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Irish in NYC: ‘New York Fashion Week truly is a sprint; not a marathon’


By Freya Drohan
14th Feb 2022

Freya Drohan / Instagram

Irish in NYC: ‘New York Fashion Week truly is a sprint; not a marathon’

From Christian Siriano’s celeb-packed show to a party so elaborate it feels like a film set, Dublin fashion transplant Freya Drohan takes us backstage at New York Fashion Week.

After a long, Omicron-y January in New York with a news cycle as bleak as the weather, the arrival of February meant two things: slightly more bearable temperatures and infinitely more exciting fashion than the puffer jackets we’ve been bundled up in.

New York Fashion Week has returned to showcase what’s ahead for Autumn Winter ‘22, and with it comes the inimitable buzz of live shows and style both on and off the runway. Here’s what it’s *actually* like behind the scenes. Unlike the popular saying – NYFW truly is a sprint; not a marathon.

Thursday, February 10

6.45AM: The day starts with a sunrise walk down by the water and coffee twice the size of my head: a moment of calm before the tornado. Technically, the NYFW schedule as outlined by IMG and the Council of Fashion Designer America doesn’t start until tomorrow, but the days leading up to it tend to be jam-packed with previews. Last night, I had a dinner with the brand Marina Moscone at a beautiful artist’s studio in the East Village and I got home somewhat late. But right off the bat, I’m going to tell you the key rule to surviving fashion week: don’t add alcohol into the mix, no matter how strong your hankering for a margarita is. 

7.45AM: I get home, make breakfast for myself and the dog and scan for the day’s fashion news stories. While The Daily Front Row is primarily known as the print magazine of fashion week, I also oversee our website and socials and we have to be on the beat. I see that beloved editor Laura Brown is confirmed to be leaving InStyle after the sad news that the magazine will cease print operations, meaning 200 people will lose their jobs. I do a quick post for the site and share the story on our social channels. I now have 20 minutes to wash my hair and get ready for my first appointment, but I somehow make it to SoHo with two minutes to spare.

9.15AM: I have my fitting at Brazilian brand PatBo to pick out a dress to wear for their upcoming show and then stroll over to Tribeca for my next appointment. When I get there and am offered tea by the designer, only then do I realise she’s Irish! Maria McManus is a Dubliner who’s lived in NYC for 20 years. She launched her sustainably minded namesake brand just before the pandemic but she’s quickly finding her stride with her offering despite that COVID-shaped spanner in the works. Right down to the buttons and tags, everything is conscious and considered, and the clothes themselves are impeccable in that very Old Celine/The Row way. We spend half the time talking about her vision, and the other half discovering all our mutual friends as her team watch us bouncing back and forth with Irishisms.

10.45AM: I hop on the 6 train to make it to Flatiron for a preview for a new LA-based brand called Finney, whose silky and laidback unisex pieces are definitely going to go down a treat. Then I nip home for some lunch and take the dog out for a walk.

2.30PM: I quickly ice my face to look alive—the best and cheapest beauty hack—and change into a camel-hued suit sent over by the brand L’AGENCE. I always find myself sprinting around my apartment with mere minutes to get ready for events, so the place is never not like it’s been hit by a cyclone of clothes. 

I pair the suit with a pale pink knit bodysuit from Ryan Roche, a Chloé necklace, a chain belt by Joey Baby, grey padded heeled mules from H&M, and a fuzzy clutch bag. Thankfully, sometimes panic makes for a good outfit! I meet my boss, who lives a few blocks away, and we grab a cab across town to the L’AGENCE presentation.

3PM: With every event in late December cancelled and January typically being a quiet month, it’s been a while since I’ve been at a busy presentation – and this one is fun! A crystal-embellished black blazer immediately catches my eye, as do the red and burgundy 70s-inspired velvet suits. I take some pictures for Instagram and chat with the publicists, before my boss and I jump in a cab to SoHo to attend an event introducing the re-envisioned Chloé boutique which just opened. I also eye up Gabriela Hearst’s latest bag for the house, the Kattie, which also launched today. 

4.30PM: Agh! One of my favourite brands of all time, Zimmermann, just released their new collection digitally. No one knew this was coming today, so I speed review it for the website. It’s as stunning as ever, which makes it easier to compile a lightning-quick piece. I finish off a few more stories and go through the editorial and social media deliverables associated with a big party the magazine is hosting tonight for its 20th anniversary. 

