The things I think about at Fashion Week are rarely about fashion.
The amount of time I have spent on the road, to get to the NSIC Venue and back home and to a designer’s space who showed offsite. This amount of time was spent in the back seat of cabs. All Uber. Gurgaon has better Uber service than Noida did. One cab driver refused to drive above 60kmph and the other one that I encouraged to “Bhaiyya, tez chalaiye.” hit 120kmph before I could tell him, “Please normal chalaiye.” Six hours one day, on the road, in a cab. I was more anxious about the ride than what I was going to wear for five days.
First day of fashion week, barely anyone at the venue knew that there was free WiFi available. I was one of those people. I ranted about how bloggers are invited but blogging / social media updates are not possible, so what is the point exactly. Next day I found out about the WiFi. Ouch. It was good WiFi too.
I have a friend who is recovering from a stroke and she usually accompanies me to fashion week – she wasn’t with me this time and I missed her. To make it up to her, I decided I would pick up all the press kits from all the designers by going to all the stalls in the exhibition space and then go see my friend after Fashion Week wrapped up and maybe that would cheer her up. I failed of course. I managed to pick up only three press kits and those were because I went to a total of four runway presentations and three had press kits. While I’m at Fashion Week, I think about how nice it would be if I had more courage to go do this for my friend instead of feeling shy and not venturing into the stalls at the exhibition space. ( Friend is a writer for magazines / print publications, so she would’ve gotten the press kits if she had been able to make it to Fashion Week. See? Here too, I’m trying to explain my choices. )
My blogger hustle this Fashion Week season was mainly for the first two days where I had to do paid client work. Wear branded stuff and pose at the NSIC venue. This is always fun to do and not only because I’m being paid to do it. If you ever want to get comfortable with posing in public, I highly recommend this exercise. You’re going to get stared at and how. Bring it on I say. And to the people who walk past our hustle and snigger, “Ugh Bloggers!”, only bloggers are allowed to bitch about other bloggers, didn’t you know that? At Fashion Week, I think about all the other bloggers working with the beauty brand that has never even responded to my emails. I think about the bloggers who were flown down from another city when my being in the same city doesn’t get me work from the brand. I think about how all these bloggers are girls and I LOVE that. But where are the men? Isn’t the boy blogger thing exploding currently? I thought it was. I need better sources of information.
Benihana’s portions were better than Olive’s. But Olive’s food is way more delicious. Hungry people appreciate portions more than taste IMO. I order the salad with such anticipation and when those four rocket leaves arrived, I was more heartbroken than I had been when the designer screamed at me “No photos!” at her stall. They tried to make it up by offering free pizza but the thin crust of the pizza was thinner than the most ghisa hua chappal at the venue. But it was tasty. OMG I’m so confused. That’s what I am when I’m at Fashion Week. Dazed and confused.
Used to the pretentiousness at Fashion Week, this season, I was disturbed to learn that I’m a bit fake myself. I’m still quite disturbed by this discovery. If I met you at Fashion Week, and did not introduce Bharat to you, I did not remember your name. That’s my tell for when I’m being lame. I’ll meet you like I’ve known you my whole life and then when you turn around and leave and Bharat asks me, “Who was that?”, I respond with a shoulder shrug so massive, my non-existent gym-trainer would be proud. This usually happens if I remember your face and there’s some sense of familiarity of course. If I don’t know you at all, I’ll tell you as much. ( But then I remembered someone’s name – I’ve only met them once prior and their name has three separate words in it. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that that makes up for the rest of my jiggery-pokery. *eyes squeezed* )
At Fashion Week, I worry so much about what others might think of me that I forget they’re like me too – too busy thinking about their own selves to have time to hate me.
I see editors walking down aisles, alone, I want to go say hello – just as a way to announce, “Hey, you’re not alone. I’m alone too! Let’s be alone together!” At Fashion Week, I wonder how fame affects us. How the perception of being important affects everyone around us. How four years ago, no one gave a rat’s ass about my begging for “backstage access” and now how I’m invited to wherever I want to go – but I don’t want to any more.
