NEW YORK FASHION WEEK: Why I Slept Through It Last Time, and Why I Sort Of Want To Again

Seriously, I slept the entire week. ALSO: beauty "trends" are sort of a joke; sorry.
Publish date:
February 9, 2012
new york fashion week

I read every comment left on my articles on this site, and many of you have mentioned that you feel resentful or envious of what you understand to be my glamorous (and you're right, it is) life. And now it's the most glamorous week of all --

Fashion Week

-- and maybe you're a little jealous that you don't have a job like mine, or that you don't live in New York, working in the glamour industries.

I used to feel jealous too, every Fashion Week when I was young, that I wasn't there. I get it. The media Fashion Week deluge actually isn't that fun when you're not invited. Am I right? I mean, that's definitely how I used to feel.

When I was climbing the ranks of magazines, there was nothing more painful for me than when Fashion Week came to town and erected it’s big white tents in Bryant Park, like some Calvin Klein-y minimalist circus.

I spent nearly five years (ages 19 through 24) interning and freelance-assisting and then on-staff assisting at various magazines -- first downtown at Nylon for about a year, then at various titles in the Conde Nast building in Times Square, just down the block from the tents -- before I ever got to participate in it all.

I WILL be an editor someday, I’d think as I helped the NYLON editor in chief’s assistant walk his two grouchy shar peis through a downpour to the Tribeca Grand hotel, where the editor in chief was staying while his loft was renovated (comped, of course -- he’d swaggily traded the hotel ad space in his magazine).

I WILL be an editor someday, I’d think as I packed up garment bags and hand-wrote shipping labels in the fashion closet of Vanity Fair, hideously misspelling “Comme des Garcons,” “Giambattista Valli,” “Junya Watanabe,” “Maison Martin Margiela,” “Miu Miu” (“Mui Mui”) every time.

I WILL be an editor someday, I’d think as I wrapped (terribly; I suck!) bottles of champagne that the editor in chief of Teen Vogue was sending out as gifts (yup, just like in that book), or when the shelf in the beauty closet I was organizing became unhinged and a bottle of Thierry Mugler Angel fell on my head. I WILL be an editor someday, I’d think as I tallied the results of thousands of “Glammies” ballots, alone in a Glamour conference room for days at a time, or reheated coffee for the (very, very nice) beauty director because it wasn’t hot enough and would I mind, dear? (Of course I didn’t mind. Interning is strange heaven.)

I WILL be an editor someday, I’d think as I stood in line at the 43rd Street Starbucks, then argued with the cashier because my boss at Lucky wanted organic milk in her grande misto and I knew they had it; they were just being lazy and didn’t want to fetch it from downstairs. (It’s true; you can request organic milk at any Starbucks!) And when I am an editor, I'd think, I will fucking go to Fashion Week! And of course, when I did become an editor at age 25, at Lucky, I got to go to more Fashion Week shit than I could have ever dreamed of. It wasn't that great when I got there.

As a beauty editor, I covered backstage hair and makeup and nails, and it is super-boring and exhausting. And sort of pointless. Am I bugging? Am I jaded? I guess it’s sort of fun for readers to look at the beauty looks, but they’re reported by beauty editors as actual trend forecasts that you, the readers, should be paying attention to and trying out yourselves -- and I imagine many of you have interpreted backstage beauty coverage as such.

But in my opinion, beauty backstage at shows are nice to look at but that’s it. They don’t mean anything and there are hundreds of "trends" to be declared every season and they are always the same: bold brows, tawny skin, messy updos, deep side parts, fuschia lips. Whatever. A makeup artist worked with a fashion designer to create looks that complement the clothes -- which do matter -- and then the magazines and websites g0 crazy turning those beauty looks into content which encourages you to buy a zillion products and recreate the looks yourself. Don't you already sort of know what looks good on you?

Now don’t get me wrong: I love beauty, I promote beauty products, makeup, hair, glamour, the fun of being a woman. I'll teach you all about the genius products that will improve how you look, and sometimes there are new discoveries to share at Fashion Week in this respect.And I do particularly like the different nail polish looks and believe THOSE start trends (because nail polish is like an accessory; it works on everyone), and once in a while a lipstick fad will start on a runway, but -- for the most part, runway beauty is just that: runway beauty. Not an actual trend. Come on!

I’m not going to tell you that ballerina buns are a trend because three shows did ballerina buns this season. Guess what? At least three shows put ballerina buns on their models every season! Just like messy braids, or bronzy skin, or strong brows, or orange lipstick or smoky eyes.

