Over the past 10 years (off and on), I have been a fixture inside the tents at Bryant Park; of course I'm speaking of the once-official host site of New York Fashion Week- one of the premier fashion events "in the world!"
The fact that I've been even able to be apart of such magic and creativity is totally mind-blowing to me, even to this day... that fact that I'm able to say that "YES, I've been to New York Fashion Week!," or "YES, I've been in the tents!," is such an amazing feat within itself... but you would only truly understand what I mean if you're really into fashion like I am.
The unspeakable joy and rush that you get from participating is enormous... having an official invitation, having your name on a seat, being ushered through the stanchions and velvet ropes, or even gate crashing or using a fake name or lying or sneaking your way in... it's ALL a part of the fun and games and thrill of what we've all come to know as FASHION WEEK!!!
Produced two times per year in New York (once in September and once in February), I've always likened it to a grown-ups version of the Olympics (in February), and Back-to-School (in September). EVERYONE gets dolled-up and dressed-up, guys and girls... and EVERYONE does WHATEVER IT TAKES to make sure that they're apart of that roster every season... I'm not exaggerating.
It's hard to imagine it if you've never experienced it, but its real, its something real and intangible but tangible all at the same time... like a fantasy world filled with all different types of peoples hard work and creativity and passion and energy and emotions and all sorts of things in between...
Of course my words here may seem a bit far-fetched or overstated, when in all actuality fashion week is just essentially a gathering of professionals who either a) design a new clothing collection each season, b) report on the trends and the newly designed clothing collections each season, c) buy the newly designed clothing collections each season (in bulk), or d) just love the energy and the opportunity to be included in the number each season... and that's really what fashion week is all about.
I've been attending New York Fashion Week for the longest time, out of it's 17 years being held at Bryant Park, I've been a resident for 10... which is not bad, lol. Some season's I was DEFINITELY a gate crasher, even to the point of using very important names (of other people), not even realizing they may have been standing in the line right next to me LMAO... But after a year or so, once I started paying my dues and actually KNOWING what it meant to slave and work hard in the industry, I began to receive official invitations and began to RSVP and even had my own seating assignments, and YES I've even made it to the elusive FRONT-ROW at Bryant Park- ON MY OWN VALIDATED MERITS... no crashing involved!!!
It all started when I was 21 years old, and I had just moved to New York... I had got accepted to the Fashion Institute of Technology and I was -already in my mind- well on my way to the top, lol. This was in August of 2000, and after about 2 weeks of school, after Labor Day was over... the campus was all-abuzz about "are you going to fashion week?," "you know fashion week's next week," "my cousin got invited to fashion week," etc., etc., etc... I kept hearing all this talk, and mind you- although I was already well aware of fashion, I had no idea of the magnitude of New York Fashion Week.
So, I naturally inquired and put my telemarketing/skip tracing skills to good use, and found out some pertinent info on the tents... BUT to my surprise, God already must've had plans for me joining the ranks, because one of my dear friends *wink* had a way in- without knowing that he had a way in!
This friend (who shall remain nameless), knew a guy who needed a model top be trained for the runway a la Naomi Campbell style, sooo of course being that my friend and I knew the t's on walking the walk (we were on the ball scene, hunny), the guy reached out to my friend, who brought me along for the ride. So we get to the location, and it's a few days before this huge designer's show, and I was dressed *snap* and there are like all these guys sitting around waiting to be casted for the show, and they thought I was a model (tee hee), and I was just in awe of the whole process... Meanwhile, my friend had dipped off to another room to meet with the guy who needed help and I was left to my own defense amongst the milieu of the male models... I was in heaven. And the funny thing is, coming from Baltimore, I had actually recognized the face of one of the models from a comp card that was used as wall-art at a retail store I worked in that summer before heading off to F.I.T. So I talked it up with the male model, and he was SOOO CAYOOT in person, lol... and we found out that we both actually really love the industry and were both kinda newbies at the game -him being a model and me (back then) wanting to be a designer.