The excitement of being seated at the front row still remains. Even if it is because the editor seats are empty and Mr. Sethi invites the second and third rows to the front to fill those seats up. Moving from my third row perch to the perfect front row corner is always delightful. At Fashion Week, I worry about how this NEVER gets old. Am I more pretentious than I think I am?
Them : “Do come to my show!”
Me : “But why?”
Why do they want me there? What do they think I can add to their hard work? Promote their collection? But then why don’t they hire me to work on an actual story or hire me as a photographer that’ll produce photos that can be converted into a story? But it’s easier to ask people to attend runway presentations and hope they’ll do “something”? I don’t know. Between the clients who are paying me and the long commute back and forth, I’d rather just get my shit done and fuck off. There is little incentive in going to a runway presentation. The photographer’s pit bothers me, the ego hassles at the media seating bothers me, the security guards leering at my cleavage bothers me, the super cold air conditioning bothers me – but more importantly the “What am I doing here?” bothers me the most. ( Still not thinking about fashion you see? )
Why can’t I use my “professional camera” from the media seating? All the hundred souls cramped together in the photographer’s pit are getting the same photo from the same goddamn angle – I’ve done enough of that. If I’m in the media seat and can use my camera, I might still drop a few blog posts here and there with details of the garments etc. But without that, there is zero incentive to go see a runway show. The massive lounges have large TV screens and it is way more comfortable to nurse a glass of water and stand in front of that screen and stare at details that would not be visible from the pit or the third row anyway.
I think about the state of professionalism in photography. I think about the number of women that are now in the photographer’s pit and how few of them actually are photographers and I kinda like that because it means most are not falling into the trap of head-on runway-drab-photo-gigs and more power to the few who are still staking claim to their space in the pit but I kinda also don’t like it because where are the women photographers?! ( I know a couple of them produce great backstage work and there’s one pounding the pavement with street style but apart from them? ) ( That reminds me, why am I not shooting backstage or street style this season?! Oh wait, because no one hired me to. Which brings me to, “Just how many people are working for free each season of Fashion Week anyway?!” )
Thinking about the garments and the designers and the “fashion” tends to happen a few days after fashion week is done and dusted, when the press releases finally stop pouring in and I can download all collection photos to my laptop and copy them to the phone and then just before I post those photos on social media, I read the collection notes and actually find out what designer did what and who my favourites are. That is when I find out how utterly talented some of the designers in the Indian fashion industry are. I think about the challenges these talented people face trying to express their creativity AND making money in this convoluted Indian market. The market abroad treats them better sometimes.
I couldn’t even get a line of scarves going, I can’t imagine what it takes to churn out a collection every six months for India’s largest trade event for the fashion industry. And it is never just about the garments. You have to have you PR done right, the right lookbooks ( photography, models, styling, location ), branding needs to be on point and you have to put on your game face and show up each day and be present each hour because you might meet a buyer or a journalist or a blogger or a customer and they must not see how tired you really are.
Why do so many of you continue to show up every season? What keeps you going? I wish I could ask you and hope to receive a candid answer. I could use some advice.
I think about all the insects that settle onto the hot lights and sizzle and pop and the air smells of charred insects.
I think about what the electric-buggy driver is thinking about me as I stretch my arm out, point the Go Pro toward me and smile and bat my eye lashes at it.
I think about all those people who work behind the curtains, show up much earlier than anyone else, leave much later than anyone else and remain unnamed for the most part – and they STILL continue to show up. I’m sure their commute times are much longer and convoluted than mine. I’m sure their pressures and anxieties are different and larger than mine.
I think about the friend of mine who is in rehab to get her left side moving again after a stroke, when she should be with me at fashion week. I can’t stop thinking about her. And I don’t want to show up. The last thing I want to do is think about beautiful garments and shiny embellishments and clouds and kittens and sequins and the bling and the beautiful people.
But Fashion Week commands me to show up and pound the pavement, hustle the shit out of the five days and love and hate everything about it. And have fun while I’m at it.
And so I do.
Until next season.
( Video produced on the Go Pro Hero 4 Silver. Music : Sevastopol by mobygratis.com )