Sitting out instead of front row (Originally published feb. 2017)
Written by: Ayesha Go | Photos by: Colin Pieters
It’s that time of year again. Members of the social, anti-social, and anti-social social (yes, that's a thing) crowds are gathering together for the biannual event that makes dwellers of the East Coast come out of a hibernation induced months prior as a symbolism of winter. The time of year where stunnin’ isn’t a requirement, rather second nature: New York Fashion Week.
New York Fashion Week, NYFW or even Fashion Week for those familiar with the Olympic sport of hurdling through crowds of paparazzi and dashing from show to show with the perfect stick landing guaranteed to make you win the Best in Show medal—pretty sure this relates to dog shows and not the Olympics, but you get it.
As an East Coast dweller, Fashion Week has always been exciting. If you were an upcoming designer, this was your time to rub elbows with the right people. Your collection may or may not be picked up by department stores, but you were in the presence of greatness. If you were a blogger or freelance writer with the dreams and aspirations of one day having Anna Wintour’s job as the helm of the almighty, most high Kingdom of Style, which Carrie once referred to as the fashion Mecca, this was your chance to network your way to an opportunity or at least finesses your way to mailroom job or coffee date with an editor. If you were a stylist, it was your moment and time to put on a production outside of the main event to have onlookers question whether you were a brilliant genius courageous enough to take attention away from notable, famed designers or a spectacle part of the show: either way, eyes are on you. And if you just wanted to get your foot in the door and need that boost of awareness, then this was your time to steal the shine from the pack of well dressed hyenas all willing to do anything to get photographed and listed under any publications “Best of INSERT CITY NAME Fashion Week Street Style” article.
Fashion Week. Here today and gone seven days later. The seven-day phenomena us East Coast dwellers looked forward to: as if NYC doesn’t have enough going on hosting the West Indian parade on Eastern Parkway, the Puerto Rican parade, All-Star Weekend, and a host of other glamorous, celebrity-sighting events to worry about.
Let's not forget about the non-East Coast dwellers who would travel far and wide just to be in the presence of this event. Imagine this. People from places with scenic aesthetics more beautiful, and possibly cleaner, than New York City traveling to deal with the crowded streets, sidewalks filled with trash, that "tart" musk of city life, plethora of personalities, and of course home of the $1 pizza. Fashion Week was that great that people would travel to endure all that the city had to offer: good and bad.
In 2010, I was supposed to attend a Fashion Week party my mother was working, but ended up being stuck in New Brunswick at school. She later told me Nicki Minaj and Drake were at the party and said Drake was such a gentleman walking around smiling, giving head nods, and showing acknowledgment to all the Black people in the room. Partially frozen and dead inside, I just sat back thinking how I missed my golden opportunity to rub elbows with the in-crowd I’ve fawned over and credited with making the pages of my fashion magazines so magical. On top of that, I could’ve had a song, or at least a line, written about me by Drake. Iconic.
Seven years ago, well six and a half since this was for the Fall/Winter collections, I promised myself I would make my way back into the graces of the fashion elite and would rub elbows so well people would consider me to be one of them, not an aspiring talent that would be happy with a mailroom job or grabbing coffee.
As the years passed, my favorite biannual observance began to distance itself from my heart. I was growing out of love and didn’t want to rub elbows and could barely tolerate the idea of making eye contact with the people I used to look up to. What happened? What caused the change? What made my heart turn as cold as the wintery-weather us East Coast dwellers were used to? The Fashion industry.
Transitioning from an adolescence looking to the pages of fashion magazines for inspiration to a pre-adult (cause I’m not quite there yet) with an understanding of self and not living trend to trend, the magazines didn’t light the fire in my heart anymore. Consumed with "fitting in," becoming trendy, and focused on popularity and not the art made me despise what I once loved.
The fashion Olympics and council that once acknowledge the best, brightest, and gifted went from participants that have dedicated their lives to the sport and rigorously trained to accepting anyone and giving out pathetic participatory awards. A pity-party in exclusive Giuseppe Zanotti shoes and a Chanel handbag.
As I sat back and watched the elite transition into an empathic source of charity, Fashion Week became less interesting. Fashion lovers discussed what the impact would be of Fashion Week moving from Lincoln Center to being dispersed among the City, and I could care less. Designers switched from showing in New York, or not showing in New York, and I wasn’t interested. Social media became the eyes and lens into the holy kingdom of style, and I saw it as watered down.
And as the critics, who held nothing back and gave their honest scathing opinion of lackluster collections, started to be replaced by people with a large social following to verify their popularity and not credibility, passion nor and expertise, I sat and laughed as the well-put together circus came into town.
Fashion Week was no longer FASHION WEEK. Instead it was a well planned imitation of Fashion Week that caused nothing but traffic in the city and annoying non-East Coast dwellers that didn’t know how to weave through the streets nor the unspoken law of escalator etiquette: move to the right and leave the left lane open for the express passengers.
Social media has become the window to the Fashion Industry’s soul, but its perched open windows that exposed the vintage Versace home décor originally designed by Mr.Gianni Versace himself seemed forced. Who was opening the curtains? Why were they opening it? Since when did we become focused on wanting everyone to see how expensive our curtains were opposed to having them see the beauty for themselves as we host one of our dinner parties.
Fashion, along with many other industries, have become so enamored and concerned with popularity and mainstream entitlement that its core seems lost. Fashion started to resemble something I never seen before, and for that I decided I would boycott Fashion Week.
Our country is in an unfamiliar state. One some are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with, but others have been privy to its brash arrogance for far too long. Protest and boycotting have become a form of fighting back, taking a stand, and demanding better. While I would love to compare my act of defiance with the courage being displayed throughout the nation and worldwide, I’m boycotting because I no longer believe. I no longer believe innovation is celebrated. I no longer believe creativity is king. I no longer believe that fashion is the focal with everything else being an additional perk.
What I did begin to believe was there were too many fashionistas and not enough icons. I began to believe social presence seemed to be more important that the preservation of the art and growth of the skillset. I began to believe impacting the masses was more important than giving hope and inspiration to the future Karl Lagerfield’s, Vera Wang’s, Ralph Lauren’s, Tom Ford’s, and Marc Jacob’s of the world: whether they were living in a fast-pace city or somewhere in a rural town just looking for mentorship from the pages of a magazine.
While everyone isn’t guilty of adapting to this newfound need to fit in and be part of the in crowd and some are doing things to continue to stand out and keep the core pillars close to their hearts and intentions, as a fashion enthusiast it’s hard to sit back and watch the sea gleaming with more participatory awards rather than hard earned bronze, silver and gold medals.
Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough. But what I do know, as said by the late, great, fearless Coco Chanel, in order to be irreplaceable one must always be different. So this year, I'm sitting it out and earning my Olympic medal the right way.