Paparazzi for a day

“…..OK, so we’ll see you backstage at Slinky Vagabond,” I can hear Elizabeth, our features editor, saying to Charlie Green—the white-hot über-makeup supremo with clients ranging from Angelina Jolie to Brandy. “A photographer? Of course, we’ll be bringing a photographer.” A worried face appears around the wall. “Er….any good with a camera?” asks Elizabeth. This is not good news. I can barely cope with a disposable from Duane Reade.

A panicked call is placed to our Editor-in-Chief—who arrives with a huge black case: her new digital camera. “Any idea how it works?” I ask. “Nope.” she says, with a smile, as the three of us stand around the contraption, blinking.

A dramatic eye, and now time for mane-like hair.
A dramatic eye, and now time for mane-like hair.

Luckily for us, we have a technocrat in our midst, and I’m given a crash course in “How To Work A Digital Camera” (Turn On. Point. Click. I think I can cope.)

Off we troupe to the giant white tents of Bryant Park—home to 7th on Sixth, and the fashionista-packed world of black, possibly more black, and just a little extra touch of black. Elizabeth clutches her ubiquitous Fendi baguette, and I’m in my oh-so-practical Manolo Blahniks (just perfect for the recent flurry of thick snow in New York) with a giant camera case tossed across my body. We decide to tell them that I’ve flown over from London.

Outside the entrance, I’m approached by a dubious looking man. “Ever thought about becoming a model?” he asks me, as I look around for his white stick and guide dog. “We’re filming a commercial next week, and you’d be great.” He slips me his card and slopes off into the snow. Only in New York.

Green creates a smoky eye.
Green creates a smoky eye.

The white-tented lobby, with its flat-screen TV’s protruding from a pond, out of which rises an impressive fountain, is fairly quiet—it’s the first day of the shows and it’s snowing—so just a few people are milling around looking intense. First off, we have to get past the walkie-talky bearing, black-clad (surprise) Mafioso-like heavyweight guards. “We’re covering the Slinky Vagabond show,” announces Elizabeth. He waves us vaguely in the direction of a white-tented tunnel: “Lab, Launchpad and Lounge. Over there.” This is easy.

Lab, Launchpad and Lounge is where the up and coming designers (read: not famous yet) are presenting their collections. Blaring techno thumps through the space-pod tunnel, which is lined with mannequins displaying costumes designed by the students at the Costume Institute in New York. Models are wandering around, and stylists are lounging on the several large squashy beanbags in the center of the room. “ASK MICKEY” reads a hand-written sign taped to a wall, underneath which is seated an Einstein look-alike in sequins and a crucifix. “I call it my Alcoholic Housewife look,” he says. “Double duty, baby, double duty.”

I’m not quite sure what he means by this, but it’s time to head backstage. Another security guard waves us cheerily toward a thick velvet black curtain, through which we can hear rumblings of chatter.

We’re in. Two gargantuan racks of scruffy-looking clothes take up most of the room. One wall is lined with lighted mirrors, where Charlie and her team are doing the makeup. The other wall is for hair. A team of hair stylists is busy glueing hair extensions onto the models’ heads. Someone is panicking in the middle of the clothes rack. “Right,” says Elizabeth, “follow me. And remember to keep your finger off the lens.”

“Absolutely.” I get the camera out of my bag, momentarily forgetting how to turn it on. “Which way up do I hold it?” I hiss desperately to Elizabeth, who’s already chatting away with Green.

“It’s very Sid Vicious, David Bowie, kind of Quadrophenia,” says Green. Remember that film? I’m using a palette of charcoals and black, and a really skinny, intense black eyebrow….the emphasis is on the smoky eye….” Green is saying, while I’m fumbling with the camera and trying to work out which way to point it. She pauses, and looks at me. I start to snap away and she continues with her work. At least, I think I’m snapping away. Every time I click, four pictures pop up on the screen and they all appear to show nothing. This is not a good sign. I go in search of more interesting visuals. It’s all very stressful.

A fully made-up model poses for me, and smiles perfectly, beautifully. The shot is a photo editor’s dream. I’m thrilled. Who needs a professional photographer when they can have me? “Thanks so much,” I say, gratefully. “What do you think of your makeup?” “Oh, I haven’t been done yet,” she says. “This was for the previous show.”

I move on.

Peter Gray of Vidal Sassoon, is surrounded by hair stylists and models, and is directing the hair for the show. “Peter!!” I shout, fumbling for a notepad and pen, while trying to balance the digital camera. “Can I ask you a few questions?” He looks slightly startled as I loom towards him with my camera in one hand, still scrambling around in my over-sized bag for my pen. “Can you tell me what direction you’ve chosen for this show?”

The eyes have it.
The eyes have it.

“It’s an equestrian thing for the women,” he tells me, combing the hair of an alarming-looking male model, who’s appears to be a cross between a manic Spandau Ballet-fan and Gary Numan with a diagonally cut, long, chin-length fringe. “I’m thinking manes.”

“Right,” I say. Manes, I write.

I see the buffet table. Cartons of chocolate chip cookies and a bag of corn chips and salsa. Where’s the champagne? Aren’t all fashion shows supposed to have champagne and be über, ultra-fantabulous?

I skulk around the food, hoping to discover Gisele and Audrey Marnay scoffing down cookies and crisps and giggling together under the tablecloth. All I find is a model helping herself to a quarter of a teaspoon of salsa.

The PR girl finds me midway through a cookie. “We’re getting busier now, but thanks for coming. Make sure you send me a copy of all your photos?”

I make a mental note to forget. I don’t need the additional humiliation. Fashion Week, Demarchelier? It’s all your’s, baby.


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