Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Grade Point Average: New York Fashion Week

by Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg, contributing editor of lookonline.com

Sure, Fashion Week’s a blast. And, sure, everybody adores going to the shows, the parties, hobnobbing at the tents, all the freebies, the gossip, et al. But, for us, the favorite thing is getting the real, priv√© … from the front row and beyond … on the good, the bad and the ugly of what really went down during the week. Here, the grades that go from A to F.

“Everyone runs to our booth at the tents first thing in the morning to get our gorgeous pink totebags. The bags are so desirable that we usually run out of them by noon every day and we don’t get any more to give out until 9AM the following day. People always think that we’re lying to them when we tell them that we have no more bags to give out; they think that we really do have some and that we just want to give them a hard time

. You have no idea how many people come to the booth and demand that we give them the display bags, which we absolutely cannot do. We had one editor who gave us a very hard time when she wanted a bag after we’d run out for that day. We told her that the only bags we had were the ones right in front of her eyes and that these were our display bags. We also told her that we’d be happy to give her a bag the following day. She became irate, raised her hand, and said, ‘well, unless you give me a bag right now, I’m ready to give you some more bags right under your eyes!’ Obviously, she didn’t get a bag and she’s no longer allowed in our booth.” —Amelia Zieran Brown, WE Booth

“I think that the story of what’s going on at the shows is about the buildup of animosity between professional fashion people and celebrities. A lot of those professional fashion people have been semi-injured by the crush of photographers trying to get that one shot, both inside and outside the tents. For example, Suzi Menkes of The International herald Tribune, was severely shoved and pushed and fell into another editor at Oscar de la Renta’s show. It’s reached the point where celebrities are really causing major problems, and many of these celebrities are so minor that you wouldn’t even know who they are.

With this being said, I think that there needs to be a much better situation in the way celebrities and the photographers who run after them at the shows are handled. I read that right before one of the major shows, Beyonce had been asked to go to the end of the runway and let the photographers shoot her and then have her sit down quietly. Maybe if all of the celebrities did this, it would be safer for everyone’s well being.

On the up side, we’re seeing growth and strength in the young designer arena. Names such as Jeffrey Chow and Richard Chai might not be known by everyone right this minute, but they’re well on their way.” – Mary Lou Luther, International Fashion Syndicate

“What bothered me most (and probably 2,000 other people) during the week was the long, long, long wait at Marc Jacobs. It was an hour and a half in an unbelievably hot room with no announcement why. People were stamping their feet, hissing and booing at 10:30 at night for a show that was supposed to have started hours before. Also, there was the fiasco at the over-filled Baby Phat show with many, many key editors such as Vogue’s Andre Leon Talley being turned away at the door. Everyone was talking about that. I am giving an A+ to the Kohler Hat Box Toilets. They’re beautiful. Don’t you want one in your house? It used to be that everyone had to use those Porta Potties and by the end of the day or maybe before the end of the day, they’d be rather funky. This season, though, the rest areas are like what you’d see in an exclusive boutique hotel; clean, bright and spotless all the time.” – Sylvia Rubin, Fashion Editor, The San Francisco Chronicle

“The same old problems with finding your seat or finding your seat and there’s someone already sitting there. Seat stealing is really getting out of hand. Then there was the backstage fistfight between photographers at Baby Phat. Kimora was late getting there and it turned into one huge free for all. It’s tough getting an interview when there are 5,000 other people around, all trying for the same thing, and there’s no one in authority to even it all out.” Lauren Ezersky

“The worst thing were the waits and I must say that the longest wait happened at our friend, Marc Jacobs. I’m going on the record as saying that it was really terrible. He should be too professional at this point than to keep us waiting that long. If he’s not ready with the collection, he should have his show later in the week. But, do I know if that was the real reason? All I can say is someone said that they were delivering the clothes as we were sitting there, but you hear that every time. It’s OK to be late once. It’s OK to be late twice. But, every time consistently and for that long period of time? That was my tenth show that day. I had dinner that night, so I had a little break in between. But most people hadn’t had a break; they hadn’t had dinner and they were anxious to go out and have something to eat and get home, get to bed to come back and do it again the next day. And, I believe that most professional people who are doing the shows think the way I do. They’re not going to the afterparties; they haven’t the time. This is a business.

