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Prêt-à-Partir, or NY Conversation vs Fashion Week

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So last week was New York Fashion Week. This basically means that there’s shitloads of fashion parades around town wherein various designers unveil “Fall 2010”, i.e. what you’re supposed to be wearing this year if you can afford a new wardrobe. Which I can’t.

Despite my general lack of interest in purchasing ruinously expensive clothing, I tagged along to a few events, largely out of curiosity and for the free drinks. It’s one of the more pleasing aspects of New York life that parties are almost invariably sponsored by a prominent brand of alcohol. This means that there’s always much freeloading to be done, and since freeloading is a crucial component of freelancing, this week has found NY Conversation propping up various fashionable bars. 

Unfortunately, though, while the idea of crashing fashion parties for the booze sounds OK in theory, in reality you walk in, survey the room and... awwwww, shit. I knew I forgot something: I hate these people.

Or, at least, I think I hate them. I can’t decide for sure, because in the course of a week, I’ve barely spoken to anyone apart from the bartenders. Honestly, I’ve never in my life encountered anything quite like the fashion crowd’s ability to simply refuse to acknowledge your existence. At least people who are blowing you off in Australia make a cursory effort at conversation while they look over your shoulder for someone more important to speak to. Not so here. I fretted that people might judge me for my "look", which is best described as "functional blogwear" — i.e. jeans and a hoodie — but I get the feeling I could have turned up in a sandwich board proclaiming affiliation with the Westboro Baptist Church and everyone would still have stared straight through me in search of the next killer networking opportunity.

This meant that I spent most of my time at these events just... observing. Which, in its own strange way, was kinda enjoyable.

I have undoubtedly have seen many famous people. (I can't say for sure, because I didn't recognise anyone.) I have, however, also seen many things more interesting than plain old celebrities.

I have seen at least one pair of genuine arse implants. I have seen 8” platform stilettos navigated with nonchalance. I have been introduced to a woman who does not cook at home because she uses her fridge as an extra wardrobe for her jeans collection. 

I have seen how curiously insectoid models look up close, all angular arms and legs, and the faintly desperate expressions that creep onto their faces when they’re left alone for a moment. I have seen several photographers form an impromptu circle and take photos of one another in a mutually priapic paparazz-off.

I have discovered that “muse” constitutes a valid job description.

I have heard a DJ drop Phil Collins’ "Sussudio" without a hint of irony, and I have heard the Ting Tings more times than I care to remember. I have discovered that to DJ in New York, you need two things: a) comedy spectacles; and b) to be related to someone famous. I have been ushered away from VIP areas by very large men. I have seen people with genuine entourages. I have seen more face-kissing than at a European wedding.

Having got wind he was going to be at a certain event, I have spent at least an hour waiting to insult Lou Reed — he was a prick to me, after all — only for the contrary old bastard not to show up. I have stumbled into a serious fashion parade at an op shop. I have not parted with a single one of the business cards I got printed up at VistaPrint for this very occasion. I have sighed deeply and related strongly to Charlie Brown.

I have drunk lots of free vodka.

But still, for all the perverse anthropological appeal of watching people whose greatest concern is how they dress themselves, prêt à porter eventually became prêt à partir, and I decided that Fashion Week was clearly not for me. About halfway through the last party I attended before I lost patience with the whole thing, I realised exactly what the fashion world reminds me of: it evoked the exact same feeling I had at kindergarten, watching in quiet bewilderment as my fellow three-year-olds squeaked in excitement at the prospect of playing dress-ups while I wondered when we could get back to playing with the Lego.

It’s strange encountering people whose priorities are so entirely different to yours. Ultimately, it feels almost irrelevant to point out that, y’know, there are people starving to death while we argue the merits of chiffon and contrasting prints — objecting to fashion people being fashion-obsessed is kinda like getting upset at your friend’s pet dog for humping your leg. It’s just how they are. It's in their nature. And it's not like any of us are without our own trivial pursuits.

But anyway, all’s well that ends well — the emperor has plenty of new clothes to choose from for another season, and I’m back home in my functional blogwear. I've just noticed that my one pair of jeans is starting to develop the telltale signs of functional blog wear: the arse is starting to wear out from all the sitting and typing I'm doing. It's time to head back to the op shop... just as soon as the fashion parade has finished.

More New York Conversation action at nyconversation.com!