Ah, fashion week. The industry’s most drama-filled time of year…or so the stories might lead you to believe. There’s an aura of face-pressed-against-the-glass mystique that it seems to inspire, no doubt intensified by viral incidents like the outrage over Yeezy Season 4, or former Vogue editor Lucinda Chambers’ brutally honest confession that she still experienced anxiety over show tickets after more than 36 years in the business. Fashion Week rumors are juicier than a Honeycrisp apple, but how true are they really? I tapped five veterans of the biz — a publicist, an influencer and three editors — to find out. *Names have been changed.
TRUE OR FALSE: Seating can cause drama; people get sensitive about where they’re sitting and some guests have been known to throw fits if they don’t have a front row seat, or if they’re sat next to someone they don’t get along with.
Isaac (Publicist): True…ish. There was one show, maybe four or five years ago, when an editor actually slapped a publicist in the face over a seating snafu. I’m not gonna name names but…yeah. Don’t slap anyone at a show, please. This is going to sound super lame, but I think of fashion shows like weddings: when you seat your reception dinner, you want your guests to enjoy themselves. Since you know your guests, you know Marla and Joan haven’t spoken to one another since college, so you obviously don’t want them at the same table because you want to avoid drama. The same strategy applies to seating a show: if a particular editor left a magazine on not-so-great terms, and is now working at a competing title, she probably won’t feel super comfortable sitting directly in front of of her former colleagues. Or maybe she’ll want to lord it over them! That’s why seating can be so nuanced. Thinking about this reminded me of this piece in the New York Times when a lot of changes happened at once and some publicists’ heads exploded.
Megan (Editor): True. There is a hierarchy at most magazines, and if you’re seated in front of someone who is above you on the masthead, you have to give up your seat for them. It’s hilarious! Apparently people freak out about second-row seats all the time.
Polly (Influencer): True! I’ve witnessed the funniest scenarios resulting from seating drama. It’s my favorite thing to watch while waiting for a show to start. I know girls who like to “hang out” in front of the front row and try to sneakily snag empty seats.
Alexa (Editor): Yes. I’ve been to shows and had my old assistant sitting next to me. I was cool with it, but have witnessed meltdowns over this before.
TRUE OR FALSE: Everyone is dressed in full designer looks and changes multiple times a day.
Isaac: Kind of. Some people, yes. Others, no. There’s a certain level of presentation that is expected, as of any job. You don’t show up to your bank teller position in sweatpants. But I have the impression that the people who change/dress up too much are more interested in developing their own profile/follower count than in watching the show.
Megan: False. Only Anna Dello Russo, really. And I’m not even sure she still comes to fashion week?
Polly: For sure.
Elliott (Editor): False. Some are, sure. We know who they are, and often, they do it very well. But I think the majority aren’t going overboard. One outfit, designer or otherwise (or often, mixed) usually suffices!
Alexa: The people doing that usually don’t have jobs in the industry.
TRUE OR FALSE: None of the people you see in street style pictures actually pay for their clothes.
Isaac: False…ish. There’s a lot of gifting and lending going on, certainly, especially with the bigger brands. But a lot of people buy their clothes, which is great. Some are even quite vocal about buying stuff. And certain brands are so ineffably cool they can afford to get away with not lending or gifting, so when you see a woman wearing an elaborate Comme des Garçons overcoat with five sleeves, you know she hauled ass to the store and laid down her Amex. God bless her for it.
Megan: 97 percent true.
Polly: Don’t think that’s the case for everyone, definitely not as much as it used to be. But yeah, I see certain people wearing pieces they would never have paid for. It might be considered cheating, but it also lets people fully express their sense of style with stuff they might not be able to otherwise afford.
Elliott: Major false. Fashion people buy! Gifting or borrowing samples may be in the mix, but if you really want something, you buy it. At least that’s how I see it and practice it. If a designer is generous, they may extend a friends and family discount of sorts, which is always appreciated.
Alexa: True. Lots of borrowed looks in these streets.
TRUE OR FALSE: A negative review can get you uninvited to shows.
Isaac: Cathy Horyn famously was banned by SEVERAL designers. Ultimately, though, if you respect someone’s opinions enough to invite them to your show in the first place, then you should be open to their criticism. However, I do think the way in which criticism is expressed matters; an ad hominem attack is never ideal. Good or bad, your opinion should still be professional and not personal.
Megan: True. Has happened to me on more than one occasion, but it’s typically the middling, who-cares-if-I’m-invited-anyway brands that do this.
Polly: I would understand it if the review was straight-up rude, but if someone is just being honest, and sharing a well-considered opinion, it shouldn’t be cause for banning. Personally though, I just don’t write about it at all if I don’t like it.
Elliott: Could be both but leaning toward false. I think designers are semi-past this. A negative review might prompt a nervous phone call from a publicist relaying the designer’s anger or disappointment. I’ve had a call or two like that, but I’ve never written something that has been 100% negative about a collection. It’s important to find the strong points, even if it’s two looks out of forty, and highlight them.
TRUE OR FALSE: It’s one, long, glamorous party (i.e. no one’s actually “working”).
