Experience · Fashion · Graduate Visa · New York

What It’s Really Like To Work At New York Fashion Week

For someone who has had a lifelong affinity for fashion, it was always top of my agenda to make it to “the shows”. A few months after booking my one-way ticket to New York to pursue my graduate visa, I found myself working amongst the chaos that is Fashion Week.

This will come as no surprise to anyway who has watched The Devil Wears Prada, Zoolander, or reality tv programmes about the industry, but the fashion industry is a strange beast. Instead of the elitist clique it’s sometimes portrayed as, it is more akin to the group of whacky people who lingered on the borders of social groups in school or college and have suddenly found their calling with like-minded others. I mean where else would you see drag queens, goths, rockers and club kids all embracing each other and laughing over miniature canapes.

As one small fish from Ireland, it was an eye opening, over-whelming and surreal experience that I will never forget. Here is what I learned amidst the madness:

Work, Work, Work, Work, Work

Working at fashion week is a hybrid of relentless hard work, exhaustion and excitement. For those five minutes in a packed show space, the silence punctuated by thumping bass, the models shoes clacking down the runway and gasps of approval from the audience, the atmosphere is second to none. The energy is contagious, but for every other moment of the day (days are minimum 10-12 hours of unpaid work) you are on a tight schedule with deadlines, pressure and you must remember that you are only a small cog of the machine. (I.e. don’t have an attitude!)

The Devil Wears Penneys

Plan all the outfits you want, the reality is you will be a glorified runner during Fashion Week. Comfort is key, which is why the vast majority of interns and assistants are kitted out in an unofficial uniform of black jeans, tshirts and manageable shoes. Not to mention, it is February in New York – temperatures have plummeted to -14 degrees Celsius and Milk Studios is located on the banks of the river Hudson. This means every inch of you needs to be covered between shows, and interns certainly can’t afford the luxe fur coats that editors and street style stars are rocking all week.

Another Ball Game

When I lived in Ireland, I considered myself to be in the know about the fashion industry. Wrong. In New York, there’s countless major fashion bloggers, key industry players and socialites that need to be plamassed before they take their seats. As a social media intern, I would get email alerts to notify me who would be at the show – cue frantic googling of these names and a lifelike game of ‘Guess Who’ come show time as I tried to mentally match the faces to the names. The company I worked for also communicates pretty much exclusively in hip hop references. More times than I am proud to admit I’ve had to text friends and ask them what all this “major key alert”, “Bye Felicia”, “big cloth announcement” malarkey is about.

Thesaurus, Please

You can take the girl out of Ireland, but you can’t take Ireland out of the girl. Listening to the way “fashion people” communicate often had me biting my tongue and stifling a laugh. Just as it’s portrayed in movies and tv, they will communicate in dramatic one word sentences. “Dead”. “Beyond”. “Sick”. “Lit”. “Killer”. “I can’t even deal with it,” was also a remark I heard a lot. If my mother or grandmother heard me reduce my communication skills to this level, she would kill me.

The Early Bird Doesn’t Catch The Worm

If the schedule says a show starts at 4pm, don’t assume you should be there taking your seat at 3.45. 4pm means the important celebrities and editors will only be taking their seat at 4.30, and the audience will still be snapping selfies at 4.45. The designer doesn’t mind though, they will have worked around the clock to produce their collection so revelling in the atmosphere and excitement for as long as possible is a treat for them.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Models are slim. This we know from decades of seeing runway stills and footage of catwalks on tv. However when you’re next to models in the flesh it only really sinks in how unattainably tiny and incredibly young these girls are. It’s been a bone of contention for years now about a lack of diversity on the catwalk. Only one show of the twenty odd that I worked at featured models bigger than the 00 sample size. As a result, Chromat, an innovative lingerie and sportswear brand, put on one of the most memorable shows with their confident, voluptuous models who wore the designs with authority. It made me think how Ireland is actually very responsible when it comes to the models depicted in the media – fit, honed and healthy has always been the ideal which is something we should all strive towards.

Images and GIFS are by the incredibly talented Felipe, Paris and Pat from MADE.

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