This season marked my third New York Fashion Week. While my first one was awkward, filled with several uncomfortable interactions involving me never knowing what to say, where to stand, and who was whom, I am now comfortable enough with the whole thing to be able to enjoy myself while also accomplishing exactly what I’ve set out to do that day.
This is what Fashion Week is like for the non-rich and not-remotely-famous (but still attending) guests, and what I have learned as one of them. If you are interested in attending Fashion Week and you are not a very wealthy, very important, or very famous person, this advice is for you.
1. Always have two pairs of shoes.
Unless you are one of those magical humans who can wear just about any pair of heels and walk twenty-five blocks without flinching, you should have comfortable shoes with you. I got this pair of incredibly comfortable Yosi Samra Foldable Ballet Flats from the Runway Ready Room at the Empire Hotel and I have been wearing them on every single train ride and long walk, then swapping ’em out for my heels.
2. Stop into beauty lounges (even if you weren’t invited).
While I don’t personally have the balls to pretend I’ve been invited to something I haven’t been, I have RSVP’d at the last moment (and therefore been left off lists) enough times to know that some lounges are pretty cool with guests provided you are respectful and they have extra room.
Plus, there are tons of lounges that are open to the public where you can get your hair, nails, and makeup done, grab a quick smoothie, or learn about new products coming out in the near future. They’re tons of fun, especially if you’ve had a long day. The photo above is of Jenni and I from Maybelline‘s lounge at Made Fashion Week. After several days of running back and forth from my office to Lincoln Center and occasionally to the west side of Manhattan for MFW shows, it was wonderful to just hang out, recharge, have some cheese and champagne, and get our makeup done.
3. Always avoid the fountain in front of Lincoln Center.
I have taken exactly one photo in front of the fountain by Lincoln Center. It was primarily to show my outfit to my mom because I knew she would like it. Typically, I walk up the left side of the plaza because that way, I can avoid all the people walking around in bizarre outfits–despite many of them not actually attending Fashion Week–in an attempt to get snapped by street style photographers. They’re a mix of ridiculously rich people who can afford expensive clothes, creative people who want you to ask if they made their own outfits (they did), and bloggers who want everyone to think they’re important. Actually, everyone who does this really, really wants to feel important, which is fine, I guess, but it is also fairly obvious.
And then there’s always a few attractive NYU, Fordham, and Columbia students sitting at the fountain “sketching” or “writing,” which directly translates to “hoping to be photographed and thereby scouted as a model.” While this is sort of cute, it is also very silly-looking.
4. How receiving ‘Standing’ seating works.
While I have sat for some shows, there have been plenty I’ve gone to that I only received “Priority Standing” or “Standing” on. This is because I am only semi-important. This is not a bad thing at all! It is an amazing thing to be invited to a show whatsoever; if you get an invite, the proper response is gratitude, not “WTF WHY AM I NOT SITTING IN THE SECOND ROW?”
Basically, when you’re assigned to be standing, you typically filter in via a different line than those who have been assigned seats. When you come in, you will stand in the back behind the seated guests. At some point, probably after 15 or so minutes, one of the organizers will let all the standing guests make a (somewhat mad) dash to the empty seats. Do not be an asshole and push people out of the way; you will look like a jerk and if somebody recognizes you, you might wind up on their bad side.
5. Being nice goes a long way!
For the Monique Lhuillier show (one of my Instagrams from it is above), I was assigned to standing and there were very few seats left because it was a highly-anticipated show. One of the organizers was standing next to me and looked frazzled, and I made a joke to commiserate with her about how crazy it was and asked if she was okay. She wound up spotting one seat left and offered it to me. Tada! Not being a diva is not only polite, it can also mean that people will be more inclined to be friendly to you back.
6. Do not sit in the front row, even if there is an empty seat.
I assumed this was something that everybody knew coming into Fashion Week, but every season, I’ve seen so many people attempt this very big no-no. If a person was invited to sit in the front row, there is a good reason for it; you are not that person, there is not a reason for you to sit there, so don’t.
