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FEBRUARY 13, 2012

Fashion Week, oh fashion week, how I adore slash abhor you.  It’s not your fault, per se.  You are what you are: a teeming mess of ego and art, of waiting and judging and pushing and shoving while being deprived of food and water for ten hours all to watch 12-14 minutes of (sometimes) pure sartorial genius and (sometimes) absolute nonsensical crap that even 2% body fat can’t make look good.

Anyone who’s ever attended in the working capacity – whether as a reporter or a PR rep or a dresser or a security guard – understands the undertones that accompany uttering that phrase: “New York Fashion Week,” the relentless anxiety, the need-for-a-new-xanax-prescription-ness of it all.  If you ever wondered, “Am I an important, autonomous human being capable of making my own decisions, wearing comfortable clothing and not being treated like cattle?” wonder no longer: you are not.

You will be bossed and herded and glared and glowered at, you will dodge and weave and bob and dart around shuffling, gaping, faux fur clad fourists (that’s fourists with an “f”: the harmless and occasionally irritating fashionista-tourist), and at the end of it all, you’ll collapse on your couch clutching a giant jar of JIF in one hand and a spoon in the other and vowing never, ever to take off your Uggs & Lulu Lemon again.

This February marks my tenth season “at the tents,” as they say (although “the tents” have gone from Bryant Park to Lincoln Center, and Fashion Week isn’t limited to that venue).  I’ve attended well over 250 shows (maybe more), and each season I interview 10-20 designers.  I try never to ask them “what was your inspiration?” (barf!), but sometimes I panic and That Question just tumbles out. Although that’s better than the time I asked Custo Dalmau, designer of Custo Barcelona, whether he was “on drugs” when he designed his fall collection. It was supposed to be a joke, I guess … but it didn’t really, um, translate.  Oops?

Toward the beginning of my fashion week tenure, I focused on celebrities – sorry, “celebrities” (air quotes necessary) – in the front row, but I soon found that required nerves of steel and lead feet, as you’re literally being crushed by a wall of aggressive photographers, approximately none of whom care about your sound quality or picture quality or the quality of anything, at all, whatsoever.  To sum: in terms of the ideal interview scenario (quiet, focused, well lit, plenty of time, no one yelling at you), Fashion Week is pretty much the antithesis.

So why do I keep coming back? Um … it pays the rent.  As much as I need post-fashion week therapy for my bruised ego and a podiatrist for my bruised toes, there are worse ways to make a living.  And much like a bi-polar on-and-off boyfriend, you try to remember the good times – the standing ovations at Naeem Khan, the lilting melody of Regina Spektor singing at Oscar de la Renta, the crazy middle-of-the-runway waterfalls at Isaac Mizrahi, the one time Kanye made an entire theatre of people wait 45 minutes for him and his Louis Vuitton carrying entourage to grace us with their strategically blinged presence.  Ah, memories.

There are those moments, and you hold them in your heart while you wait in the 20 degree cold wearing a cape, clutching a mike, waiting for the PR people to find you on the list for a backstage interview even though you confirmed FOURTEEN TIMES via email.  You hold them in your heart and in your iPhone, and when you tell people – strangers! interns! your mom’s friends! ladies from the Midwest! classmates who made the questionable decision to work in finance! -  that you cover “fashion week,” and they chirp, “OMG! How much fun is that!?” you restrain yourself from slapping them and allow a little of their guileless delight to creep into your jaded soul, just the tip, just for a second, just to see how it feels.

And it feels pretty good.

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