After the auditions for the guys were getting under way, the coordinators -whom I could spy from across the room, seated in another room- had taken notice of me, but just as it seemed that they were motioning for me to come in and audition, my friend had came into the room and pulled me with him to go meet the coordinators. Once inside that 'executive room,' it's like my whole world changed...
This is the exact moment where my dreams of New York Fashion Week, and the industry (period) came into fruition... So we're in the room, and my friend is like "hey guys, thanks for telling me about the guy who needed help, his model really needed it." And the lead guy in charge of the casting, he was eyeing me -I guess in a way that was like, 'I like his style,' and at the same time 'he's cute as @*&!,' but I couldn't really tell... so then my friend is like, "This is my friend Avon, we go way back!," and they're all just like "ohhhh Avon, we were wondering if you were here for the casting?!" And I talked it up a bit, and again the lead dude in charge was like "So, where are you from?!" etc., etc., and we begin to have this whole side conversation and everything else around us just seems to fade out, and I was literally being ushered into this new world...
And my friend goes back around to the other room to finish helping the guy with his model -she was the only female model in the show- so it was key that she looked great... BTW, she was and still is a HUGE model... but at the time she was JUST starting out... lol, so *sidebar* I feel like I kinda grew up with fashion, well at least those in my generation at the time...
Anyways, so my friend goes back to help out and I'm stuck in the room with the coordinators now, and we click -just like that... it was about 5 dudes in the room, and the lead guy (nameless, lol), he was in charge of styling the collection, and the other co-lead dude, he was in charge of PR for the house... so I was pretty much as "in" as you could get for that day, lol... so we're steady casting models -notice I say "we" LMAO, and the lead stylist, he's like "so what do you like to do, what are you into as far as fashion?!" and I'm like, "oh you know, designing and styling, and I'm going to FIT for merchandising..." blah, blah, blah... lol, and he was like "oh, well you can help us at the show in a few days, do you want to do that?!" and of course I'm like HELL YEA -in my mind- but in reality I was like "sure, no problem, I would LOVE to help you guys out!" and so, lo-and-behold, that was my first ticket to New York Fashion Week.
The show was a few days after that casting, and yup, u betcha, it was in the TENTS... And of course because the guys I met were professionals, we had a series of prep dates and meetings just before the big event, and I was READY... my hometown training had prepared me (yea Baltimore)!!! And we all received our official "backstage" and "press" and "crew" badges, which I still have to this very day *memories* ... and the show was for a HUGE urban label, Pelle Pelle, and it was an off the hook show... entering through the back of the tents, we had bags of shoes and accessories to carry for the models and as soon as we got in we had to PREP, with no time to lose.
And *gasp* OMG... Tyson Beckford was the STAR MODEL in the show... (I have my own personal story about meeting Tyson when I was a teenager, that's for later on), but YES, I was just done... I mean fried, dyed and laid to the side, DONE... here I am a small-town boy from Baltimore, JUST moved to New York City -mind you my family's from New York, so I've been familiar with it all my life... but even still my first time experiencing NY as an adult- and all these wonderful things were happening for me.... ugghh j'adore!!!
So the show goes off without a hitch and everyone was excited and screaming and cheering backstage and the designer was happy with my boss's (the lead stylist's) work. After that, I was asked to officially join the team, and the rest is history.
And it's through that experience, where I was first introduced to the "Real" fashion industry of New York, and I will never forget it... my first time ever being in the tents, and actually helping to assist with a fashion week SHOW... like, dude that's serious... and I will never forget it...
So it's kinda sad and both personal to me that New York Fashion Week is moving on to a new home next year... I grew up here, and perfected my game in the tents... like for real, even to the point where I was able to put quite a few of my own friends on to the game *wink*
All in all, it's kinda bittersweet memories, but again I must praise GOD and be thankful that I'm BLESSED to have been able to had my first ever experience and even recently with my last ever experience with the Bryant Park Tents...
Now, as Jay-Z says... it's "on to the next one," and Lincoln Center is where it will be for the New York Fashion Week's to come... c'est la vie!