The Truth Behind New York Fashion Week

The Club Monaco presentation included floral prints and structured silhouettes. (KARIN HADADAN/THE OBSERVER)
The Club Monaco presentation included floral prints and structured silhouettes. (KARIN HADADAN/THE OBSERVER)
The Club Monaco presentation included floral prints and structured silhouettes. (KARIN HADADAN/THE OBSERVER)

By KARIN HADADAN
Contributing Writer

Everyone assumes New York Fashion Week (NYFW) is glamorous. Event after event, party after party, show after show — it seems as though the lavish lifestyle of “Sex and the City” becomes a reality where the elite actually do control Manhattan in the first two weeks of February. Restaurants are over-packed with Instagram “celebrities” who forged their way into the industry and my go-to coffee shop for midterm studying is filled with well-known fashion bloggers taking “in-between-fashion-show coffee break” photos. While five years ago this industry was untouchable, present day fashion month reveals how anyone can be part of it. NYFW is not as lavish as it may appear in films such as the “Devil Wears Prada”—you don’t need major press contacts to get into a show and you don’t have to own designer pieces to have your photograph taken. Rather, you just have to play and look the part, keep your head high, be confident and realize that everyone in this industry is more or less at the same level. Although there are high-profile editors and celebrities sitting in the first rows of each fashion show, the average New Yorker can also be part of what these notable attendees are experiencing.

Before moving to New York, I fantasized walking up to security at the door of a NYFW show, the guard asking my name and me saying, “Karin Hadadan. I’m on the list.” I would picture the guard giving me a nod that they’ve given to everyone before me and afterwards they would unhook the red rope to allow me to walk past. I would then stroll over to get my ticket scanned, strut to my seat, sit next to elite New Yorkers as well as international attendees and observe what designer everyone around me was wearing. I would then wait for the lights to dim to see the first preview of a new collection of a designer whose name I could barely pronounce. I imagined that in order for that to occur, I would have to be well-established in this city, with my name rolling off the tongues of significant New Yorkers or high profile individuals within fashion.

Fast forward to my fifth NYFW show: I’m not well-established, my name doesn’t roll of anyone’s tongue and I don’t have any contacts within the industry to get me in anywhere. What I do have, however, is the ability to look as though I recently went on a shopping spree at Bergdorf’s and the ability to act as if I know exactly what I’m doing. In reality, the outfits I wear are either from the 75 percent off sale racks from high-end department stores or borrowed from the back of my roommate’s closet. In fashion and dressing, I know what I’m doing, without actually knowing what I’m doing. I act in a way that seems like I’m part of this industry, but each time I say or do something, I’m simply hoping that it goes my way.

(KARIN HADADAN/THE OBSERVER)
(KARIN HADADAN/THE OBSERVER)

After obtaining a press pass through my previous internship to Club Monaco’s Spring/Summer 2017 runway show at their flagship store in the Flatiron District, I made sure that my outfit was something that others would look at and think to themselves, “She looks cool.” It’s something I always think of when I see other women flaunting the newest Gucci loafers and pairing them with vintage Levi’s, so I just hoped that others would think the same about me. I tossed on a fur coat, a pair of high waisted mom jeans, a t-shirt that I designed from my own brand, random pieces of jewelry and heeled boots to give me the height I would need to look remotely tall, since I would be surrounded by 6-foot models. Head-to-toe, I was wearing clothing worth less than the price tag of a single accessory most attendees were flaunting.

I was running around New York all day, so by the time I got to the Club Monaco show I was thirty minutes late, missed the runway show, felt my stomach giving me signals to eat something, and had less than 20 percent battery left on my phone. After slamming the cab door shut and slipping on brown, melted snow, I walked up to the security guard to show my ticket, even though there was a line across the corner filled with people just like me; stylish, cold and most likely hungry. At this point, the brand was showing the collection as a presentation, which was accessible to the public (hence the long line). Before walking to the back of the line with frozen fingers and an empty stomach, I had an inclination to try something else.