7. Turn the sound off on your effing phone.
If you are at an event, do not leave the ringer on your phone on. While the music will probably be too loud to have anybody hear it if it does go off, it is still going to annoy a few people. BUT HERE’S WHAT I ACTUALLY LEARNED: also turn off the sound on your phone while taking pictures. This probably seems obvious to some people, but I and a few other folks got yelled at by a designer (who invited the media backstage, ahem) for taking photos because the sound was annoying her. It was rather embarrassing.
8. Be nice to models.
If you’re backstage and watching models get ready or simply encounter one by chance, it can be good to tag their Instagrams in your coverage. I met a model my first FW who needed directions and we wound up chatting, and now still have occasional banter on social media, and have had similar experiences with other models since.
While there is a misconception that all models are vain jerks, it is important to remember that they’re often very young and many of them barely speak English. If you were a teenager in a country whose language you couldn’t understand fluently and were being paid very little to do long days wearing shoes that aren’t even your size while walking in front of hundreds of people, you might come off as a little less than enthused, too. Like I said in number 5: being nice goes a long way. Who knows? You might wind up being buddies with the next Lindsey Wixson!
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9. Dress to impress, but not to excess (especially if you’re there to work).
Dressing well can mean a huge variety of things, whether it’s wearing professional office-style clothing, an experimental beauty look, a dramatic hairstyle, or just something cute you haven’t ever had an occasion to wear. It’s cool that some people dress all sorts of crazy for Fashion Week to show off their own designs and whatnot, but if you are there to work (whether you’re writing, buying, doing PR, whatever), it is probably best not to attempt to pitch yourself to people. (It would be like going to a film premiere and shoving a DVD of your senior thesis short into the director’s hands.)
Above is my friend Mandie–who used to write here!–at Fashion Week. She wore a cute pair of high-waisted pants, a pretty top, heels, a bold lipstick, and a fun belt. Tada! A perfectly stylish outfit for working in.
However, if you’re going to a party or a crazy show like, say, The Blonds, I feel like the “anything goes” rule might apply, but I will leave that to the more fashionable people than myself.
10. Take tons of photos and Instagram the crap out of them.
In the event you are trying to build your social media presence, this is a great opportunity to do so. For example, after we went backstage at The Blonds and when we attended the beautiful Jay Godfrey presentation, I Instagrammed everything almost immediately. It’s a good way to share what’s going on at your job while also giving people a backstage look at what goes into creating these shows. Hashtag NYFW, the designer, the models if you know their names–everything. Pop them on Tumblr; people share Fashion Week photos all over the place there. Tweet them, too; lots of big sites aggregate posts from people live tweeting events and shows.
11. Bring deodorant everywhere.
For the fall/winter Fashion Weeks, the weather is usually ranges from mildly chilly to freezing (because it takes place in February), while the spring/summer ones (i.e. what just took place) are often hot as balls because it’s early September. Last week, I felt disgusting for a few days, so I wore very breathable fabrics and brought deodorant everywhere I went. Problem semi-solved (or at least covered up)!
12. Show up on time for everything.
It never ceases to amaze me how many people get outraged when they show up for a 5 PM show at 5:40 PM and somebody is sitting in their seat (see #4). Showing up on time for shows, launches, presentations, backstage coverage, and interviews shows that you respect the designer and everyone doing all the work that goes into creating these incredible shows. Obviously there are extenuating circumstances sometimes, but in general, being punctual is one of the best things you can do for your burgeoning career.
13. Do not get drunk.
Seriously, do not get wasted at Fashion Week events if you are working, and even if you aren’t. Nobody who has seen you vomit into a trashcan will grant you an interview. Stick to juice and water; you’ll feel a lot better waking up for a 7 AM backstage call time that way, I promise.
14. Make friends.
My first Fashion Week was awkward because I didn’t know anybody, but nowadays I encounter people I know all the time! Last night, I went to Tumblr IRL’s #ionfashion party at Milk Studios with Gloss alum Candace Bryan and had a ton of fun, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as entertaining on my own.
And backstage at Betsey Johnson, I knew several PR people there and one of Kryolan‘s makeup artists, Kelly Thompson:
She has done my makeup and nails, taught me about the brand, and is just an awesome person to know. Once you introduce yourself to people and branch out, you wind up making new friends, which makes the whole thing even more fun and an overall better experience.
Do you have any Fashion Week advice? Tell us in the comments!
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