New York Fashion Week: An Oral History: The Front Row

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Jockeying for Position

SIMON DOONAN

In the 1980s, Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta had the nouvelle society ladies. They were the celebrities within that world. I remember at one show, I realized that I was sitting next to Marla Trump. Eventually that front row broadened to ladies like Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer. Actors came a little later to the game.

That Uma Thurman moment in 1995, when she wore that lilac Prada dress to the Oscars, was a sort of milestone, a sign that it was groovy for a designer to dress a celebrity. Freebies came into play, and actors became a significant marketing tool for the designers who dressed them. But when they started coming to fashion shows, it took a while for me to get my head around it. I thought, “I know that these people love shopping, but I wonder what other trade shows they go to.”

EVA LONGORIA

Actress

I started coming to fashion shows in the mid-2000s, a time when actresses didn’t often go to shows. Photographers were everywhere. It was like a walking freak show. As I took my seat, I wondered: “Oh, my God, do I cross my legs? Do I not cross my legs? Am I going to trip a model?” The seats were so tiny. The tents were so hot. Then the show started, and it was over before I even realized.

EMMY ROSSUM

Actress

I grew up in the world of opera, in the world of New York, so everything is intimidating, and that makes nothing intimidating. The only thing actually frightening is when the photographers descend on you, taking your picture in the front row. Even now, that first flashbulb kind of stops your breath.

ROBERT VERDI

Television personality and style authority

I was at the Richie Rich show in 2008. It was one of those marginal shows, but I adored him. Britney Spears was expected. She was late, and they were holding the show for her. People were restless, squirming and chattering. I was seated three or four seats away from her chair, when all of a sudden Britney came barreling through with her security. They bulldozed people out of the way. She was wearing very high stilettos, and she stepped, not so gracefully, on my foot. She’s no Misty Copeland. I can still recall the pain.

TAVI GEVINSON

Blogger and actress

The first time I went to fashion week, in 2009, I was 13. I sat in the front row at Rodarte and Marc Jacobs. Back home, I would have been at the school library at lunch looking at the shows that had gone up on the web that morning. I was just so excited to see the shows in real life. Some people resented me. To this day, I encounter editors or people in New York who wrote really unpleasant things about me under some guise of concern. They wrote, “What is all this bad press going to do to her when she grows up?” They were giving me all that bad press.

GARANCE DORÉ

Photographer and blogger

At first, I don’t think I really understood the significance of fashion show seating. Sitting in the front row didn’t mean much to me until people started looking at me differently.

SASHA CHARNIN MORRISON

Fashion editor

I knew the runway was over for me nearly a decade ago when my seat at BCBG was between The Blonde Salad and Cupcakes and Cashmere.

Interactive Feature | New York Fashion Week: An Oral History

BRYANBOY

Blogger

A long time ago, an editor told me: “Bryan, just enjoy this while it lasts. The only reason most of us are still here at all is to get our names checked on the iPads of the people who’re manning the doors.”

TAVI GEVINSON

Fashion week isn’t a place you build a home.

Waiting for Anna

LAURA MULLEAVY

Rodarte

A lot of our friends come to the show from Los Angeles, usually sitting in the back row cheering us on. But before that, they’re out front taking pictures. And for all of us, the prize photograph is the picture of Anna Wintour’s chair with her name on the seat card. Every year, we have a new set of photos: sometimes of that chair, sometimes of Anna in her seat. She is usually the first person to show up. That’s when the clock starts ticking. You feel once she’s arrived, the show has to start.

JASON WU

When we spot her, it’s a sign that we’ve got to get our act together.

WES GORDON

Anna Wintour came to one of my earliest shows. She was the first person to arrive. The only other person in that space was my mother. Being the lovely, kind woman that she is, my mom took one look at Anna, and thought: “Who is this poor woman here all by herself? I’ll just go sit and talk to her.” I was backstage, or I would have had a complete heart attack. But I did see it all on the monitor. My single thought at the time was: “What’s happening? What’s happening?”

RIO URIBE

Gypsy Sport

We always reserve a seat for Anna Wintour. I actually pick the seat I want her to sit in. I fight with my P.R. over it. I have a strong feeling about the way I want her to see the show, from which particular vantage. For a designer, it’s a rite of passage to have her at the show. It’s a rite I haven’t been through yet.

NICHOLAS KUNZ

Nicholas K

Anna was always invited. She never came.

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