Fashion week is a circus. For those of us who experience it firsthand, it's an entertaining, thrilling, adrenaline and caffeine-fueled event, one that's not without its fair share of stress and exhaustion (how anyone could NOT be completely tapped out after enduring those eight days is a mystery to me). Once the production wraps in New York, many fashion folk go on to other cities for another few weeks of shows. And in six months, we muster our energy, don our best new outfits, and we do it all over again. This season was my first fashion week covering backstage beauty for T magazine, an experience that presented a different side of the spectacle than what I usually see. Some things I learned from it all: + Happy Feet - It doesn't matter if your ride to the show is an Uber or a bike, or you're taking the train and hoofing it—once you get backstage, you're going to be standing around for a while (that, and pulling some tight maneuvers between models perched on stools at hair and makeup stations). And given how crowded it typically is in those backstage prep areas, your feet will likely get stepped on. While your new Prada platforms might be snap-bait for the street photographers outside, they're not going to help you much in that setting, so do yourself a favor and save your fun shoes—and your feet—for a more fun occasion. Backstage is WORK.
+ Production Value - I'm continually amazed at just how much effort, time, money and manpower goes into producing a fashion show each season (and that says nothing of the collection itself). While my usual call time for backstage access was two-and-half hours before start time, two shows—Givenchy and Marc Jacobs—had me there over four hours early. And yes, there were throngs of models already getting prepped and coiffed then.
As a showgoer, my past NYFW itineraries have usually gone like this: arrive just before scheduled time, wait 20 (at least) minutes to be seated, wait another 20 minutes (at least) for the show to start, watch show for 10 minutes, spend 20 minutes exiting. While I've fumed over those delays, the frustrating cattle-herding into the venue—all for a presentation that lasts less than a prime-time news segment—I've never considered that there are people backstage who have been there, literally, for several hours beforehand, to make everything come together. That doesn't change my mindset and tendency to ask the question: "Is this really all necessary?" But, the fact is, NYFW raises big bucks for the city ($900 million for this year alone!), and it's happening—whether or not I think there are better ways to do it.
+ Efficiency - That said, do your job efficiently: arrive promptly, get in, get your information, interview your sources, snap a few pics if needed, then get the hell out of the way.
+ Be Nice - I can't overstate the value of this enough. Fern Mallis, the former senior vice president of IMG Fashion and executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, is a BIG deal in the fashion industry, and yet her signature advice to aspiring designers and young guns starting out in their careers has little to do with actual fashion: "Be nice," she routinely says. Don't be nice to solicit favors or because you expect something in return. Be nice because it reflects good character, because it costs nothing and will never go out of style, because being nice usually inspires others to be nice back (and sure, sometimes it does reap sweet benefits). It dumbfounded me to see how many of my colleagues didn't seem to understand that. Given how much of us were on the same schedule of shows, you'd think more would have made an effort to smile or at least acknowledge our similar itineraries (and that includes the pr people, and all the other familiar faces who were regularly backstage). At the very least, try not to shoot holes in your feet: if you can't be nice, then just don't be mean.
+ Different = Beautiful (and we've still got a long way to go towards accepting that) - I saw a lot of freakish models backstage, which to some degree is exactly what makes a model. They're abnormal freaks of nature—or, as the model Ana Christina referred to her fellow catwalkers backstage at Marc Jacobs, pretty aliens—who are celebrated for being physically different from the norm. I'm all for that. Having a unique or different appearance IS beautiful. I only wish it didn't require a nod from the fashion industry to validate that. I've heard countless stories of models who had it rough growing up; they were teased for their odd looks, long limbs, being too skinny...until a modeling scout comes into the picture and suddenly those strange, uncommon features become a trademark (not to mention a meal ticket). That's great for them, it really is. But for every model who eventually feels validated for being different and rare, there are how many other individuals and non-models who will continually be picked at, criticized, disdained and dismissed for not looking like the norm?
+ Hometown pride - Diversity on the runways has been an ongoing issue throughout Fashion Weeks, and while I feel that we also have a long way to go in that regard, it made me extremely proud to see how the various casts of models walking in New York's shows compared to those in the cities that followed (I'm especially referring to you, London).