Nor am I going to tell you how to “Get The Look” and replicate the ballerina bun trend from the runway. Google that shit! It’s all over the Internet already! I can’t think of anything more BORING. GOD.

Alternately, a really complicated crazy runway hair look is just as pointless to write about for you guys. First of all, nine other websites are going to do it -- do you really want some complicated hair tutorial from me? Wouldn’t you rather I wrote about something else? What a waste of time! Am I wrong here? And second of all, you’re not even going to wear that crazy runway hair and makeup trend the websites and magazines are going on about more than once, if that: the fishtail braid was the big thing last season. I dutifully reported on it (you’ll note, as briefly as possible). And the rest is history, as we all know that fishtail braids are overwhelmingly everywhere today.

Trends are for fashion -- and yes, nail polish. As for hair and makeup? I say, wear the styles and shades that look good on you year after year after year after year. End of story.

So what will xoJane’s backstage beauty coverage be like this season? I have no idea. Julie is probably horrified at this entire article and will be reporting straight trends in the manner of a well-behaved junior beauty editor. Because she is extraordinarily well-behaved and thank God for that.

As for me? After all those years and years slaving away on the lowest rungs in beauty departments and dreaming and wishing and praying and waiting and hoping…I spent last Fashion Week, in September 2011, sleeping. And waking up, and knowing I was fucking up and going to get in huge trouble, and then going back to sleep again. For a week straight.I slept in the day missing the shows; I slept in the night knowing I was going to miss the shows again. I slept through my birthday on September 10th (it's always during Fashion Week) until a magazine friend came over and made me go to a few shows with her and out to dinner. And then I went back to bed again.

What happened?

Every time I woke up throughout the day -- day after day after day -- I thought about the tents (now in Lincoln Center) and all the people and the bright lights and the rows of models in chairs doing Sudoku puzzles and the blowdryer roars and the shoes lined up and the Polaroids clothespinned to the clothes. I thought about publicists on headsets and how Anna Wintour sometimes comes through the back just to wander through the chaos and check everything out and wish the designers luck and scare them; I thought about the movie stars waiting backstage to be seated at the last second, and about Marc Jacobs in a skirt and man sandals and Francois Nars insisting "No photographs, no photographs!" as he applied makeup. I thought about the panicked scramble and shouts when it was time for the lineup; the show was about to go on! Which is when I’d slip out the back door onto the dark street. Quiet, solitude. Finally. This is when, back in my Conde Nast days, because God, I was so sick -- I'd dig into my purse for a prescription pill bottle, uncap it, and chew up an Adderall or open up a Dexadrine capsule and pour the little balls down my throat. Because I was so tired. But I wanted to badly to want to go to the next one (which is a different thing from actually wanting to go to the next one).

"IT’S FASHION WEEK!" screamed teenybopper Teen Vogue intern Cat in my own head, like a goddamn visit from the ghost of Christmas past. "YOU MUST!" "YOU WANTED THIS!" shrieked the ghost of Nylon intern Cat, who shopped desperately for vintage rock t-shirts in the days leading up to her internship and who got screamed at by a fashion director every day for literally just standing next to her desk (I had nowhere to sit). "GO!"I wanted this, I told myself, and took another pill not five minutes after I took the last one—Vyvanse this time, designer Adderall. I hailed a cab on Fifth Avenue in front of the library to the Richie Rich show at the Waldorf Astoria. I didn't sleep that night; I was too jacked up on speed and just stayed up writing my reports for the Lucky website instead. And then I did it all over again in the morning.

But what I didn’t understand then is that glamour doesn’t actually make you feel good. And the price you pay to get there—well.

A doctor last year taught me about "anhedonia": the inability to feel pleasure when you should.

I guess I burned all those good parts of my brain right up.

And yes, my life is more"glamorous" now than ever before—unbelievably so, sometimes, professionally and socially—and yet still I'm always looking for the exit sign. Whether it’s from a fashion tent or the best new club, I'm always slipping out. I go outside and smoke cigarettes and walk home without saying goodbye to anyone. And then I go do drugs alone at my apartment.

You want that?

If I close my eyes and muddle through the darkness of these past few years I can remember who I was years ago and how happy I thought I would be to be exactly who I am right now. I'm crying and dripping snot all over my laptop. My phone is blinking; my friend wants to get high. It's so hard remembering who I used to be.

It’s 3:30 AM; by the time you read this, it will be Thursday afternoon, but I'm here in my apartment now, and I have to get out of bed tomorrow. I have to get out of bed tomorrow. Even though I know I'll just want to sleep, and sleep, and sleep.

Cat's on Twitter @cat_marnell.