One of my favorite NYFW moments didn’t come from the runway or the hustle and bustle outside the shows. It happened as I stood in my second long line of the day, waiting to get into yet another show that was running on fashion week time (aka anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes late.) On a line filled with busy editors, over-caffeinated buyers, Instagramming top fashion bloggers, and snapchatting fashion personalities, I was standing next to someone who wasn’t any of the aforementioned archetypes that you typically see at fashion week. My waiting companion was the mother of one of the models walking in the show and we got to talking instantly.
“I’m just a mom!” is what she said when I asked her about our current position online and getting into the shows.
"She was steadfast in her belief that everyone could visibly tell that she wasn’t anyone important in the fashion industry. She was also steadfast in not giving a single shit about it either."
Coming in with her husband from western PA, she was in New York and at NYFW to help her daughter go to and from castings, shows, and of course, snap a few pictures of her walking the runway. When we noticed the sixth person wobble past us in a pair of sky-scrapingly high heels, she revealed to me that she went back to her hotel to ditch her sneakers and change into something that “blended in with the crowd a little better while I people watch.” She went with a black top with subtle mesh detailing, medium washed jeans, and a comfortable pair of shoes. I told her she looked great because she did, but she was steadfast in her belief that everyone could visibly tell that she wasn’t anyone important in the fashion industry. She was also steadfast in not giving a single shit about it either.
In a pair of low comfortable heels and a dress from H&M that was cute but selected for its function (the airflow in that dress is incredible), I looked at her like Annie and Hallie looked at each other when they put the torn pictures of their parents together in the Parent Trap. This full understanding that we were on the same page helped me put words to something that I’d been wrestling with for some time.
When I first started covering Fashion Week (A full five years ago) I planned what I was wearing for months on end, I wouldn’t shut up about my “diet”, and I wobbled to the shows in what I knew to be the hottest styles of the season and waited with baited breath and rosy cheeks for photographers to take my picture. As many of you already know, that’s not how it went down...at all. Not one person batted a designer eye at me during my entire trip and it was the most soul crushing yet useful lesson I've ever had to learn.
"I looked at her like Annie and Hallie looked at each other when they put the torn pictures of their parents together in the Parent Trap."
Flash forward to this year. It’s a day before I have to get on the bus to New York and I haven’t even looked at the mountain of cat hair covered dirty laundry hugging the corner of my room. I write a post about how I’m procrastinating, kick my ass into gear, pack, and I’m in New York wearing my dad’s old baseball cap, a pair of DIY earrings, and a dress that doesn’t fully reveal how much I’m freaking sweating in no time. I am once again, nothing to write, or photograph, home about. However this time, just like my new found friend from Western Pennsylvania, I don’t give a single shit about it.
When it comes down to it, fashion week is all about determining how much a person belongs there. The hierarchy of fashion week attendees is probably a whole 'other post, but for the sake of time let me just put it like this. PR agencies, designers, photographers, and reporters are looking for recognizable faces who can turn pages, boost traffic, and create a buzz. They're looking for people who are somebody. All of those things considering, I am a nobody. And, right now, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Being a nobody means that I answer to nobody. I am free to look, act, dress, and not diet as much as I damn well please. I’m not at the helm of what the magazines or photographers are “looking” for. Now, there are a ton of people who are able to act and dress however they want to while feeling the heat of an ever-present spotlight. To them, I say, way to go - that is not an easy task. Because as much as fashion is about self-expression, there is still a huge portion of it that depends on conforming. And that same pressure can lead to some really unhealthy behaviors.
"The best part of no one knowing who I am is learning how to style an outfit based on my needs and no one else's."
Plus, all that energy I used to spend thinking about how to look tall, skinny, and photogenic is now spent on photographing and meeting new people. And let me tell you, dodging in and out of the streets of New York to photograph speed walking New Yorkers is way easier and safer when an outfit is comfortable and functional.
The knowledge that no one is checking for me has helped me come into my own in both style and life. And why should they check for me? I'm just a nobody from Philly trying to make it in this crazy world of fashion on my own terms. Right now, that makes me a nobody. But who knows, one day this work, this commitment to not giving a shit and doing my own thing, might just make me a somebody too.