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LIVING MY GAP YEAR

A Curiosity Satisfied: Fashion Week SS16

Zuzu Tadeushuk

The First Adventure!

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a runway model? I have, on occasion, and usually with an air of admiration mixed with skepticism (did they actually exist?). Never with envy, that’s for sure—for it never crossed my mind runway was something I could do, and even up till the moment I stepped onto my first catwalk, all wobbly in backless heels and nervousness, I felt unfit for the job: I was just a person, after all, while a runway model was, well, a runway model! Waiting in the lineup for that first show I literally thought I was going to pee in my pants—well actually my grey pleated suit shorts by Alexander Wang,— but I managed to swallow my anxiety and step out into the blitz of lights and music and by some subconscious locomotion walk forward. My runway debut terrified me so because of this feeling I had of incompatibility with the role I was playing, my incomprehension of how I, little quiet bookish me, could be one of them, tall, proud damsels that they seemed. But as soon as I stepped off that runway, shoulders thrown back and head high, I felt ecstatic, and not because I wore a stiff, blue, space-age jacket worth a couple grand, nor because I had just been photographed by a hundred craning cameras or stood in the same room with Anna Wintour. Instead, I felt joyful because I had momentarily achieved a fresh expression of self and discovered a capacity of my being I never knew existed… 

Anyway, to get back to the point, my curiosity about runway-modelhood was brought to an end once and for all this month during fashion week (I think 24 shows in the span of three weeks qualifies me as one of the pack? The tall-damsel pack, that is?). The first adventure of my gap year, fashion week satisfied all lingering inquisitiveness about the model life. Ten random things I learned this season?

  1. In the fashion industry, “fashionably late” is more fashionable—and more LATE— than anywhere else: no show starts till an hour after it’s supposed to!
  2. Surprisingly, Italy has the worst backstage catering (shocker, right?).
  3. Still more surprisingly, the USA has the best backstage catering (now I’m ready to believe anything).
  4. The very smallest gestures are often the most impactful: a chivalrous editor offering to personally prop you up when your strappy heels are cutting your feet and your need something to lean on (along with a bolstering pep talk about ballerinas’ feet that puts your predicament thoroughly in perspective!), or a thoughtful dresser slipping you a cup of hot tea during a midnight fitting. These were the moments I came to appreciate above all during this month of madness when human interaction can become, well, a bit un-human. 
  5. Pretty shoes aren’t always nice to your feet.
  6. Pretty girls aren't always nice to your face.
  7. Paris apartments are tiny- you practically have to be a contortionist to fit in the shower (and don’t even think about shaving your legs)…
  8. I never tire of listening to French.
  9. I quickly tire of having my hair straightened.
  10. Fashion takes a lot of work: from what I've seen, the creation and presentation of it is a gargantuan process (and I'm sure I've only seen the tip of the iceberg). I have seen enough, however, to know that it requires unimaginable sacrifice and dedication from everyone involved- from the designers and ateliers who create the clothes to the stylists and production teams who facilitate the shows and the bookers, casting agents, and models who bring the vision to life. During Fashion Week, any hour is a business hour, sleep is a rarity, and each one of us has to put our personal interests on the back burner and give our all to la mode! 

In the thick of fashion month I found myself once or twice wondering: why do I do this? What makes it worth the effort?  At the end of the month, though, I knew the answer: I do it because Fashion Week-- and modeling in general-- is a window into one of the most complex industries in the world, and provides a view not only of some of the most renowned artists of our modern era, but also of the culture we live in. It is for this view—the privilege of seeing these artists work and this culture evolve, of witnessing the most enchanting and absurd of characters, of experiencing society and experiencing the individual—for this I entangle myself in the fickle workings of fashion and pursue my kind-of-crazy career. I may have learned a bit about the tall damsel brigade this month, but I still have sooo much more to discover!

My First Runway Show, For Alexander Wang