Before I got to New York for Fashion Week, I had a lot of questions. Like, what season will they be showing? It seemed too late for fall, and I've never heard of a winter fashion line, so I guessed spring. But I was hoping for summer, since that would mean bikinis. And maybe monokinis, which I have a fashion preference for.
It turned out I didn't know a whole lot of things. Like that fashion shows are the most serious events in the entire world. Nobody in the audience smiles or talks; the models look like they're on the Bataan death march; and people slowly, lifelessly clap at the end. I've been to political panels, criminal trials, locker rooms of playoff losers, graduate English classes and the Ron Paul convention, and I've never seen people take themselves quite this seriously.
Vogue editor Anna Wintour, whom I vaguely knew as the lady who wears Prada and is remarkably similar to the Devil, has two bodyguards--that's how serious fashion is. I've interviewed a lot of celebrities, and you know who had bodyguards? Nobody. I walked up to one of the bodyguards and asked him if he could handle a client who needs bodyguarding a little more than Anna Wintour does. "I think so," he said. "I have." I did not know until right then that bodyguards are allowed to act embarrassed.
Despite everything I'd ever heard, I quickly discovered that models aren't that hot. They're interesting-looking and striking and seem scary to talk to, but they didn't turn me on. I was so confused by this that I went backstage at the Donna Karan show to get an up-close look at Arlenis Sosa, who I was told is the new face of fashion. Sosa, 19, was pretty and awfully nice but mostly just really tall and outrageously skinny. Though she bragged to me about having just finished a salad and a kiwi, she paused when I asked her if that salad had dressing. "I don't like dressing," she said. I gave her a look. "Because I can't be fat," she continued. "I do like it. But I don't want any."
I got so tired of wan, 16-year-old East European models that I woke up super early to go to the Victoria's Secret show. Which, it turned out, was actually just a PowerPoint presentation by its CEO. It was like waking up for Christmas and discovering it's CEO PowerPoint Day. I did, however, learn that the main thing Victoria's Secret looks for in a new "supermodel" is "confidence," followed by "the ability to give back to the community." I'm guessing No. 3 is a tie between a huge heart and a working knowledge of constitutional law.
The best kind of fashion show is called a "presentation." Instead of sitting down and waiting an hour for models to walk, you walk around to different rooms where models lounge around in gowns. It's like a Disney revue--the Country Bear Jamboree, except the bears are women who never eat and the jamboree consists of acting bored. When I exited, I asked if I could go again.
At the Halston "presentation" at the Museum of Modern Art, Time fashion editor Kate Betts introduced me to Veronica Webb, who is a former model. I knew this because a) I'd heard of Veronica Webb, and b) she was wearing a T shirt that said "iModel." I asked Webb if I was allowed to touch the models being presented. She said it was totally O.K. as long as I pretended I wanted to touch the fabric. Webb said someone told her that what a fabric feels like is more important than what your husband feels like, since you spend more time touching the fabric. I wanted to hear more fashion wisdom from Veronica Webb, but I had models to touch.
I asked Sharan if I could touch her pants, and she readily agreed. I asked her what they were made of. "They didn't tell me," she said, before quickly covering. "It's beautiful. And a beautiful color." Sharan also didn't know the name of the model she was sharing the couch with. I sat down on the couch between Sharan and the model whose name we both didn't know and smiled for a photo. I'm pretty sure not even Veronica Webb would say that was O.K.
Shortly after, I ran into movie producer Harvey Weinstein, who, for some reason, owns Halston. When I asked him why he bought it, Weinstein said, "I'm a red-blooded American male. I get to hang out with models." We both laughed a particularly creepy kind of laugh, and then he said, "You and I know the least about fashion in this room. But I bet you can tell me Ty Cobb's batting average." Yes, I told him, I sure could. Unfortunately, he then asked me what Ty Cobb's batting average was. I said, ".421," with a lot of conviction. Weinstein said it was .367. To which I responded with no knowledge and a tone of absolute certainty that .421 was Cobb's best year. You can get away with some pretty stupid comments when you're both staring at models.