Friday, September 18, 2009

Happy Rosh Hashanah + At the Fashion Tent

Shana Tova Umetukah. שנה טובה

I hadn't realized a week had passed since my last entry, on 9/11. My days have been melding together in a balmy, pleasurable fashion. Although fall officially arrives next Monda it's already begun to settle in. One of the major harbingers of the new season is the beginning of the academic year, and another is New York Fashion Week, which concluded today. It's headquartered at the giant tents that devour a huge central swathe of Bryant Park, just behind the Research Branch (now the Steven Schwartzman Branch) of the New York Public Library, where I've been spending a good portion of the summer writing and research. A little while back I posted some photos of the tents going up, and then two days ago, I decided to take a break from several writing projects to get some air and see up close what was going down.

My feelings about the fashion world are conflicted: on the one hand I'm drawn towards its focus on aesthetics, beauty, creativity, innovation, wit, glamor, and style; on the other hand I detest its overall sexism, racism, classism, its psychologically and emotionally damaging effects on women (and men), and its endless recycling, its self-importance and its essentially exclusionary quality. Perhaps someone will draw or has drawn a theoretical line between the arguments of J. J. Winckelmann's "Essay on the Beautiful in Art" and Anna Wintour's editorial eye (and I haven't yet seen The September Issue); it might make make for an interesting conversation or not. But I'll hold off on that for now. I did notice that the models arriving and departing, like the people working (wheeling in those suitcases filled with who-knows-what, the photographers, etc.) were a diverse lot, but those who appeared to be attending as VIPs were far less so. I also found it telling that when the models of color were leaving, most of the photographers took far less interest in them. (Cf. fashion magazines, etc.)

At any rate yesterday I stationed myself right on the other side of the banister and barricades dividing the park's open, public sections from the private pitch leading to the back entry, by which models and VVIPs arrived, of the Mercedes Benz-sponsored big tent (House?), just as Phillip Lim's show had ended, Alexandre Hercovitch's and Milly by Michelle Smith were beginning, and people were beginning the process of arriving for Anna Sui's spectacle later in the day. I stood right next to a number of stringers, freelance and amateur photographers, a few of whom nearly got into fistfights with the official paparazzi when a celebrity (I'm not sure who it was, because I couldn't see her) arrived. One paparazzo bragged that he was ready to engage in a smackdown, though given how expensive his camera equipment looked, I suppose it could have occurred only after he'd safely stored everything away.

The fashion industry is supposedly suffering, like most aspects of our economy, from a serious downturn. There are simply not enough people financially able, let alone foolish enough, to drop thousands of dollars--cash or even less likely these days, credit--on a frock or pair of shoes or a handbag. Or one of those Peewee Hermanesque Thom Browne tiny suits that became the rage a few years back. This reality, so evident in all the empty storefronts dotting Manhattan's streets, has led to some ridiculous whining by some designers, as this New York Times piece recounts, but it also has led some designers, as is the case for people across the country and globe, to greater resourcefulness amid their despair. From what I could see, the parade of very rich and stylish people, many of them so thin they could pass through keyholes, continued, but perhaps there were fewer of them this year, and their hold over the larger society has lessened. A sequel to the first Sex and the City movie (and the TV show) is filming right now in Manhattan, and I wonder if this new reality will inform its script. Hollywood seems not to have gotten the message, from what I can tell, a few films notwithstanding. In terms of celebs, I spotted the one and only übersocialite Tinsley Mortimer; Ramona Singer, one of the Real Housewives of New York; and Lauren Conrad, who is a star of the popular TV show The Hills, though there were other famous-looking people, but I must admit I don't regularly read the New York Social Diary so I didn't know them from Eve.

After a few hours of snapping photos, observing the waves of excitement and ennui, chatting with the security guards and other photographers, counseling (as if I knew anything about anything) a young publicist who was trying to get into the fashion industry, and talking with an elderly tourist from Texas who was alternately bemused and bored with the procession while expressing repeated concern about the models' emaciation, all of which I found more enjoyable than any of the reality TV shows I regularly watch, as it was unscripted, far more democratic (anyone and everyone, from the employed to the homeless, took seats or positions, behind the barricades, and commented freely as the parade of wealth and privilege proceeded, with alternating bursts of awe, delight and annoyance), I went back to the library and continued my writing projects.

Today, I returned, for a briefer visit, but when I was leaving the library, I noticed one of the main first-floor auditorium had been sealed off, behind a cordon, for one of the last shows, Anne Klein's. (I thought they'd gone out of business.) I couldn't convince the guard to let me snap even one picture beyond the closed door--public library though it may be, contributor though I may be, the space, like that of the park, was turned over unyieldingly to private, very wealthy interests. Instead, he let me photograph him. It was supposedly the show of the season.

Photos follow, enjoy!

Prepping for a pre-fashion show event, NYPL
Library alcove curtained off for a fashion show event
Prepping for a pre-fashion show event, NYPL
Disappearing behind the curtain
Pre-fashion show swag
Behind the curtain, pre-show schwag, lined up in the library
Outdoors, in between shows
Model chillin
One of Milly by Michelle Smith's models, before the show
Rich lady, high heels
Rich attendee, waiting to be admitted
Models relaxing
Philip Lim models, post-show
Fashionista tumble (whoops!)
Fashionista tumble (over a park chair!)
Brotha in kilt/skirt
Fashion insider, in a kilt/skirt
Daring style
Daring style
Three fashionistas
Three fashionistas
Fashionista arriving
Rich NY ladies
Rich attendees, arriving
Holding pose despite paparazzi frenzy behind her
Young woman holding her pose, while the frenzy begins behind her
The paparazzi go crazy
The official paparazzi go crazy over whoever the famous person was
Model doing impromptu photo
A model and photographer, pre-Milly by Michelle Smith show
Fellow photographer, videotaping the entry of the grandees
Lauren Conrad of 'The Hills'
Lauren Conrad, of The Hills
Über-socialite Tinsley Mortimer (on left)
Tinsley Mortimer, socialite
Fashionistas (check out those ruffled sleeves)
Fashionistas arriving (cf. the ruffled sleeves; according to The New York Times, they're a "trend")
(Model?) lolling
Fashion march
Fashion march
Model or someone notable
A model, someone notable (or both)

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