City Pulse

By Gillian Weeks

I never expected to extract any insights from an event that involved so much hairspray. Maybe some free champagne, or a killer gift bag, but not the kind of lessons that usually come from yoga seminars or night-school classes. As it turned out, fashion week had plenty to teach. All a student needs is an open mind, impractical shoes, and a well-honed sense of entitlement. Let the learning begin.

Lesson 1: Why look good when you can look crazy?

Sometimes it’s hard to make a strong impression, especially among the dolled-up and tricked-out crowd you find around Bryant Park. The answer isn’t to rush off to Barney’s; instead, try the costume shop. If you can’t look a la mode then try looking out of your mind.

Lesson 2: Screw the shoes. Keep on truckin.

In most of the shows I attended, there was at least one runway misstep. At Esteban Cortazar, one of the models lost part of her shoe and ended up hobbling down the runway with a bum leg. Half way down, though, she paused, took off both stilettos, and did her walk au natural. This strategy might not be advisable on New York City sidewalks, so only lose the shoes if there’s a red carpet in between you and pavement. Just remember: if life hands you platforms, make sure you’ve got a pedicure.

Lesson 3: Keep it real.

It’s easy to get a big attitude if you spend enough time backstage at Fashion Week. The glare of the flashbulbs can make it hard to get a good look at reality. Thank god there were the port-a-potties to deflate some egos. For all the swankiness of the event, Bryant Park does not come equipped with permanent restrooms, leaving a fleet of fashionistas to hold their noses at the scent of disinfectant and uh…you get the picture. Granted, these were the fanciest porta potties I’ve ever come across, complete with a sink, mirror, and electric light. But the experience was a reality check for even the haughtiest of hautes.

I can think of better fonts of wisdom than Fashion Week – the teachings of Buddha, a pilgrimage to Mecca, your mother. But there’s something about finding depth beneath the superficial that makes this event ever more profound. The answers to life’s questions may be just behind the runway.

Originally published September 2006
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