Beauty Arise: New York Fashion Week (Part 2)
From Wranglers to Ray-Bans -- Here's the second part of my adventure with Beauty Arise
“You need to work faster. A lot faster.”
A girl a third-again my height, yet not much older than I, stood impatiently in front of me wearing nothing but her high heels and a dissatisfied frown.
My fingers carefully, pulled at pearl fasteners and zippers, trying to dress my assigned model before it was her turn to walk the runway again. She had three outfits and about about thirty seconds to be changed in and out of each one.
The bass of atmospheric music, velvety hairspray fumes, and lack of hydration amplified the pounding inside my chest, inside my brain. I was dressed in black, right down to the shade of pigment on my lips and the apron of pins and tape around my waist.
It wasn't my first fashion week, but it was my first time at one without the designer tiara. No one crosses a designer. No one questions a designer. Do they talk about them under their breaths later? Apparently so.
It was incredible to view the event from a different perspective. A designer shows up to a fashion show with their garment bags and months of anticipation heavy on their shoulders. Generally speaking, they race around telling people what to do and making last minute adjustments to their clothing.
Dressers on the other hand, are the minions of the fashion realm.
Duties include making sure their assigned models are dressed and ready in the blink of a fake eyelash for their next walk, doing whatever the designers tell them to do, and pretty much just trying to keep people from having a nervous breakdown.
A rack of crisp garments stretched the length of a bale-wagon sized backstage area that was home to dozens of model/dresser pairs, hair and makeup artists, and various help-staff. Each outfit came with a poster with a photo of the model in the outfit, styling instructions, and the designated shoes hanging in a plastic bag. They were organized by model, and numbered according to the walking order.
“Number 16! We need you NOW!”
I pulled the white chiffon blouse over her head, tore off the face-cover that had shielded her makeup from the garment, and pushed her in the direction of the calling voices. A swarm of artists dove after her, tweezing her every hair and lash into place.
As I turned to prepare her next outfit, I looked to a screen behind me, where I saw my model leisurely strutting the catwalk like she had been ready for hours. I saw the flashes of cameras refract from her perfectly tailored outfit, and I saw the row of Prada-clad celebrities below her.
Only a few weeks before that moment, I had been up to my ears in grime sporting my brother's hand-me-down Wranglers in Oregon. And now?
The very blouse that I had held in my hands seconds before was now floating down the runway at New York Fashion Week (NYFW). I wasn’t sitting in the back row after trading in my kidneys for tickets. No, I was backstage, touching the clothes and meeting the very masters behind their conception.
And I hadn’t paid a dime. All I’d done was dress in black and step through another infamous door.
Flash back approximately 65 hours to a Starbucks in Greenwich Village.
I'd walked into the coffee-infused room planning on just meeting some old friends for drinks and a chat. But why do I bother with plans anyway?
Minutes later I was sitting around a table with the Beauty Arise team -- a compilation of young beauty-industry professionals and youth who had traveled from the valleys of Colorado to the hills of Rio de Janeiro to serve as dressers at NYFW.
I'd met most of them at Los Angeles Fashion Week in March, and managed to keep in touch thought social media. The day before they flew in, one of them sent me a message asking if I wanted to grab coffee. So I went. I couldn't have been more excited to hear from her.
After brief introductions and a bit of catch-up, I sat in silence with wide eyes, sipping my vanilla steamer, as their supervisor explained their itinerary for their time in the city.
“So, uh, what are your plans for this week?” She asked me at the end.
“I’m going with you guys.” I said. I can’t remember the last time I wanted anything more.
So I went.
And before I knew it, not only was I was dressing models at NYFW, getting my picture taken by fashion bloggers, and staring into the faces of people I have only seen in magazines, but I was also being given the opportunity to be hands and feet -- writing letters to people I didn’t even know, reaching out to broken and starving women to show them something deeper than the emptiness that society's definition of “beauty” gratifies, and simply offering a little light in an industry that can seem as black as the uniforms the dressers wear.
Once more, the door was opened and I walked through it, but I had no way of knowing the person I would change into in the process.