Outsider or Insider at New York Fashion Week?

By: Shoshana Bachrach  |  October 21, 2013

Ever since I was twelve, I had dreamed of going to New York Fashion Week. In my young, out-of-town naïveté, I imagined myself as a plucky Lucky intern, darting in between taxis just in time to slide into a front-row seat at Cynthia Steffe, or, as I got older and more ambitious, comparing notes with Vogue editor Anna Wintour as we left the runway of Rodarte. Alas, this dream never materialized.

Suddenly, here I was at the brink of senior year in New York City, having never attended one Fashion Week. This year, I decided, was the year. Enough obsessively stalking Style.com for runway coverage and endlessly cataloguing the best of street style. True, it wasn’t the same world as it had been when I was 12; fashion had lost a fair bit of its whimsy and cheek, in its stead came commercial elitism. Nevertheless, I owed it to my younger self to at least see it from afar.  I was an outsider after all; it would be foolish to assume that I’d somehow find myself inside the great Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week sans invite. But I soon discovered that the fashion world, though still very glittery and very expensive, wasn’t as aloof as it seemed to be.

There’s something very fleeting about the fashion world—not transient, but fast-paced. Of course, this is counter-balanced by the immense thought and time required to create an issue of a magazine or a collection. But inspiration and opportunity strike suddenly like lightning, and my Fashion Week adventure was no exception: I found myself one Tuesday evening loitering outside of Lincoln Center, eating fro-yo with a friend in the sweltering heat. The last stragglers were coming two-by-two down the stairs from the last show, comparing notes and looking up restaurants on their iPhones. All I had wanted to know was which show they were leaving. But suddenly my phone had a new contact called Demonte, a young            model-booker with a penchant for fur, who had promised me that we would try to get tickets for Nanette Lepore.

We did not get tickets to Nanette Lepore. We couldn’t finagle a spot at Rachel Zoe either. That wasn’t really the point for me anyway; I had come to people-watch, to see some of my idols, to really observe the phenomenon that was fashion. I wanted to know if fashion had really changed: was it now the hobby of the 1%, an art that could only be enjoyed by the who’s-who of Condé Nast and the like? Would I be sneered as a no-name, brand-less college student? Demonte and I gleefully collected the various free items and publications and gawked at garish fashions. I met the Orthodox blogger Fashion-Isha, and Demonte extolled the virtues of fur with a pair of statuesque, stone-faced stylists and a perky blogger. Reporters and bloggers hunched over laptops everywhere, two plainly-dressed moms discussed intimate details of a soon-to-be-announced merger.  Slowly it dawned on me that no one was sneering at anyone. In fact, everyone was acting positively…geeky.

It was then that I realized that Fashion Week is nothing more than a sartorial Comic-Con. Clicking through pictures of magazine-editor style, or reading the musings of a too-cool blogger, makes it seem like fashion is an untouchable thing for only the most chic. But seeing them all there, in their supposed glory, just made me, well, laugh. For all of their supposed chic-ness, they also get really, really excited to see someone rocking the latest trend of holographic shoes. They poke each other when they see the supremely well-spoken former Marie Claire Editor-in-Chief Miranda Coles, or, if they’re so lucky enough to be leaving the same show, sidle up next to her. They also take pictures of everything and everyone and let their mouths drop over the audacity of a crazy print or the sheer fabulousness of a full lame skirt. Those pictures of giraffe-tall girls in floppy hats and combat boots, coolly texting? Those are posed—and those girls are pretty pumped to be photographed too.  Looking around, I found myself not as an outsider, but an insider: We were all geeks. Fashion geeks, but geeks nonetheless—after all, who else would get so excited about clothes?

In a way, this version of Fashion Week was far better than twelve-year-old me had dreamed. Yes, the slick insider world I had imagined was exciting. But Fashion Week reminded me that fashion still is an art to be enjoyed by the masses, still full of quirk and whimsy at its core. Tall, short, thin, fat, religious, young, old, foreign—there was no uniformity among the crowd other than an abiding love of fashion. So, after two years in New York, I was not a Lucky intern, nor Anna Wintour’s confidante—but  not an outsider after all.