6PM: Take the dog outside and realise once again, I don’t have more than 20 minutes to get ready. I’ve borrowed a metallic silver and black tigerprint dress from one of my favourite party wear brands, Bronx & Banco, for the occasion and I quickly style it with a white faux fur Jimmy Choo bag, a gemstone belt from Zara, and shoes that the footwear brand sponsoring the party sent me to wear. 

7.15PM: I meet two of my friends outside the venue. It’s infinitely more fun when I can bring someone to a work event and luckily a lot of my friends are obsessed with fashion. There’s paparazzi outside to snap pictures of notable guests—think: a lot of models, such as our latest cover star Shanina Shaik and her best friend, Sara Sampaio. The party is off to a great start and suddenly everyone in the room looks like a Victoria’s Secret model – I’m pretty sure everyone has at least 250,000 followers. It’s a weird world! The Governor of New York dropped the mask mandate this week so everyone seems relaxed and excited for the shows to begin. It’s so nice to see dozens of industry faces again. It’s also a joy to see the new issue in real life. As most people in the unstable world of print media will tell you, it’s an unparalleled feeling getting to hold your work in a physical format.

 

11.30PM: Start tackling what feels like a million and one Instagram Stories reposts, before finally turning the lights out.

Friday, February 11

6.30AM: Let the games begin! With the official schedule kicking off today, I take another walk by the water with the dog before the inevitable chaos begins. There’ll be a tonne of work associated with covering the party last night, so I’m at my computer by 7.30AM.

12PM: I get ready for my first show of the season: Bronx & Banco. The young designer, Natalie De’Banco, has become a friend and her clothes make you feel like a star; it’s great to see her killing it commercially. I’m wearing a short gold mini from the brand, with a sweetheart neckline and a puffball skirt. While I love a 1980s-esque prom dress, it is only noon, so I add knee-high black boots, a vintage beaded blazer, and some necklaces to make it feel more daytime. I head to The Bowery Hotel in an Uber, because this is not a subway-appropriate look before lunch.

The influencer-heavy crowd is EXTRA: lots of sequins, feathers, neon, and every trending accessory you’ve seen on your Instagram feed as of late. Yet the show, named One Night in Paris, manages to put the audience to shame with daring cutouts, high-cut leotards, and Kira Kira-worthy dresses and blazers that’ll go down a treat.

There’s a million and one things I love about NYFW, but one is definitely the music. Before every show, I always put on Auto Shazam and at the end of the week I put all my favourites in a Spotify playlist so it will remind me of that season.

I leg it home post-show, deciding to skip the Hervé Leger presentation as there’s too much work to do for the website and social. 

6PM: Racing to finish up work but feel like I’ve still barely made a drop in the ocean – and this is only day one! As I scoff some food and take the dog outside, I jokingly text my boss that in another life, I want to be reincarnated as a Revolve model who just shows up in full hair and makeup. I’m running around with even less than 20 minutes to get ready, have absolutely no idea what I’m wearing, and the owner of the magazine is on speaker phone asking me to do something.

In a daze, I pull an outfit together – a dress from a Peruvian/LA-based brand called Loti, a rhinestone-fringed bag from Kara that I’m obsessed with, and a Western buckle belt. I think I’ve just about got things in order when I go flying down a few steps in the building while running to grab my Uber. I tell myself to calm the eff down, as I text an editor friend who also speaks exclusively in Sex & The City references and he agrees, this is not worth “arriving like fashion roadkill.” 

7.15PM: The Christian Cowan show is on the 102nd floor of One World Trade – making it the highest NYFW show to ever take place. Cowan, a British wunderkid designer who’s had major success and is still only 25-years-old, is known for his tongue-in-cheek clothing and has become a fixture for the downtown party crowd, pop stars, and nightlife performers. This offering is Cowan’s largest collection to date, and it’s inspired by New Yorkers so there’s lots of NYC-centric iconography to be seen. 

The models are having a hard time walking in their plastic shoes and at least two fall. There’s one particular dress I’m in love with; a funnel-neck silver mini rendered in large sequin discs with long sleeves and a flared skirt. The eye-catching sculptural accessories are also really good, and I read in the show notes that it’s a collaboration with Italian jewellery designer anGostura. Want!

