While it's often the designers, models and street style stars that get the lion's share of the limelight during fashion week, there's an entire industry of people who work tirelessly to put together the shows every season. In a series of short profiles, we'll shine the spotlight on those behind-the-scenes talents.
It takes a special kind of reporter to walk into a room of tipsy fashion influencers, get the story and file it on a tight deadline. Todd Kingston Plummer is a fashion reporter who has covered the party circuit for the likes of Style.com and the Wall Street Journal. We spoke to him recently about what it takes to get the best interviews and how to know when the party is over.
When do you start prepping for the shows in September?
I start prepping probably only a week or so before, because most of my work is covering parties, and a lot of parties don't get confirmed until last minute, so I don't find out about them until a week or so before. That's when I start putting my calendar together.
Do editors ask you to cover certain parties, or do you get invited to things and then pitch it to them?
It's a combination of getting approached by PR with invites to things, which I'll think about which of my outlets it would be best for, or the editor will receive the invite on their end and want me to cover or not be able to go themselves, and ask me to do it.
Do you ever end up getting double or triple-booked on the same night?
Frequently -- during fashion week, of course.
What does a typical day during fashion week look like?
I used to have a day job, but I'm starting law school. So a typical day for me this fashion week will look like this: I will wake up, be at school at nine or 10 in the morning, be in class working like a regular student all day, then come back to the city [ed note: Plummer attends law school in Queens], change really quickly, be at an event at seven or so, and then run around town to various events.
The latest I'll stay up covering events is usually 1 a.m. After a certain point, it's not about the reporting and getting the job done, so I learned early on that you need to get in and out as quickly and efficiently as possible without missing things that might happen.
How do you feel that out?
That's a skill in itself. I go into any event with a strategy of who I want to talk to and the direction of the reporting that I want to do, so once I've spoken to the key players of an event or any VIPs who are expected to be there, then usually after that it's all observation. Once I have enough observation, I feel comfortable leaving. It's like going to a party [socially]: after a certain point, you just know when the party is over.
Have you ever missed anything?
I cover a lot of Cinema Society screenings, and once I missed Marc Jacobs, but only because he didn't show up until 1 a.m. as people were leaving. That's the only thing I've missed.
Do you feel obligated to dress a certain way?
I have a ritual when I go out: Before every night that I go out reporting, I have to shower. Those minutes of nothingness really helps clear my mind. I lay out my outfit on my bed and I think about where I'm going and if I have multiple things in one night, I chart out where I should be going.
I feel obligated to look decent, especially when you're going out representing Style.com, you need to look like you have an interest in style. It's kind of like in "Devil Wears Prada" where Emily says to Andy, "You know, Runway is a fashion magazine and an interest in fashion is crucial," when she's wearing that heinous outfit with the clunky shoes in the beginning. So I do feel obligated to dress a certain way, but I also don't like to look like I'm trying too hard and I always try to have some element of comfort in what I'm wearing, because I can be on my feet all night long and I can be running in and out of taxis, so there needs to be a functional element as well.
When do you do the writing?
When you're balancing evening reporting with a normal life during the day, you learn to maximize every minute of your day. So frequently, when I leave a party, I'll start writing my story on my phone. If I have a lot of transcriptions to go through, I'll do those first thing when I get home before I go to bed. Sometimes it helps to sleep and wake up with a clear mind and revisit the notes and transcriptions from the night before I start writing and turn in polished copy. Deadline is always 9 a.m., so the work is always done before I move on to the next day.
What's the worst thing that can happen?
When PR embellishes their tip sheets, and they say that certain people will show up if they're not confirmed. That can be frustrating because frequently coverage depends on the people who are showing up and how many people are showing up.
Do you think there's anything people misunderstand about your job?
People think it's easy, and it's not easy to walk into a room of fashion people and get them to talk about interesting and compelling things. It can be hard to get people to talk, and it's hard especially with fashion parties -- there are some people I meet when I'm out that I want to be friends with personally, but if they're a designer or model, they always have that barrier where they're not sure if I'm reporting on what we're talking about or not. I don't consider myself a salacious writer in any sense, and I'm an honest reporter, and I would never write anything distasteful about someone's personal life. It's not relevant to the party I'm covering.
Do you have a method to getting people to talk?
I like to step back from a traditional Q and A format and make a joke with them. It's more about having a conversation than a one-sided, I ask a question, you give an answer.
When are you officially done with fashion week?
When the New York events are over, I stay in New York, so while the shows are going on in Europe I'm kind of in a slow period for the rest of September. But then the fall party season kicks back up right after Paris, so there's a lot of fundraisers and movie screenings and launches that happen in the fall.