Until more recently than I’d care to admit, I was one of those people who regarded herself as afashionable. It seems silly now, considering I, like, always wear clothes—that I might have duped myself into thinking of fashion as something one could opt out of for as long as I did.
As with most dumb ideas, this one stems in large part from childhood angst. A hardcore tomboy growing up (read: still), for a long time my mom was my only fashion role model. She is always put together, loves shopping, reads the magazines, and tries out new trends. But she is a girly girl, all high heels and ruffles and glitter, and even typing this out now kind of makes me want to run away from the computer because you just don’t understand me, okay! Deep down, a part of me still associates “fashion” with those Shirley Temple party dresses and frilly tea socks I fought her on tooth and nail each Sunday morning before church, until she finally gave up and bought me khakis.
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All of which is to say I am nervous on my way to the Simon Miller show on Saturday night. I’ve never heard of Simon, but even I get that being a part of New York Fashion Week must mean he’s kind of a big deal. I have tried to layer a few of my coolest shirts—a Brooklyn Nets tank, an army green button-down—on top of one another for the occasion, but feel pretty sure my snow boots are killing any potential “cool” vibe. Quickly, though, my nerves dissolve into curiosity when I am loitering outside the venue waiting to be let in—the show is at the Dutch Flower Line on 28th street, and a wholesale florist shop is already both a less pretentious and more imaginative locale than my own tiny fashion brain has envisioned for such an event.
Inside, the smell of flowers is immersive, but without being affronting. Turns out this is a microcosm for the entire show: atmospheric in an obvious, but not unpleasant way. There is a runway, I guess, but the models do not walk it—they all stand on it at once, looking out over our heads. The platform is also coated with cut flowers, bright but still “found in nature” colors, yellow and green and mauve, in keeping with the scheme of the clothes. Tree branches are affixed to the wall just so, giving the room a woodsy, cozy feel. Spotlights highlight the models, but the room is otherwise party-dim.
Overhead on the balcony, a cellist, violinist, and vocalist are perched. Their vibrations ebb, then swell over the room. The balcony is also shrouded in greenery, and this combined with the lights and some well-placed dry ice reminds me of how a rather uncreative elementary schooler might diorama heaven. I watch the singer put on sunglasses between songs, which I take to mean he is famous, so I try to SoundHound him. Nothing comes up. (I find out later via Instagram the group is called 1982paris.) Recognizable or not, I gape up at them for a while—I have not eaten dinner, and whatever is in the drink someone has just handed me has gone to my head. The flow of the music, the scent of the room, the orange drink with a flower in it; I like it in here!
Whatever is in the drink someone has just handed me has gone to my head.
Oh right, and the clothes. I turn back to the models. At first, I am almost afraid to look at them. Since they’re not moving, it feels almost rude. Plus, when I do get the courage to study one for a while, she glances down at me and smiles. I am caught staring, and my instinct is to duck. The rest of the audience is used to it, though—a girl beside me goes and touches one of the models’ jackets, then snaps a close-up picture of a button.
I circle the platform a few times. The collection features a lot of coats—a reddish brown leather trench, a few in a mustard color that look like wool, one like a combination of a bomber and a windbreaker. I am both surprised and pleased to see many of the female models are wearing pants. There are also more male models than I thought a single show would contain; they are noticeably of a curly-haired majority, and wearing sneakers and snow boots. I look down at my own boots. Right on, Simon! I think. I find out later Simon Miller 1. Is not a person (or at least, not the designer—the brand is headed up by Daniel Corigan and Chelsea Hansford) and 2. was originally a men’s denim collection (hence all the men).
There is nothing on this platform I cannot reconcile with my definition of “clothes”—no wings or chain mail, everything made of recognizable textile, all requisite body parts covered. In fact, the color palette and cuts of the clothing are not that different than what everyone else in the room, albeit a posh, fashion-industry room, is wearing.
I get another drink, a lavender negroni that tastes not unlike perfume (but in a nice way!) and watch the audience for a while. The crowd swirls; the models stand still; this is part of the point, I decide, the models watching us, a reversal of the gaze. I am now quite drunk. A woman by the door hands me a flower. I take it with me, a piece of this place, out into the cold.
I go back to Brooklyn, meet my partner for pizza at Roberta’s. On the way home I pass a mural, black combat boots stretched across the backside of a factory. Beneath them is a Bill Cunningham quote, “The best fashion show is in the streets, always has been, always will be.” I get it now, I think.