8.30PM: Hop on the subway and make my way uptown to Bergdorf Goodman for a dinner the legendary department store is hosting in honour of Peter Do. I hadn’t found time to request access to his show yet (he made his show debut last season and the clothes look phenomenal) so I jumped at the chance to attend this intimate event and learn more. It turns out to be a beautiful, chic gathering—and nothing makes me pinch myself more than having dinner at Bergdorf’s among people I have admired for so many years.

I’m thrilled to be seated with my favourite person to follow on Instagram, José Criales-Unzueta, who shares the most thought-provoking and masterfully written critiques as a side hustle. We’re sitting with Recho Omondi, who hosts the excellent podcast The Cutting Room Floor, YouTuber Luke Meagher, and fashion and culture journalist Eugene Rabkin. The mix leads to some really interesting conversations and hot takes with everyone’s various viewpoints about traditional media and internet commentators.

12PM: I come home to an apartment that looks like it’s been burgled by a racoon, but then remember that it was indeed me that made this mess. Hit the hay, in disbelief that there’s going to be a week of days this full-on to come. 

Saturday, February 12

6.30AM: What is a weekend?! We’re up and at ‘em. I don’t want to go through the week feeling as frazzled as I did yesterday, so after a walk and an XL coffee, I knock out a few hours of work and feel so much more on top of things. 

9.30AM: A French brand reached out on Instagram last week and asked could they do my hair. They’re interested in working with the magazine in some capacity as an events partner, so I jump at the chance seeing as my hair looks the exact same every single day all year-round.

They tell me who they’ve already been with for appointments that morning and the previous day, and I’m internally screaming laughing thinking of these two chic Parisian women going from those swanky penthouses to my clothes cyclone apartment.

11.45AM: I’m calling my Uber to Tribeca because once again, this is not a subway-proof outfit! For the PatBo show, I’m wearing the piece I picked out – a white and black polkadot wrap dress with a high-low hemline and a plunging neckline. I pair it with my favourite H&M $9 sale find boots that I wore to both shows yesterday too, plus a vintage Cavalli chain belt, and a black feather-trimmed clutch bag from The Attico. 

12.15PM: This venue, a historic courthouse downtown, is breathtaking. The place is packed and the front row includes Olivia Palermo, Nicky Hilton, and Candace Bushnell (the original creator of Sex and the City). I take my seat and catch up with the editor beside me as we drink it all in.

It’s designer Patricia Bonaldi’s second-ever runway show in New York and this collection really shows what she’s capable of. She’s already found solid footing with her resortwear and vacation-ready cut-out dresses, but this offering is elevated by glass beads hand-embellished on everything from bralettes and velvet jackets to shimmering sheer gowns. The quality up-close looks so divine.

Like at Bronx, I spy some very retro 1980s-style spandex catsuits. Gulp! I’m also noticing already a leaning towards huge cocoon-like hoods on padded jackets, which was seen at Christian Cowan yesterday too. After the show and saying a quick congrats to all the team, I chug a much-needed iced coffee with our contributing editor Sophie. She kindly drops me home in an Uber so I can spare a few minutes to take the dog out to pee while people pass by wondering what the hell I’m wearing. 

2PM: I switch up the dress with opaque tights and flat chunky boots so I can rush to Moynihan Train Station, where the Victor Glemaud show is taking place. Now this is my kind of front row—every great editor of the last 20 years is there. The collection, themed Black Beauty, sails past elegantly.

What’s really fun is that it’s a Saturday afternoon in the busiest transport hub in the city, and I love seeing all the bewildered commuters stopping to watch. Glemaud’s clothes are blessedly simple but the way he knows how to cut them to flatter is a sight to behold. Someone compared it to early 1990s Donna Karan and it feels like a fitting reference, as the designer introduced an innovative new type of jersey for the first time. The chubby fur coats and sensual knit dresses – some with hoods! It’s a thing! – are my favourites.

3PM: I pick up a salad on my walk home and plot how I’m going to make it to three things in the space of 90 minutes, all happening in different parts of the city. First things first: a comfortable outfit is a must. I change into a folksy-style printed dress by Sea and slip on some flat boots by Ganni while playing deep house music for an energy boost. I try map out the best route strategy to hit all three things, but it starts to get daunting so I just leave and head towards the subway. 

