I am intimidated by her, so I ignore her, because I am a journalist. To my right sits a girl with her hair in a bun. I ask her for what outlet she's here for, and after she repeats the name twice, I smile and pretend I have heard her. She and I both express our desire to have free gifts, just as, magically, a wave of back row plebes descends into the unclaimed free gift seats. A harried Australian woman commands us to wait, but no one does. My friend and I now have free gifts. (Perfume.)
My friend tells me that a girl she knows saw Vogue contributing editor Andre Leon Talley at a show earlier, and explains he and Anna Wintour "are, like, the stars of fashion," as though I do not know all about fashion from eavesdropping on construction workers earlier. "If anyone falls, we probably won't be able to see it from here," I whisper to my new BFF. "No one loses it right out of the gate." She nods politely.
Suddenly, the intimidatingly straight-haired girl turns to me and asks if I'm going to any other shows during the day. I tell her I'm not, and wonder why she asked – is it because I look like a farmer? Is it because she does not think my awesome Street Style should be confined to the indoors? She pulls a printed RSVP to another designer's presentation out of her pocketbook and tells me that she won't be able to use it. Would I like to go in her place? I accept the RSVP because I love free things and see from the confirmation that her name is Barbara. Now my name is Barbara. Thank you Barbara, love Barbara.
The show begins. A model trips, but does not fall, all the way at the opposite end of the runway. The show ends and my friend spots Fran Drescher in the crowd. A fashion coup.
As the audience files out of the showroom in a herd, I notice that there are free cans of Diet Pepsi in the lobby. Unlike regular cans of Diet Pepsi, which I now realize are fat and pedestrian, these cans are extra slim. Very sleek. This Pepsi has great Street Style. I take one, which is one third as many as I want to take, and also accept two granola bars handed to me by a girl in a yellow dress. I love fashion.
The energy of the three scones and a bagel I ate a couple hours ago long since burned off, I tear into these granola bars with a vigor that is frightening. I'm chugging Diet Pepsi. I'm wild-eyed and hopped up on freebies and itching for some trick bitch to come up and try to start something with me about my Street Style. I watch a mother take a picture with her daughter as they pose in front of a luxury car that has been moved indoors (fashion). The girl looks like a cherub. The mother looks like a mean angel. They are beautiful. I want to take a picture of them and text it to my friends ("Beautiful people with a car I just saw"), but I leave instead.
Barbara's RSVP is for the Gilded Age presentation back inside the library at Lincoln Center. I, Barbara, walk in, ready to tell people they can call be Barbie, they can call me Babs, the only thing they can't call me is late for dinner, especially if dinner is free soda and granola bars.
No one checks my RSVP (thanks for the lame gift, Barbara), so I amble into the presentation room.
Fashion presentations feature all the clothing of traditional runway shows but without the 18 seconds of unbroken walking time so trying for models. At the Gilded Age presentation, a roomful of attractive men stand on a stage and make eye contact with anyone who approaches. Just as you and I are about to enter into a thoughtful debate on this inversion of The Male Gaze, I notice one gentleman is shirtless, which is distracting because I can see his belly. I decide I've had enough fashion for one day, so I grab another box of Crest White Strips from the lobby (the first box for Babs) and leave the building.
Outside in the plaza, I see two separate groups of fashion enthusiasts pose for photos with an NYPD officer standing in front of a fountain (he has great street style). After they're gone, I walk up and ask him if he's gotten a lot of requests for pictures today.
He says, "No."
I walk back to the subway.
All the clothes I saw were cool and nice.
Tomorrow on New York Fashion Weavz: The Party.