Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Miss Manhattan Hangs New York Fashion Week

I photographed New York Fashion Week every season with religious fervor for a few years. I still get backstage from time to time now if I’m not totally swamped with other work. This season one particular invitation was to Pamella Roland’s Fall/Winter 2019 show and backstage. Known for her elegant formal wear, Roland has been beloved by the likes of Angelina Jolie and Halle Berry since she first showed at New York Fashion Week for Fall 2002. With hair by Frederic Fekkai and makeup by Rick DiCecca for Artistry cosmetics, backstage was a flutter of spritzes and shadows. Influencers pranced about wearing heavily drawn-on eyebrows and silk dresses with sneakers while speaking into their iPhone cameras in selfie mode.

And then I arrive in my Olsen Twins Circa 2005 ensemble, a giant Michael Jackson t-shirt over ripped pants and gold boots hiding under my giant red furry coat. I gobble down a coffee and probably one too many Laduree macarons (the vanilla ones in particular are delicious). I start taking pictures, doing my best not to get in anyone’s way but not always succeeding. The shows always start a half hour late and yet everyone’s in a tizzy as ever. Models are still arriving from other shows when rehearsal begins. They strap impossibly slim stilettos to their ankles and stand in line, waiting for instructions while dawdling on their phones, texting and taking selfies with hair is still in curlers. They will never not be a sight to me, these slim giraffes who from birth have the jawlines and cheekbones some Park Avenue women have certainly given their literal eyeteeth for.

Some sonorous, elegant, yet upbeat music blasts around the runway’s white walls as the models begin. They’re still in street clothes that, despite being as simple as a black t-shirt and jeans, look impossibly chic solely because their collar and hip bones point through them with force. Bored, they walk a walk they’ve walked a thousand times possibly that day and will walk more as the week progresses. Yet everyone in the photo pit at the end of the runway takes pictures as if it’s something they’ve never seen before. On the sidelines, I’m not immune myself.

After rehearsal, more primps and pumps before dressers adorn the models in the sequinned, beaded, ruffled gowns and cocktail dresses Roland has made her signature these last 17 years. The show space fills up with sleek-haired, coated attendees. Among them is the actress Patricia Clarkson, who somehow looks just as charming and lovely in person as she does on screen. Seats fill and an epileptic attack of photographers’ flashes points itself in Clarkson’s direction before the show begins. I sit on my perch for a short while, and when the fateful music starts rise to take pictures, ruffle after ruffle catching light after light as a vision of stylish youth makes its way down the runway a half hour late as usual. And in a few short minutes, it’s all gone.

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