4.30PM: Made it to a cocktail celebration downtown hosted by Mejuri and Jenna Lyons. My God, the Espresso Martinis being handed out are tempting, but I’d be bouncing off the walls with one sip. I know I’m tight for time, so I do the rounds politely and quickly and am delighted to meet the founder of the popular jewellery brand, who’s in town from Toronto. I can hear people saying how bad traffic is, so I’m nervous about making it to the other events. Unfortunately, I realise I’ll have to miss Maisie Wilen’s hologram presentation—she’s been hotly tipped as a one to watch for a while now and is backed by Kanye West. I’ll make it next season, I guess. 

6PM: My Uber drops me off in Midtown where there’s a huge line trying to get into the Empire State Building. It moves fast and those who aren’t trying to crash (oh how I love ballsy New Yorkers) are scurried inside, all the way down to the basement. I’m so excited for Christian Siriano’s show; he’s become one of the biggest names in American fashion. A pint-sized former Project Runway winner, Siriano has been dressing and championing women of all sizes long before it was de rigueur. Also, his show unfailingly has one of the best front rows each season.

This time around, he’s got Susan Sarandon, Drew Barrymore, Alicia Silverstone, MJ Rodriguez, Aquaria, Symone, and Anna Chlumsky, who I recognise as Vada from My Girl but any Netflix binge-watchers will now know as Vivienne from Inventing Anna. 

But stealing the show, sitting front and centre in a PVC jacket is Tika the Iggy…the only dog account on Instagram that matters. The production level of her content, not to mention her outfits, would put most influencers to shame. ‘She’ later DMs me to ask me for the videos I took of her sleeping mid-show. I swear this job gets more strange by the hour…

6.30PM: The show starts with thumping trance music, and Karen Elson and Coco Rocha sashay out in navy latex outfits as everyone screams their names. I’m enthralled by this collection, which serves look after look. The theme is Victorian Matrix and it’s such an unexpected fusion that somehow makes sense via the masterful talent of Siriano. There are so many dresses that make me giddy and I can’t wait to keep an eye out for celebrity placements on the red carpet. 

7.15PM: I smile that Jenna Lyons has followed me and messaged to say, “You’re busy!” after watching my Stories. I’m obsessed with her and have been since I was old enough to know what fashion was. I walk home just as the dog walker has left Gorgeous George back home. He sits on my lap (the dog, not the walker) while I inhale some food I picked up from JuicePress and I post a bunch of stuff on the Daily’s Instagram account from the day. 

9PM: Ooof, I am tired, but it’s time to pour this weary body into the third frock of the day. LoveShackFancy’s founder Rebecca Hessel Cohen is hosting her 40th birthday party at The Plaza Hotel and this is bound to be good. I coax myself into a cream tiered lace dress from the brand, add a vintage red suede and gold belt, and, if I’m honest, pick the highest shoes I own as a way to make sure I don’t stay out later than I should.  

9.30PM: Sophie, our contributing editor, picks me up in an Uber and we agree we will stay for 30 minutes. Well… we were not expecting what awaited us. It turns out that Hessel Cohen had moved into The Plaza for three weeks to plan a party for the ages. Transforming the iconic ballroom into a somehow even more magical setting, the designer put her instantly recognisable pink-hued rococo spin on every surface for what she called a Bal Magnifique. These seven-inch heeled Louboutins platforms be damned, there’s no way on Earth we’re leaving.

Like stepping back into The Gilded Age, everyone is in black tie and pink sparkles, oohing and aahing and dancing to ABBA as an aerial artist performs above. The night unfolds with burlesque performances, fireworks, can-can dancers, acrobats, glitter confetti drops, and more. It’s like being immersed in a campaign shoot for the brand or an opulent film set. I’ve truly never seen anything like it. I even break my no drinking on a school night rule; but at this stage of a crazy day, I think a glass of Champagne is considered more medicinal than anything. 

12.30AM: Uber back home to another racoon mess of cardboard boxes, clothes hangers and garment bags and discarded outfits. Get. me. into. bed. Lights out! Tomorrow, at least, is somewhat calmer in comparison…….