NEW YORK — An idea of how the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week actually worked eluded me until the moment I got there. Did I need a press pass to get into the tent? Wait, a tent? They were going to put high fashion models in a tent? Is this PDF invitation, compliments of the Stiles computer cluster, supposed to grant me access to my first runway show? I held my breath each minute waiting to be found out by security and asked to leave. It could not have been that easy to penetrate the fashion week bubble, even if I was wearing my Tahari shirt.
Actually, easy might be the wrong term: Getting in is not simply a matter of checking an attending box on Facebook. Press passes do not guarantee admission to shows; instead, lists of “registered press members” have circulated about the designers and invitations are sent out accordingly. By some stroke of luck involving a sympathetic Harvard alumna, my cards fell into place.
When you arrive at Bryant Park, invitation in tow, nothing is very clear. I arrived at eight in the morning, confused. The area with the mass of reporters hovering around what looked like an unimpressive main entrance felt like a good place to start. They let our shivering herd in around 8:15, and it was like walking into some alternate universe. This entrance area looked like the lobby of the Venetian Hotel in Vegas but in a non-cringe-worthy way. A structure that looked like a fountain stood in the center of it all surrounded by mannequins covered in couture. At the end of the main tent, there came a fork in the Bryant Park pavement: To the right was the Salon; to the left was the Promenade. These were the two runway locales.
My first show, Cynthia Steffe, was at nine in the Salon. The check-in staff was shockingly nice, even pretending to recall who I was when I gave them my name. I proceeded in and, despite my standing ticket, managed to snag a seat in the third row. Before I could even turn on my camera, the runway lit up and a surge of anticipation passed through me as a modern, runway version of “Addicted to Love” began pumping. I loved the collection. The models were gorgeous, each donning knee-high socks that made their already mile-high legs look even longer. The pieces were an interesting mix of military- and schoolgirl-inspired looks, constructed with flirty, girly fabrics and evoking — how should I say this? — a naughty-but-nice feel. The show was all of 14 minutes, but it was 14 minutes of sheer fabulousness.
I took a field trip over to Macy’s after the show to buy something a little more respectable to change into and then ate a really classy lunch at the McDonald’s on the seventh floor. Around one in the afternoon, I made my way back to the tent.
When I got to the entrance I saw some people lingering outside and after debating for a minute whether I should try to go in anyway, I decided to ask security. They asked for an invitation, I showed them, and walked into the tent. Hello, inner circle.
The fleeting feeling of belonging quickly fled. As I passed through the groups of seasoned fashion reporters, everyone was asking where Heidi Klum was. I went to the less-than-glamorous bathrooms to put on my contacts and came out to a photo shoot featuring one of the supermodels holding a blackberry. No big deal. I sat down and tried to reorganize the mass of papers and shopping bags that were pouring out of my purse. I ended up people watching for a few minutes until it was time to line up for Christian Siriano’s show.
I was awkwardly standing in the front of the line for about half an hour before they let us enter another line in front of the doors of the Promenade. I watched as the hundreds of photographers jockeyed for positions on the risers and as the people who thought they were better than the line tried to break into the show. An hour later when we were finally allowed in, I was offered some pleasant standing room along with about a hundred or so other people. As the show drew closer, they started filling in seats and I was promoted to the fifth row, just in time to get a glimpse of photographers surrounding Heidi Klum. The show started not so soon after, but it was well worth the wait. While the fog filling the room made it a bit hard to breath, the show was incredible. The pieces were very inventive, particularly the long gowns in their loud, vibrant colors. The last model almost tripped — it was awesome! A lot of the models were wearing dark sunglasses making everything look a little darker and more mysterious. Christian Siriano himself even came out at the end and did a little dance. Very fulfilling indeed.
Leaving the show was like trying to leave a football game, but I was in no hurry to leave fashion week behind. A wall of all these crazy spectators lined the outside steps.
As I walked towards the street, I heard the paparazzi screaming about seeing Snooki in a cab. I wanted to tell those awestruck people that fashion week wasn’t the mystic, unapproachable affair that I had always imagined. It was truly magical — a Disneyland for adults. There was Heidi Klum! She’s like Snow White! There was Snooki! She’s Bambi! There was a twelve-year-old with grey hair! Pluto!
And then it came to me: The Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week was actually just a celebration of style amongst a cast of well-dressed characters.