She wore a full-length, mustard-yellow floral skirt, a leather corset, a polka-dot peasant blouse and a necklace of heavy amber beads the size of lemons. If the outfit on the girl posing outside Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week didn’t make it clear enough, her spinning like a whirling dervish to unfurl her skirt did: She was determined to be photographed.
Judging from the scene outside the tents, desperation is in for spring. It doesn’t matter if you get a ticket to a show — a much greater prize is being photographed by one of the hundreds of “street style” photographers who descend upon Lincoln Center and the Meatpacking District with gear ranging from expensive DSLR cameras to iPhones with Instagram. It’s even better if the lens you find yourself staring down is that of a top-flight street-style photographer, such as the New York Times’s Bill Cunningham or the Sartorialist’s Scott Schuman. But any blog will do, and the would-be models loiter on the Lincoln Center plaza, swanning about for each other and, ideally, the cameras.
If you go to Fashion Week and no one takes your picture, were you ever really there?
This is the existential question that hovers over the periphery of Fashion Week, where there are no front-row seats, backstage passes or gift bags of expensive designer goodies. Instead, there’s a lot of hope: That you’ll slip past the standing-room-only line, that you’ll get an invitation to the after-party and that someone, anyone, will take your picture.
Street style has been documented in newspapers and magazines for decades, and on blogs for the most recent one. For some photographers, it has become an entire career; for some subjects, it’s been a path to modeling and stylist opportunities, not to mention a major ego boost. But only recently has it become a competitive sport with Fashion Week as the street-style Super Bowl.
Photographers lie in wait outside the tents, but true celebrity guests always sneak in through a back entrance. They’re guaranteed to be photographed in their front-row seats, and the last thing they need is another camera in their faces. The photographers get the picture of the occasional Somebody — such as fashion blogger Leandra Medine (“The Man Repeller”) or Martha Stewart, who walked inconspicuously through the front entrance for the Zac Posen show — but usually it’s amateur photographers snapping amateur fashionistas.
That’s not the case near Milk Studios in the Meatpacking District, though, where some of the most avant-garde shows take place. There, the uninvited and the amateurs playing dress-up are out of their weight class — it’s where the pros go to see and be seen. After the Derek Lam show, Anna Dello Russo, the editor at large for Vogue Japan, walks down a street in a gray shift dress and a bird-cage-veil fascinator, and the professional street-style photographers descend upon her in a mob. The Sartorialist leads the pack, with the photographers attracting more photographers. Anyone watching would have thought Dello Russo was a movie star being stalked by paparazzi. She obliges, posing politely on the street: “How about here?”