Fashion Week takes over parts of New York in a big way--for seven days, anyone remotely related to the business of fashion eschews all forms of their “regular” work and clomps back and forth in high heels or wingtips to show after show after show. I have the pleasure of being a part of this biannual event, though I am often photographing and hanging out backstage, so my clomping is often limited to my motorcycle boots which, at times, I like better.
For the layman, Fashion Week just sort of appears, but to those involved, we see it coming far in advance, be it in the emails we get from PR companies, the construction of the tents at Lincoln Center or, my new favorite way, seeing the models slinking about town in the middle of the day going to and from castings. Every time I see one I think to myself, ‘Ah yes, the rare beast steps forth from its natural habitat and emerges into the wild in search of food,’ though in this case when we say food we are of course referring to modeling gigs.
They are tall and slender, all of them; their faces are angular and of unusually precise symmetry. Females wear shorts and flats, carrying in their canvas tote bags the sky-high heels in which they will strut once they get to a casting. Faces absent of the makeup that will be caked upon them come Fashion Week, hair natural and free of the products that will be teased into them, their skinny jeans only slightly touch their protruding hipbones, their shorts reveal legs longer than I am tall. Men have sunken eyes, white t-shirts, and Ray-Bans; some wear Doc Martens or cowboy boots; their skin, like their female counterparts, is spotless. As irony would have it, they all do in fact look rather wild, untamed and unleashed into the daytime amongst the rest of New York’s creatures of all shapes and sizes.
I imagine the average New Yorker not employed in the fashion industry would not often have the occasion to see a lone model walking in the subway, mostly because these castings to or from which they are heading happen in the middle of the day. While bankers are office bound, safely tucked away in their suits, and PR girls wiggling about in their pencil skirts, the models stalk the land looking for their next opportunity to pounce upon. They are almost safer this way, free from the men who will grab their arms and try to buy them drinks, from street photographers snapping beams of lights in their faces as they take pictures. I don’t know if the average person would even know who they are or what they do, but might instead wonder, ‘Who is this tall, skinny person? I didn’t even know such creatures existed!’ or something perhaps less eloquent.
Backstage they are just human—they text, they listen to music, they (yes!) read books, they laugh with each other and they make annoyed faces when a hairstylist is somehow still fluffing their hair even though they’ve probably fluffed all there is to fluff and at this point are just being anal retentive. Girls sit passively while manicurists paint their nails in shades they might never normally consider wearing, brushes simultaneously thwapped against their faces making color appear where there was once none. And the men are sometimes even more beautiful than the women because they wear no makeup at all (most of the time, anyway, depending on what weird-ass designer decides to put blue eyeshadow on their male models).
The fashion industry gets a lot of flack for their use of these persons, their bones lacking less than the ‘normal’ amount of body fat of a person who might actually buy the clothes. Models aren’t “real” by whoever’s standards. And, to be fair, when I see models, part of me wants to sigh, ‘Ugh, not more of these people. Why don’t they just eat a fucking donut?’ but that part is outweighed by the sheer appreciation of seeing someone so unusual walking across (or under) the streets of New York. Hey, these people are people too, you know? They look pretty real to me.