Most people remember the leather leggings from Rodarte’s last show. Not me. I remember covertly pressing the show notes into my right knee, desperately trying to stop the bleeding. Let me explain:
Right before the September collections, I bought a pair of Giambattista Valli pumps at a thrift store. They were hot pink, satin-covered, and topped with birthday-present ribbon bows. Basically, they were my spirit animals in stiletto form. They were also my downfall (literally). While racing to see the Sisters Mulleavey, I swan-dived – okay, fine, I crashed – onto Sixth Avenue. Even before my epic face-plant was complete, I could feel the pavement zipping into my skin. I laughed it off, but merde, it was painful. Six months later, I can still see the scar.
Did I learn my lesson? I guess that depends. I’ll never leave home without a Hello Kitty bandaid again. But I’ll keep wearing kooky heels to fashion shows–at least when I feel like it. Here’s why:
Like many people, I was drawn into the style industry because I was a misfit. I skipped keggers for Shakespeare plays. I wore vintage ball gowns to homeroom. And I read W magazine like it was some holy combination of a movie script and a Magic 8 Ball. One day, I would be part of this place where beauty could be weird, and sexy could be smart. I think a lot of us became “fashion kids” because of those feelings.
But most fringe-forward dreamers have to exist in the real world. We learn to look cool–not crazy–in the office. We understand that most of the time, hard work, talent, and collaboration get us farther than Chanel Gun Shoes. And we put energy into making other people–our bosses, our clients, our models, our cover stars, our customers–look like the essence of our visions. I don’t know about you, but during the week, I wear the same ten things over and over, because I know they work. (And frankly, because I always wake up 30 minutes too late.)
I guess Fashion Week is the one time when it’s different. It’s okay if we channel our favorite ad campaign, or retro movie, or kindergarten obsession with red polka dots. It’s a good time to try out new looks and makeup colors (because let’s face it, someone else at Milk Studios will always look crazier than you). And Fashion Week is when we support the sublime dream parade that consumes most of our working lives–once in a while, we’ve got to wear what we preach.
Obviously, there’s another side to all of this–the one where various people pose oh-so-casually in neon cross-body satchels, preferably within Scott Schuman’s eye line. And let’s not get started on the legions who roam Lincoln Center Plaza with a reserved URL and a paid-for “press” pass, hoping to become the next Anna Dello Russo simply by wearing birds on their heads.
And yes, a privileged packet of style bloggers will get front-row seats and free clothes. But it’s usually overlooked that women like Susie Lau (aka Susie Bubble), Emily Weiss and Fiona Byrne worked in the industry for years before becoming Instagram Starlets. (Meanwhile, the younger exceptions–the Jane Aldridges and Rumi Neelys–are very beautiful girls with cool spirits and great taste. Naturally brands want to dress them, the same way they’d want to dress any It girl, whether she’s Chloe Moretz or Chloe Norgaard…or Chloe Sevigny…or maybe we should just use “Chloe” as code for any super-cool girl…)
The irony is, working in fashion has made me realize that some things–imagination, loyalty, courage, talent, kale–are more important to the industry than a status bag. There’s a lot of “look at me” craziness during Fashion Week that won’t make anyone famous or important, just freezing. (Temperatures are predicted in the 30s, after all.) And I definitely looked silly, not chic, when I skidded into the cement before Rodarte. But I still think it was worth it, and not because those shoes got me noticed (they didn’t) or photographed (Garance, my heart aches!).
I wore them, and I’ll wear them again, because it’s fun. It makes me feel part of a tribe that I dreamed of joining since childhood. And twice a year, I think it’s okay to visually pledge allegiance to Marc, Nicolas, Phoebe, Stella, and whatever sex shop sells those glitter heels that exactly look like Dolce & Gabbana’s. I’m stoked to try them on this week…just not without a First Aid Kit in the near vicinity.