Isaac: False. Oh my god, so false. Everyone is working so hard, obsessing over what are sometimes insanely small details. Think about seating charts. The act of seating is an art, and there comes a point where it’s like, “Okay, we really cannot spend another 95 minutes discussing whether this person should be in section B or section D and how that placement will affect their coverage/lives/sense of self-worth/relationship with our brand.” Perspective is key. Industry folks spend all day going in and out of shows (a process akin to going through the TSA check at LaGuardia on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving), then at night spend 15 minutes chasing Lady Gaga around the Boom Boom Room trying to get a quote, then immediately have to chase down a cab to take you to the Public where they’ll have to jostle through a throng of door crashers to do it all over again. That same cycle repeats itself the next day. And the next day. For a month.
Megan: True for a handful of people who use fashion week as their social life — and those people exist! — but false for most of us.
Polly: Of course not! It’s freaking exhausting!! But I love it…
Elliott: False for me. I have a rule now: unless it’s to report on an event, I do not generally go out during fashion week, and only drink if the day is getting on and I am writing somewhere (hotel bars are fantastic places to write. My favorite is the one at the Prince de Galles in Paris). There’s too much work to stay out late or to have a hangover. My party is a glass of wine as the deadline approaches, and another once I’ve filed.
Alexa: False. It is a lot of work.
TRUE OR FALSE: You hob-knob with lots of celebrities.
Isaac: Depends on your definition of “truth.” If by “hob-knob” you mean you get HOBBLED by a bunch of KNOBHEADS rushing past you to get a selfie with some Pretty Little Liars actress, then…yes. (Also, sorry.)
Polly: No comment…
Megan: False, but I probably could if I were a creeper.
Elliott: True-ish. Celebrities are increasingly part of the fashion complex on the designer end, beyond the front row appearance or the red carpet step-and-repeat. So sometimes as a reporter, you will have a chance to interview a famous face. I guess that’s not really mingling…but, all the same, celebrities — as designers, or as guests — are a notable factor in the fashion week publicity quotient.
TRUE OR FALSE: Everyone gets driven around in black cars paid for by their companies.
Isaac: This used to be true until the internet basically broke everything, retail started dying and money started drying up in the magazine business. I can recall one publisher in particular that offered positions that were notoriously cushy. The interns were given town cars and there was a line of them outside their office. Now, a lot of people are lucky if they get a subway pass. Honestly, though, fashion people are extremely resourceful, so everyone finds a way to get around. Carpooling! It’s ultimately a blessing, probably, for the environment/traffic/etc.
Megan: Falllseeeee. I don’t even think the whole staff of Vogue gets that.
Polly: I always wonder how that works. I’ve never had that, and I always end up spending so much money on cabs!
Alexa: Those days are over.
TRUE OR FALSE: Designers get offended when certain people don’t come to their shows.
Isaac: False. “Offended” might not be the right word. Disappointed? If you invited Bruce Springsteen to your wedding and he didn’t show, you’d be disappointed, but not really offended. The White House always sends a card when people invite the president to their weddings, which is the epitome of civilized behavior. You can always tell who the pros are based on who responds and says, “Sorry, I can’t make it” versus the people who just ignore multiple invitation attempts.
Megan: True. They cray.
Polly: I don’t know. Do they?
Alexa: Yes. It’s important to have key players at shows. It really means a lot to the designers.
TRUE OR FALSE: It’s pretty easy to sneak into shows if you try.
Isaac: IT REALLY DEPENDS ON THE SHOW. I think it was Groucho Marx, though, who said that any show that lets you crash isn’t really worth going to. Or something like that. But seriously, if you’re a super big fashion nerd, then a ton of the smaller shows will often let some people in before they close the doors if they need to fill standing space. If you want to crash a show, don’t hit up Calvin Klein. But maybe look at the Fashion Calendar and find a designer you’ve never heard of. You might be surprised! And they might need your support! (This might be terrible advice, but I stand by the part about Calvin).
Megan: True. Better to be small or to walk in with someone like Cathy Horyn…
Polly: True-ish. I’m such a wimp. I never tried, and I don’t think it would work at the bigger shows. Plus, I feel like if they would have wanted me there, I would have been invited.
Elliott: True. If you’re clever enough. Or lucky enough. Or determined enough. It might be a little harder at the “main” venues, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. The first show I ever snuck into was Phillip Lim at Bryant Park. A very long time ago, at this point.
Alexa: False. I do not recommend this.
TRUE OR FALSE: Seeing clothes on a runway actually makes a difference in terms of how you absorb the collection.
Isaac: Absolutely. It’s such a crucial thing to see clothes in person. I don’t say runway necessarily because I think presentations are great and we should have fewer shows and more presentations. But the way the fabric moves, catches the light, drapes on the body – these are all details that are lost on images or even video. I mean, flipping through a show online you miss the whole back of a look! That’s 50%, man. Although I hear designers talking about how an image will look on a runway shot when they design, which is shrewd, but also kind of a pity?
Megan: True. But it very much depends on the designer.
Polly: True. It comes to life. However, I always wear a diverse mix of brands whenever I put together an outfit, so I would never copy a full runway look.
Elliott: 100% True. And not only seeing the clothes as they are, but how they are styled, what model they’re on, how they look against the set and with the lighting, how they move with the model’s pace. I just barely made it to Rick Owens’s most recent menswear show in Paris; the clothes as seen online do about 3% of conveying how genuinely strong they are. That collection was brilliant. But I would not think this had I not been there.
Alexa: Yes. Watching the look go down the runway is much better than seeing it in images and on a rack. You can see how the fit actually will work for different shoots. Knowing the way looks drape and fit on the model is important when choosing looks for future shoots.
And with that, take your knowledge to the nearest trivia night or fashion show and have at it!