To any other New Yorker, Bryant Park is simply the outdoor public space behind the New York Public Library; to a fashion-obsessed individual like myself, it is a veritable mecca of fashion-worshippers, drawing a pilgrimage of editors, buyers and stylists from around the globe twice a year. And this year, for the first time, I, with my friend Katherine, joined their ranks, making the trek to see the Behnaz Sarafpour show. After being cooped up on a smelly train for two hours, we finally entered the hallowed tents. I was overwhelmed by the congregation that greeted me: hipsters with their expertly faded jeans tucked into their Ugg boots, pirate-style; fashionistas in their skintight, size 25 Paper Denim jeans and perilously high stilettos; the eccentrics, in their mish-mash of bright florals, neon tights and striped sweaters, who you would probably mistake for bag ladies if they weren’t world-famous stylists; the socialites with their platinum tresses, mahogany fur coats, and flawless makeup; and every fashion magazine editor and personality that I spend hours each month reading about.
“You have to tell me who everyone is,” Katherine whispered.
“Okay. There’s Suzy Menkes. And Hilary Alexander, Patricia Field and Lucy Sykes — and Carine Roitfeld.”
Doesn’t everyone know who these people are?
“The editor in chief of French Vogue and one of the best stylists in the world,” I responded matter-of-factly.
“And there’s Mary Alice Stephenson of Harper’s Bazaar, Isabel Dupre of Elle, and Hal Rubenstein of In Style.”
A blank stare. Doesn’t she read seven fashion magazines every month like I do?
Waiting on line for the standing-room seats, we gawked as the socialite-heavy audience of the Bill Blass show streamed out of the tent. When we were finally allowed into the show 20 minutes later, we were lucky enough to snag two empty seats in the fourth row.
Compared to the spectacle we had already witnessed, Behnaz’s show was a much more serene and tasteful affair. A steady stream of models, wearing gentle shades of pastels, grays, and black, glided by a front row lineup of fashion royalty, including the godlike Anna Wintour. In their flat ballet slippers, sequin-infused sweaters, and airy, ruffled party dresses, the models appeared like cool, modern princesses decked out for a ball.
Following the finale of gold brocade creations, we merged with the mass of spectators and exited the tent. After checking out the underfed, overbred crowd one last time, we did the only thing acceptable after viewing perfectly proportioned models in impossibly beautiful clothes: we headed downtown to the Corner Bistro to gorge on burgers and beer.
Call us heretics.
If there’s one thing I have learned, it is that fashion week means a lot more than a few shows. My experience began when, determined to blend in with the Bryant Park fashionistas, I decided I needed trendy jeans. After buying my first pair of Sevens, I knew I was set. I could not have been more wrong. That Monday, I marched up the red carpet, decked out in my high black boots and brand-new jeans. The doors of the tent opened to a hidden world of skinny women lost under their mink hats, fox stoles and shearling vests. I did not, to say the least, blend in.
The tent was fast-paced and intimidating. The W Hotel Press Bar was complete with free bellinis; makeup consultants painted women at the Shu Uemura stand; the Evian booth glowed. I was surrounded by red dresses created by every designer to grace the pages of Vogue, and I longed to touch the Calvin Klein silk or Badgley Mischka beads. Suddenly, camera flashes blinded me. A tiny woman in a knee-length fur coat and impossible heels pursed her lips, sank back into her hips, and expertly flirted with the photographer.
“Who was that?” I asked Vanessa Lawrence, my own fashion expert.
“The editor in chief of French Vogue, Carine Roitfeld,” she replied.
Oh, right, of course.
Next, in strutted a team of expertly streaked blondes with Mombasa bags — apparently this season’s hot style — slung over their nonexistent shoulders, their Manolo Blahniks clicking on the stairs to the Bill Blass show. Socialites Ivanka Trump, Jane Lauder (the only brunette), Blaine Trump and Muffy Aston Potter giggled as they passed the hordes of standing-room-only crowds. The photographers went mad.
“Oh, who is THAT?” I asked Vanessa about an important-looking woman puttering by.
“Carine Roitfeld,” she replied.
“Who?” My ignorance was glaring.
“French Vogue,” she said patiently.
Oh, right, of course.
When we finally piled into the Behnaz Sarafpour show tent, a Prada-clad publicist directed us to “take what you can find.” We grabbed two seats in the fourth row and smirked at a Harper’s Bazaar editor seated BEHIND us. The music started and spindly models in ballet slippers graced the runway. Vogue editors Grace Coddington and queen Anna Wintour preened in the front row. Breathtaking tulle skirts draped jutting hips. Gold brocade bodices shined in our eyes, and before I knew it, the show was over, Anna Wintour was scuttled backstage, and we finally exhaled.
Assured we would never get into the Marc Jacobs show, Vanessa and I decided to celebrate our glamorous day with an early lunch of a Corner Bistro burger and Magnolia Bakery cupcake. We snuck one last look at French Vogue and slid out of the tent, but not before I overheard one spidery model say to another: “Let’s go get trashed.”