I moved to New York City 10 years ago. That means mostly nothing, but also two things: 1.) I have attended many D-list New York Fashion Week parties and have deejayed a few of them over the years 2.) I always enter and leave them feeling the same way—bad about my appearance and bank account, but also, somehow, morally superior. I’ve held the belief that music and writing are objectively better, deeper, cooler, and much more accessible art mediums than fashion for as long as I can remember. It’s a stubborn and judgmental position that makes Fashion Week the one time of the year I feel overwhelmed by my own negativity. Normally I channel that shit to create observant and ironic blogs.
This blog is not one of those blogs. I finally got my ass kicked by New York Fashion Week, which, I’d come to find, is the most fun I could ever have at such an event.
In November of last year, I reviewed the first season of the Hills, having never seen the MTV staple before. In one episode, America’s Next Top Model PR maven Kelly Cutrone makes an appearance, and I applauded her characteristically cutthroat behavior, prevalent even then. She must have a Google alert set for her own name because she found the post, emailed me to say, “Thanks for the shout out!!!” and that was that. Fast forward to August 2019 and Cutrone was once again in my inbox, this time to invite me to the Spring/Summer 2020 runway collection of goth-lite designer Hogan McLaughlin, best known for garnering acclaim after collaborating with industry vet Daphne Guinness and for producing pieces for Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way Ball.” I appreciated that the Fashion Week invite Cutrone tossed my way was for something heavily stepped in black colorways, and by an artist who once sent models down a runway to Sisters of Mercy. Judging by his general Scandinavian post-punk appearance, I guessed he could probably name more than one Christian Death song; that’s enough to get me out of bed and to the gig.
And so I went to Chelsea Piers at roughly 5:45 pm on Monday, September 9. I arrived to the building I’ve known for its indoor mini golf course, unaware of the runway set-up and overly cautious. I waited in a line to nowhere, removed my sunglasses inside when it clearly was gauche to do so, and asked a few fashionable women at the check-in line how they were doing, which was met with cartoonish scowls, like real life parodies of Emily Blunt’s character in the Devil Wears Prada. When I managed to collect myself and head upstairs, I was given a seat assignment by another impossibly stylish employee, B28, and instructed to wait in the shorter of two lines. My section was filled with impeccably dressed people who also looked hella costume-y, as if someone gave them the instruction of “kinda punk” and they went wild with plaids and platform creepers without veering into Hot Topic territory. A woman who looked exactly like Shiri Appleby’s character on the Bachelor drama-satire UnREAL cut the line off right before me to usher in some business dudes in suits. They seemed tipsy. Many were holding glasses of red wine and walking close to much younger women drinking white wine. I wanted wine.
After being held for an additional seven minutes, I was desperate for booze. Those few moments felt like a lifetime. I heard the word “Instagram” uttered out loud more than I ever have before, and I’ve been to a mall in Los Angeles. I started to wonder if I’d ever be seated. Then I began to imagine all the fabulous people I’d potentially missed while quarantined outside in the hallway. Was Olivia Jade in attendance? Some other Instagram influencers I couldn’t name? Are YouTubers excluded from such an affair? Why did everyone in this line look so similar to one another, even though they wore such disparate clothing? Do they vote? Do they hold open doors for one another, or do they expect the door to be perpetually ajar for them? And why did they all appear to be the kind of people who bring a checked luggage-sized trunk onto planes as a carry-on and then throw a fit when equitable people with appropriately sized bags won’t move so that they could occupy space meant for a row of three? The kind of people my mother would confront with, “This isn’t Burger King, mija, you can’t have it your way”?
I was finally instructed to find my seat, which was miraculously unoccupied. (My religion, at the I-can’t-believe-I’ve-been-here-for-nearly-an-hour mark, was Murphy’s Law.) Alone and unable to recognize anyone, I read the collection description card left on my seat a few dozen times. McLaughlin’s Spring/Summer 2020 line was apparently inspired by the psychedelic 1973 Japanese anime Belladonna of Sadness. Though that sounds much more prog than goth to me, I was jonesing for some of that sweet, sweet darkness. Over the speakers, the Cranberries, Fleetwood Mac, and Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” blasted. It was fine, but too joyous for brooding.
And then I saw her—Cutrone, cloaked in flowy, expensive black fabric. She was not wearing a cape, but she might as well have been. She looked exactly as she always has. She was yelling, as I so hoped she would be, and earnestly dropping lines like, “I’m not here to make dreams come true,” and “I made the seating chart and I know you’re not here,” at well-dressed non-famouses occupying seats in the front row where they were not assigned. I did not realize her job would entail telling people they aren’t that special, to get the hell out of VIP seats, until she did the same to me.
I’d been sitting, anxiously, waiting for the show to start when Cutrone instructed a group of girls around me to “Show me your seating assignment.” Then she turned to me and demanded the same. My reservation did not have one, I told her, but I was assigned one at the door. She said, “What? No. You need to get up. GET UP.” And so I did. In a split second I decided getting kicked out by Cutrone was a much funnier tale than trying to finagle my way into staying at an event I was now only 20 percent invested in, so I left. Two modelesque women speaking Polish ran to occupy my seat reserved for one when I got up. I wondered if Cutrone reads Jezebel and assumes we’re all just Polish models, seated behind our laptops in Times Square wearing Gucci, seeking truth and justice in our coverage. “That’s a pleasant image,” I thought to myself, “Though I wish I had their wallets. And wardrobes.”
Nearish seven, before anyone had hit the runway, I skipped over an Italian couple and out the door. Fashion Week, for me, was over before it had even begun. And now I was going to tell everyone about the time Kelly Cutrone did me the honor to telling me to get the fuck up.
My relationship with fashion has always been dysfunctional and inconsistent. As a tween, I was obsessed with designer duds, a direct result of adolescent insecurity (it was the era of Louis Vuitton’s extremely cute and pink and twee Takashi Murakami collaboration, and I was 13.) It’s right around that age when the world begins to instruct young women to hate themselves, and if I couldn’t find value in me, surely I could appear to have some value while waltzing around town with a thousand-dollar micro-purse. (Of course, I exclusively carried Chinatown knockoffs.) As I grew older and obsessed with punk, progressive politics, and all things Karl Marx, the desire for brand loyalty disappeared. Sure, I appreciated and still appreciate a sharp, cool, interesting, innovative look, but you can get that shit at Goodwill with a bit of imagination. That makes me no expert in fashion, but who cares, I’m not buying any of this stuff. No resentment here!
Anyway, had I stayed for the show, I would’ve really enjoyed it. These fits are structured and wearable and deeply militaristic. I’m into them all—even the hued pieces.
This is sick.
But not so sick that I felt sad about missing the show. Clearly, coming face-to-face with and being displaced by a comically archetypal Kelly Cutrone is the greatest thing that can happen at New York Fashion Week.
I don’t regret failing to make an effort to reclaim my seat, but I do regret not suggesting to Cutrone that she should get on Cameo and charge people good money to be hilariously rude to them like the Weiner Circle in Chicago, a hot dog stand that specializes in verbally abusing their customers. She’d make a killing at that. Not that she needs it.