NEW YORK CITY -- It's a question for the ages: How to score a seat in the front row at New York Fashion Week?
In short, I don't know. Of course, there are theories that celebrities and the elite of the fashion world (e.g., Anna Wintour, et al) always are assigned to prime spots. They're the ones photographers flock to the front row to snap a few photos of prior to the runway show. They can afford to buy the expensive clothes. They're the ones who might actually go some place fancy enough to wear some of them.
It's also believed that media outlets with larger outreach are more likely to be seated closer to the runway than smaller ones. But this isn't always the case. Sometimes, I'm seated behind international magazines and newspapers -- as I would expect to be -- and other times we swap places. At one show this week, I was seated in front of writers from Women's Wear Daily and next to journalists from the Wall Street Journal, both media outlets much larger than mine.
Sometimes just getting into a show can be a challenge. There are some designers who will invite people one season and then decline invitation requests the next. (Yep, I'm talking about you, Betsey Johnson. Still disappointed ...)
Whatever the formula is, I finally managed to get a front row seat at a major show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Don't get me wrong, I'm quite thankful for my usual third and fourth row seating assignments. Consider it to be the purgatory of the fashion show audience; it's not quite the heavenly experience of sitting in the front among the rich and famous, but it's much better than being banished to the long lines and poor views of the standing section in the back.
So I was thrilled, and a bit shocked, when I received my seating assignment for the Dennis Basso runway show and saw that magic number -- 1 -- in the "row" column. I'm a big fan of Mr. Basso's collections for QVC and love his attention to detail and desire to create beautiful things for women of all lifestyles and income brackets. In college, I also always eyed his Upper East Side showroom on my daily M72 bus ride from my West Side apartment to class. But he doesn't know any of that. So how did I get such a good seat?
This has to be wrong, I thought to myself. I was convinced that I would walk into the show and find that "Row 1" in this case really meant "Row clear-in-the-back," but my doubts were unfounded. I walked into the studio and found my spot -- right up front.
Seated two spots down from me was iconic New York Times street style photographer Bill Cunningham. On the other side of me was a young woman in an ethereal-looking white dress with black booties going on to me about her busy day darting from this top designer to that top designer. Next to her was an exotic looking woman wearing one of the extravagant looks from high-end designer Zang Toi's fall/winter collection that I recognized from his runway show last season.
And then the show started ...
I already knew I had to keep my legs uncrossed and my bag tucked behind my legs after hearing photographers in the pit scream this plea to front row folks in other runway shows I've attended, so I was prepared to do that so I wouldn't interfere with their shots. But what I wasn't expecting was what a difference the view was!
The ability to study the details in the clothes that made each look special and to truly appreciate them as works of art was 100 times greater than what my usual rows offered me. Also, I now understand why so many people up front wear sunglasses during the shows. I always assumed it was to add an air of mystery and chicness to their look. While that might be partially true, it also is much brighter in the first row because of the lights shining on the runway.
It also was exciting to be so close to the designer as he took his walk around the runway greeting fans as the audience applauded after the show. And for once I was able to film it without the combination of distance and poor lighting in my row making the models and designer appear as glowing orbs in my photos.
So thank you, Mr. Basso, for the honor to attend your stunning show -- and to watch it from such a special seat. Thanks for the memories.
Below are some more photos of my view from the front row, plus a video of the final runway walk.