A good thing during the week was the Jeffrey Chow show. We bought him last season and we’re buying him again this season. His show was charming; probably one of the best of the week that I’ve seen. Overall, I think the new, young designers are the ones surprising and pleasing us with the direction that they’re going in. And, it’s going to make New York stronger.” -- Joan Kaner, Senior VP, Neiman Marcus

“Not being able to stop at Le Gamine between shows to have my favorite endive salad. Also, not being able to have coffee served at the tents at one point after mid-day and then there’s the problem of having no coffee available anywhere at the tents after 5PM. Are they insane? That’s when people really need a caffeine and sugar shot, so that’s very annoying. But, there’s lots of alcohol at the tents. And, alcohol is a depressant, I want to tell them; it’s not a pick-me-up.

One of the worst things that happened this week and had not happened before is cameramen coming close to killing or sending to the hospital editors and retailers; working members of the fashion industry. At Luca Luca, the paparazzi factor was out of control. Well, from what we all understand (I wasn’t there because I refuse to go anymore), at Baby Phat, I understand was ridiculous. While things were a bit better at Marc Jacobs, I observed that Anna Wintour was forced out of her seat because of all the papazarri who were pushing and shoving and crowding so hard to get a picture of Beyonce and JayZ, who were sitting across the aisle. There were just a million camera guys everywhere and then, to make matters worse, the bodyguards starting pushing and shoving, too. And, they almost pushed Anna out of her seat. They literally got her out of her seat; she had to get up.

I don’t say that paparazzi should be banned from the shows entirely but should be managed by a coalition of the PR from the designers and IMG. And by managed, for instance, perhaps there could be just a certain number of them that are allowed in. Perhaps they’d have to be accredited differently than the regular fashion photographer because they’re not, and that’s new. It never used to be that you had photographers who were in the shows solely to get photos of the celebrity.

It used to be that you had the fashion photographers taking fashion photos and of course being good photographers, they’d say, ‘oh, there’s a celebrity, it’s news, let’s get the shot’. Now, there are the photographers here who come in solely to get photos of the celebrities and they’re the ones who are the most rabid. It’s not helping and it’s terrible; it’s hurting people and making them fearful. I don’t think people are going to stop going to shows such as Marc Jacobs just yet but they have stopped going to Baby Phat, for instance, because of the ridiculous celebrity circus that it’s become. But, then there’s a difference of what’s on those runways.

On the upside, I like that fact that there are more up and coming designers showing under the tents this season. That’s a good thing. I thought that Doori was definitely a standout.” -- Constance White, Style Director, Ebay

“I don’t know if I would qualify it as disgusting, but the thing that disturbs me always about Fashion Week is people like myself and you, who work in the industry, go out and do jobs that expose as many people as we can to our audiences, and then it comes time to get to a show; get an invitation, get a seat, and there’s nothing for us. We work like dogs. And then I get inside. I’m looking at the seats and it’s the friend of Mrs. Smith. I’m not saying they shouldn’t see the shows, but it’s always hard for us who really need to see things, to work, to not have that opportunity sometimes or at least have difficulty. So, that’s the thing that I find the most disturbing.

As for the celebrity photographers around this season, I think that for all the hype, it’s a good kind of advertisement for fashion. It raises the awareness level of the industry. Celebrities are the American royalty so I can appreciate that. Those guys work like crazy dogs, too, and to get that one shot means everything. However, generally speaking, there should be a better comportment to their behavior. Yes, there should be some control; that would be nice. I wish animals didn’t have to suffer when they die for my food. I wish for many things in the world; peace on earth, good will towards man.

Overall, there hasn’t been a lot of conflict and a lot of disturbance during the week, like when PR people or people in your seat give you a hard time or they’re nasty during the week and that’s been fabulous. There was a story I read about Philip Bloch and how some poor unfortunate soul parked their bag on his chair for a minute at one of the shows and how he got enraged and kicked the bag across the aisle. Although I haven’t experienced that kind of behavior, I again wish human beings could treat each other with consideration and understand that we’re all the same red blood, the same hardworking people. Those who do have more don’t necessarily deserve more than others. -- Laurie Schecter, Totally Cool

“I think it’s become really sad when it’s more about which celebrity is wearing the clothes and not about the designer who actually created the clothes. I do think that it’s great for the designers, but it also takes something away from them as well because it’s no longer about the actual design, the construction, the clothes; it’s only about who’s wearing them; who’s in the front row.” -- Edith Shore, Totally Cool


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