With an innocent tone, I walked up to the stern security guard and asked, “If I have a press pass do I have to wait in line?” He looked at me with a facial expression that seemed like he didn’t want to be bothered and said, “Can I see the pass?” while proceeding to keep the doors shut. I showed him my pass, confident that he would allow me in, but his response was the opposite. “That pass was for before. You’re late so you’re going to have to wait in line.” Typically, I would have just walked to the back of the line and accepted the defeat. But after being in the cold weather all day, and paying for countless modes of transportation just to get to the show, I wasn’t going to give up just yet. “I was at a different event and the traffic was insane. Plus, I have a press pass,” I said. I was being honest — I was at a different event to meet Danielle Bernstein, fashion blogger of WeWoreWhat, and there were insane amounts of traffic that caused me to be late. Although he wasn’t having it, he whispered something to the other security guard who then allowed me to go in. I thought to myself “Thank God,” and made my way into the presentation. At the end of the day, these guards don’t truly care who gets into a show or not. As long as the event itself has great press coverage and a solid amount of well-known attendees, the rest doesn’t matter. One person, like me, wouldn’t have made a difference.

Three minutes later, I was finally immersed in the presentation. Club Monaco’s See Now/Buy Now collection made me instantly crave warmer weather and an occasion to wear the pieces I was being shown. Although florals for spring aren’t groundbreaking, the designers of Club Monaco incorporated floral patterns on structured garments, mixing traditionally feminine prints with more masculine shapes. The patterns were inspired by the gypsy-themed documentary “Latcho Drom,” integrating the bold and elegant prints with cold-shoulder tops, flowy boho skirts, silky ruffles, as well as classic trenches, loose blazers and striped suiting. The presentation included female models standing and swaying, male models sitting and chatting, all while the guests were treated with champagne and light bites as they walked around the store.

After an hour of people watching, admiring the pieces and networking with fellow viewers, a friend mentioned that she was attending the Telfar SS17 show in a couple of hours. Regardless of the fact that I had no formal invitation or ticket, my friend persuaded me to come along. It was 8 p.m. in Manhattan, the night was still young and the worst thing that could happen was being turned away. And after all, we did look the part. So, we both headed to the West Side. After getting out of our Uber, we walked into the Skylight Clarkson studios on Washington Street and saw a crowd of people that seemed never ending. This isn’t going to work. I didn’t expect to see such a wide array of people aging from early teens to their late 70s. Everyone was dressed in eclectic, minimalistic looks, which completely represented the Telfar brand. This designer is known for his androgynous street style looks, which shapes this era of ungendered fashion, especially in New York. Luckily, due to the insane crowd, the security was flustered and acted in an extremely lenient manner, especially since the show was starting soon. At that point, they didn’t even care who was going in.

After waiting for 20 minutes, my friend walked up to get her ticket scanned so I followed behind her. Although I didn’t have my own ticket, the crowd was so large and hectic that the security guards didn’t ask to see mine. After passing through security with a bit of luck, we overheard the runway coordinator yelling, “Fill up the last 3 rows!” We instantly saw two open seats in the third row where we sat side by side and waited for the show to start. Unlike the typical movie scenes, where everyone has their own individual seating, us commoners were squished on the benches where we had to hold all of our belongings in our laps while we somehow managed to take photos of the runway.

The Telfar show embodied the idea that fashion is for everyone — streetwear and sportswear shouldn’t have to be gender specific. This designer merged denim jeans with sweatpants, puffers with pea coats and oversized hoodies with cargo pockets. He patched different fabrics, morphed pieces together and sent down a diverse set of models to show off his looks. The show was intriguing, even if the styles weren’t considered typical fashion week etiquette.

I have been to five NYFW shows thus far, and each time that I attend, my experience solidifies the fact that fashion is no longer for the elite nor is it untouchable, it is for everyone. If you appear as if you’re part of this industry, keep your head high and act in a self-assured manner, you will notice that everyone in this industry is essentially at the same level. Although I am far from having the same title as blogger Aimee Song or actress Katie Holmes, we all saw the same collection on the same night at Club Monaco’s presentation, even if we were there thirty minutes apart. We all viewed the pieces in person, drank the same champagne, and ate the same finger foods. This industry has the tendency to make outsiders feel as though they need to have the connections to be part of the iconic NYFW schedule. Yet here I am, a student who is simply interested in the fashion industry and gets to participate in the same experiences as those who are already well-established.

“I have been to five NYFW shows thus far, and each time that I attend, my experience solidifies the fact that fashion is no longer for the elite nor is it untouchable, it is for everyone.”

We all have the ability to be part of an iconic week in Manhattan, and as the years go by, these events become less unattainable and more approachable. While part of me does wish that fashion was more elite and luxurious, like how it was in the 90s where editors and buyers were the only ones sitting in the front row, times are changing and so are the attendees. Fashion is a universal commodity, therefore we should all be represented in these events. If you are passionate and admire the NYFW lifestyle, you too can be part of this exhilarating week in Manhattan. Simply keep your head up, act assertively and dress to impress. After all, it is fashion week.

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