Monday, September 19, 2011

The Fashion is the Fashion

Models cluttering the executive floor reception area.  Phones ringing off the hooks.  Dressers bags, ink cartridges, TONS of catered food, broken air conditioners, rapidly setup work stations, Mexican Japanese Italian French visiting CEOs, designers, coordinators, facilities departments, IT crashes, burnt out lightbulbs, celebrity guests, and booties to cover your street shoes. 

Don't think they have it in my size
These are just a few of the things I experienced last week behind the scenes at Calvin Klein's Spring 2012 Collection Show in New York City's Fashion Week.  I was delighted to find myself in the midst of the Fashion World's peak seasonal event - it's a world in which I am a stranger and sojourner, an outsider treated to a rare insider glimpse.  My mission was to gain some insights into a different kind of artform while doing a good job and not knocking over any celebrities on my way. I was moderately successful ;)

The show itself was an elegant a masterclass in production, with each detail carefully thought through with precision and cohesiveness.  The carpets, benches, walls, and seat cushions were white, the ambient music sounded white - all carefully and painstakingly crafted to transport the attendees into an alternate, perfect universe.  A universe of white.  A universe of clean.  A universe of perfect taste.  And a universe that lasted a whopping 9 minutes and struck me as being totally bizarre and a bit unwelcoming.

I was amazed at the brevity and simplicity of an event that has consumed an entire corporation for months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars of preparation, work, and design. Reviews have hailed this latest collection as one of Calvin Klein designer Francisco Costa's most feminine and balanced.  Some of the fabrics cost $700 a yard, and flow with an ease that rivals nudity.  Watching the parade, I noticed fellow viewers furiously notating their blackberries with reviews and judgments.  I tried to focus on the clothes.  I mean, that is why we were all there.  But as a total High Fashion World greenhorn, I was helplessly distracted by the ambiance and the models as they zombied across the runway with blank faces, jutting hips, and motionless arms.  When the models turned the corner on the square catwalk, I almost laughed out loud: they practically disappear from the side and can no doubt dodge the raindrops.

There have been so many conversations about body image that it gets exhausting to participate, and I acknowledge that there are women who are naturally tall and thin and modelesque without starving themselves.  My mother is one - as a teenager I'd borrow her clothes and feel obese for being a good 7 inches shorter and still wearing the same pantsize.  And I was heartened to see the models backstage eating sushi and fruit in between the two shows.  So I don't mean to go down that rabbit hole.  What struck me about my high fashion experience was not just the extreme thinness and alternative reality aspects, but rather the effect it had on me.  It was hard to picture myself in the fantasy they created.  These clothes aren't designed for me.  It didn't attract me in person, this hard white world. I felt like I had stepped into an alternative universe alright - but one a little more like the Twilight Zone than heaven.

Maybe I am a bit jealous, like the kid sister who can't play with the big kids.  Sure, I always wanted to be 7 feet tall and weigh 100 pounds.  Don't ask me why.  It makes no sense.  And I bet I'm not alone.  Yet I found myself wondering, where does this strange buried fantasy of mine come from?  Do I want to look like that just because it's so foreign and alternative to what I actually look like?  Is it JUST about escape?  That is, after all, one of the main (and most enjoyable) aspects of theater as well as fashion shows - to step into another world, another life, another character...someone else's shoes...someone else's body...someone else's dream...

And so I will leave you all with this thought from one of my favorite stylish ladies, Sophia Loren: "Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is beautiful."

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