Last Thursday, the New York Times ran an article entitled ‘Illness Walks the Runway.’ It was an amusing piece on the frenzied — and immune system challenging — pace of the international collections, which start at the end of this week in New York and then move to London, Milan and Paris, written by Tim Murphy. I was quoted in the piece: “Fashion Week season is a nonstop assault on the immune system,” was one line, as was, “You don’t want to sit next to anyone coughing, because if you get sick, you’re screwed.” My mom will be so proud I managed to say “you’re screwed” in the New York Times, surely.
I have been asked if I think fashion week is too crowded. Many people are quick to say yes, but I’ve always been a little hesitant to show disdain for the (yes, it’s ridiculous) schedule. Am I often pooped? Totally. Do I think some of the shows and presentations and parties are frivolous? Definitely. In fact, when someone asks me if they should do something during fashion week, I always tell them it’s a terrible idea. Most of the events get lost in the shuffle, forgotten in a long stream of handsome waiters holding sponsored cocktails and fatigued publicists working overtime with swollen ankles from standing at doors for too long. Much better to do an opening or a party or a press appointment at a different time in the year, when people aren’t so zonked out.
Another reason I would hate to say that fashion week is too crowded is because it would seem like we aren’t supportive of this industry. I love that everyone wants to participate in the dialogue of getting dressed, of expressing ourselves through clothes. I like that people are crashing shows and dressing up and have a vested interest in this industry. We’re in a recession, and if people stop caring about fashion, I’m out of a job.
At any rate, I had a splendid time thinking about this article, and I thought I should share some of the other things I told Mr. Murphy. First, I told him most of my friends have a joke about fashion week: That by the end, you’re fashion weak. Fashion fatigued. (That’s pronounced “fat-ta-gayed.”) And I told him that there are two kinds of people you don’t want to sit next to at a fashion show: Someone who smells like a bar, which is another epidemic during the shows because socializing is such a big part of the business; or someone coughing, because if you get sick during the shows you’re screwed. It was at this point where I managed to slip in the “screwing” to the Times.
But while many are quick to complain — and I’m sure my day will come when I’m over it, when I’m a bitter fashion queen who can’t crack a smile even when a girl trips on the runway — but as for now I’m still enthralled by the industry. I still get giddy when the lights go down at a fashion show. I still want to know the new models names and go check out whatever young designer everyone is talking about. It’s insane, yes: Early shows, late dinners, everyone crammed into tents and airplanes with other people. Talk about fashion fat-ta-gayed. But I’d be happy to mop the floors at a fashion show if that’s as close as I could get.
And it isn’t completely dire. It’s not exactly nuclear warfare. One can prepare for this extravaganza, after all. A lot of my friends like to de-tox before they re-tox, so to speak. Lots of green juices, vitamins and sobriety happening in the weeks leading up to the shows. Organization is crucial too: That’s why so many editors plan their outfits in advance, and print and laminate their schedules. They want to be able to let their body rest until the last possible moment, and then get up, get dressed and get going as quickly as possible.
The reason I think some people get sick is good ole fashioned hedonism. So, my suggestion is: Pick your nights out and, just as importantly, pick your nights in. And always go home before you’re entirely inebriated. The one thing to remember when it comes to fashion week is that it it happens twice a year.
Illustration from the original New York Times article, published on January 30, 2013, by Rowan Barnes-Murphy