A Good Fake

By Celina Colby

A Good Fake

The day starts with me searching for soap. I thought I’d remembered everything, stuffed it all into my faux-leather backpack. I had a towel, had shampoo and conditioner, had flip-flops in case the shower floor was suspect, even had the pepper spray in case my door didn’t lock properly. But the soap, that’s what I’d forgotten. Most of the models, bloggers and hangers on are at the Plaza or the Standard. A few of the less notable may have settled for the Four Seasons. I’m in a hostel and only for a night.

This is my first year in the tents, my first year in the fashion trenches. I’m a newbie, and I’m certain it’s written all over my face.

New York Fashion Week is every bit as glamorous as you would expect. The city is swarming with legs-for-days girls in stilettos, who have somehow managed to find the perfect text-to-walk ratio. Cataloguing these Amazons of style are the photographers. Dozens of them, everywhere, in black and snapping digitals with extension lenses like their lives depend on it.

I come across a photo shoot on my way to breakfast. The photographer is snapping picture after picture while the model coyly smirks at the camera and moves from pose to pose. I wonder if there are ever any outtakes from these things. Sure, there are the less-than-perfect shots, but are there ever any true screw-ups? Does she ever cough or get hair in her face or is she so used to that routine pouty lip that it never wavers? The photographer only needs a few minutes to get what he wants, and they’re off to another location.

It’s not that I’m completely inexperienced. I’ve been blogging for almost four years now, I’ve won a few awards, been recognized on the street, I’ve got cred. At least in Boston I do. In New York everyone is a fashion blogger, and everyone has been named the best of wherever they come from. But the key seems to be pretending you’re bigger than you are. The key seems to be pretending you’ve done this a thousand times, and if you pretend well enough you might pass muster.

The first inkling comes at the show. After being bombarded with wristbands, swag bags and champagne, I’m placed in the front row to wait for the show. I don’t know whether to feel glamorous or inanimate. Sure I’m front row at a fashion show, the top of all style tiers, but I was almost physically placed there, another ornament on the stage. Across from me there are two young guys, no doubt there to pick up girls. And are there girls. All around, they’re chattering, comparing outfits and Instagramming their complimentary beverages. I take up listening to the vodka-bearing, designer brand-wielding woman next to me.

“My feet are killing me,” Vodka says. “I knew I should’ve worn the Michael Kors but the Altuzarra’s are so much sexier.” I feel pretty self satisfied, since I’ve styled my own heels with socks for a style/comfort combination that is so rarely attainable.

Vodka’s friend Red Lipstick chimes in. “Tell me about it. I’ve been so paranoid all day that my dress is going to fly up or fall down or something ridiculous. I’d never live that down.”

Vodka nods sympathetically, and they take a break from talking to send Snapchats of the crowd to their eagerly awaiting friends.

This is a glimmer of hope. Maybe the fashion goddesses aren’t as put together as they seem. Maybe there are outtakes.

The next sign is less of an inkling and more of a gunshot in a glass house. The show is going along fine, the models are tall, the clothes are pretty and the music is ear shattering. Everything as it should be. Then she falls. No warning, her ankle just bends in a completely unnatural way and suddenly she’s on the ground. A model’s worst fear and a blogger’s big break. Everyone gasps and wears horrified expressions while they whip out their phones to document the moment. In a minute the Internet will be abuzz with the news. Fingers tap frantically against keyboards in a who-can-tweet-it first race.

But what interests me isn’t the fall. It’s her face. For a brief second, while in motion, this model actually looks like a human. She could’ve ridden in on the subway with me, passed me in the halls of my hostel, bought a coffee in front of me at Starbucks. She looks panicked and ashamed and unstable. Her mouth widens into a big “O” as she flies off the ground. But it’s only there for a minute. Then, as though she’s suddenly been body snatched, her face reverts to the blank model stare. It comes down over her like a closing shade. She stands up and continues her loping gate down the rest of the runway. And right then I realize that that’s what this is all about. Pulling down the shade, and putting on your game face, whether you’re terrified or not.

“Oh. My. God” says Vodka at the break. “I feel so bad for her, your career can never recover from the bad press.” She hits “Post” on her video that live-streams the whole event to the world.

“Right?” says Red Lipstick. “If that were me I would just die. I would honestly just leave.”

The next night it starts with the outfit, as always. An enormous crimson tutu, paired with a velvet strapless bodysuit and a gold statement necklace. Some low, nude, snakeskin heels polish off the ensemble. I have to carry my backpack as well, since I checked out of the hostel that morning. But that’s fine: backpacks are in. If anyone asks it was completely intentional.

I get to Lincoln Center around six thirty, that perfect evening-glow time of day. The pavilion is packed. Photographers are everywhere snapping street style pictures, while fashion gurus make their way through the hallowed doors and into the tents. I start heading across the space when there’s a flash of light that throws me off kilter. Then another. Then another. Photographers. Taking pictures of me. Who do they think I am? I wonder, running through the list of celebrity potentials they might have mistaken me for. A young Mary Kate and Ashley? The piano player from High School Musical?

But it doesn’t matter, and I strut towards the entrance backpack and all. Internally I’m thinking about the abundance of bad candids that will be circulating the Internet after this affair, but externally I have my photo taken by paparazzi all the time, no big deal.

“Ticket?” The burly security guard at the door asks. He’s impatient and clearly has dealt with too many problems today.

I wave my phone at him, bearing the necessary scan code and slip through the doors. Inside looks something like I’ve always imagined fashion mecca to be. The enormous entrance tent is covered with booths offering all sorts of services, a foot massage booth to rest your feet from those six-inch heels, a blowout booth to get your hair done between shows, a Papyrus booth for reasons I’m a little unclear on. The tent itself is actually a series of tents creating a space as large as your standard convention center. In the center is the Mercedes Benz display. Dolled-up women pose against a car they know nothing about while friends and boyfriends snap their photo. To my direct left is a booth devoted solely to outlets to recharge your phones, cameras and iPads. Because what’s a fashion show worth without Instagrams to prove it happened?

After a little bit of wandering I head to the Charlotte Ronson tent for my next show. I get in line behind two friends, one dressed for a strip club and the other for a bridal shower.

“Ohmygod, I love your skirt. So friggin’ adorable,” says Bridal Shower.

I put on a blasé smile. “Thank you, it’s vintage.” True, if you count Goodwill as vintage.

Bridal Shower and Strip Club exchange glances.

“This is kind of embarrassing, but can you tell us how we’re gonna find our seats? It doesn’t say on the ticket,” says Strip Club.

I have officially been mistaken for a veteran. All it took was a head held high and an I-could-care-less smile. It occurs to me then that this may be the only time in fashion when you can pass off a good fake.

About this writer

  • Celina Colby is a Boston based writer and the founder of the style blog “Trends and Tolstoy.”

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3 Responses to “A Good Fake”

  1. You pulled it off with panache and pizazz. Your story is truly a reminder to hold your head high, no matter how high/low your heels. Enjoyed reading about the industry.

  2. Meredith Olsen says:

    Loved reading about what Fashion Week is “really” like! Hope to see more of you in Sasee

  3. What a fun read Celina – will have to check out your blog!

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