Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Corner of Bryant Park


I’ve read fashion magazines ever since I was ten, when my aunt gave me my first copy of Seventeen. At first I didn’t know how to read it—all the advertisements were confusing for this book-loving girl, but I soon got in the swing of it.

Indeed, the advertisements soon became text, with their engaging appeals for Lane hope chests, Bass Weejuns, Bonne Bell LipSmackers, and Famolare shoes. Before models were “personalities,” I followed the career of Jayne Modean; I once brought in a Seventeen cover of Micaela Sundholm to have my bangs cut just like hers

Then as the years went on, I’d devour whatever I could: short-lived magazines like Taxi and Mirabella; once-edgy publications like Interview and W; and classics like Vogue. (Bazaar lost this reader when Kate Betts left; I thought she was the perfect heir to Liz Tilberis.)

The only time I stopped reading fashion magazines was when I worked in New York City.

In New York, I found that I didn’t want to read about fashion, I wanted to be fashion. But I didn’t want to shop; I wanted to be immersed in, surrounded by fashion, not the act of purchasing clothes. The two are really quite different, you know.

So I’d take a lunchtime train to the Village and soak up some NYU style chic; I’d order an espresso in a SoHo cafĂ© and drink in my fellow patrons. I’d hang out in the garment district, patting textiles and getting a good vibe from young designers.

My office was directly across the street from Bryant Park, where I’d often eat lunch and have an occasional New York Moment. Who knew that a chance encounter over embroidery (I’d embroider for dessert) would mean a wonderful friendship with the copyeditor of a magazine I really wanted to work for?

But Bryant Park also meant Fashion Week, when our grassy expanse dwindled to a concrete corner, when the tents would go up and press and models and designers would descend.

Strangely enough, I never enjoyed Fashion Week the way I thought I should have. Of course, I didn’t have invitations to any shows, but even if I had, I wonder whether my experience would have been like Dorothy’s meeting Oz.

For I experience fashion as something creative, individual, and highly, highly personal. To be in New York and to sit with a group of qualified people and assess a garment as it is presented in the designer’s vision does not appeal; rather, I’d prefer to discover it on the street a week later, in the mix of someone’s own style.

However, when I’m in the Midwest, I’m the opposite. I pore over magazines and Web sites, wanting to know everything about a particular seam or color or cut of a garment. I want to know about the designer, his/her influences, and where he/she trained.

Perhaps it’s just my contrary nature: when I’m in the fashion mix I cultivate my eccentricity, my outsider-fashion persona. Then I want fashion to be effortless, unselfconscious, a natural representation of style. But when I’m in the fashion hinterlands, I’ll study it ferociously, but quietly, to absorb it for my next trip to the fashionable streets of New York or London.

1 comment:

enc said...

On the outside, looking in. A good place to be.