Can High Fashion Save The Kimono?

Have you ever wished you could be in two places at once? Imagine the time we would save! Being an identical twin is at least pretty close. In high school, when I was cramming for an exam during a free period, I sent my twin sister, Liz, to meet with my academic counselor and plan my classes for the next semester. She breezed right through my choices for precalculus, string orchestra, and English—and despite the fact that our counselor knew us for years, he was clueless. (Kathryn and Lizzie Fortunato told me a similar story about how Kathryn would attend Lizzie’s Biology 101 classes in college so Lizzie could make jewelry in their dorm room.)

Friends often ask if we’ve traded places on our boyfriends, and duh! But it only works in the early stages of a relationship; after you spend a lot of time with any twin, romantically or not, he or she no longer looks even remotely similar to their sibling. My colleagues agree on that; the ones who’ve had the great pleasure of seeing my face every single day (and for several years!) don’t understand why people get so confused.

Despite what Liz and I perceive to be great differences in our appearance—we part our hair on opposite sides, and while Liz’s hair is mid-length and highlighted, mine is undyed and long—it’s still happening. In fact, ever since she moved to New York two years ago, Liz has been frequently stopped on the street by PR friends and designers who think she’s me. It’s usually in our neighborhood, Nolita, or nearby in Soho. (There have probably been many instances where Liz doesn’t see or hear them, and they wonder why I’m snubbing them. I promise, I’m not!) To most people, we’re as identical as twins can be. So when the Vogue Runway team started planning our New York Fashion Week coverage in August, I had a light bulb moment: Would anyone even notice if I sent Liz in my place?

I blurted out the idea in our meeting, and immediately thought it was a mistake—but my editor’s and colleagues’ reactions suggested otherwise. It wasn’t really about freeing up an hour on my jam-packed schedule; we really just wanted to know what Liz would make of the strange, exciting, sometimes head-spinning experience of attending a fashion show. And if she could pull it off, of course. She loves fashion, but is a complete outsider when it comes to the shows; first of all, she’s a nurse, so she’s never attended one and is oblivious to the minutiae of it all: the high-stress crowds, the check-in process, the overzealous security, the street style peacocking, the backstage crush, to say nothing of the exhilarating, transportive feeling of seeing a truly great show. And Liz wouldn’t just be a guest of a guest, or stuck in the back in a standing spot; by using my name, she was going undercover as a real fashion reporter.

I sent her to one of the buzziest shows of the week, Area—yes, she got a good one!—and met her directly afterwards to get an immediate, detailed account of her experience. In short, she was euphoric. I was worried she’d have the opposite reaction—that it was awkward, stressful, cramped, loud. Instead, she told me, “I can’t believe you get to do this every day!” Her genuine thrill was an unsubtle reminder that Fashion Week really should be fun. (New motto: #LiveEveryDayLikeLizAtFashionWeek?) She also got a sense of just how much work goes into Fashion Week (i.e. month), whether you’re covering the collections or designing them. “I get why you wouldn’t want to go to a show to see jeans and T-shirts,” she says. “You get yourself there, you sit for a while, and you’ve been running around all day in the rain. . . . You want to see something really interesting and exciting.”

Below is Liz’s full account of the night. Now I just need to find a way to trade places with her . . . but somehow I don’t think this fashion editor could pass in the neonatal ICU at NYU Langone Hospital.

“Can I first talk about how cool this venue was? If you’re a kid in New York, apparently your school comes with rooftop views and fashion shows. Area was at the New Design High School on the Lower East Side, and it seemed like such an unexpected choice for a fashion show. Everyone in the ‘outside world’ thinks fashion is so fancy, and maybe a little stuffy, but this was really casual. And nostalgic, too—we were sitting in kids’ school chairs! Although I did have PTSD from slamming my finger in one of those seats as a kid—it still bothers me.”

Backstage at Area Spring 2019.

Backstage at Area Spring 2019.

Photographed by Corey Tenold

“Going back to the check-in process, though . . . Luckily I met a few Vogue girls outside the school first, so we went in together. Steff, who bought her own VIP guest (her dad, Walt!) pointed out the PR guys and girls in head-to-toe black with iPads and headsets. Intimidating. I got a little nervous—what if I said my own name by mistake? As if I don’t already answer to ‘Emily’ or use her Madewell discount card on a regular basis. . . . But I did feel really awkward because ‘my name’ wasn’t on the iPad’s RSVP list. [Editor’s note: I did RSVP! Sorry Liz, it happens though.] The girls were like, ‘Are you a guest?’ And I said something along the lines of, ‘No, I’m with them. . . . I’m supposed to be here!’ Of course, I really wasn’t. Anyways, Steff told them I was part of the Vogue crew and it was no big deal.

“The show was on the roof, which wasn’t covered, and it was sort of raining. Everyone seemed really frustrated with the weather after being out in the elements all day. There were umbrellas everywhere, just in case it started to pour, but it was more of a drizzle. I’m sure my hair was frizzing, but the vibe was that no one even has time for that kind of vanity during fashion week. After we sat down, I looked around and did not expect to see all of these kids in giant crystal hoops, crazy platforms, neon bucket hats, and head-to-toe rainbow lamé. . . . Then when the show started, it all made sense, because they were definitely wearing Area. Also, right before it started, the PRs asked me and my fellow ‘colleagues’ to move from the second row up to the front—I couldn't believe it. I had officially pulled this off.

“The show itself felt so young and fun. It was as if Ariel from The Little Mermaid was trying out her new legs on the streets of New York—the bright colors, the sparkle, the fringe netting, and the shimmery pastel makeup! I loved it all. And the shoes! They were incredible, but why were they all a full size too big for the models? I was seriously concerned they were going to trip because the shoes just didn’t fit. Everyone said this is often the case in runway shows, but I don’t get it.

“The feeling I got was that this was ‘real fashion’—it was an art form. Plus the music, the energy, and the set . . . It’s so different from seeing it online or just on Instagram. They had these huge lit-up clouds suspended over the runway, so I tried to get some photos and videos, but it was really hard with all of the lights. How do photographers get these shots? It’s so insanely bright!

“Afterwards, I really couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to feel. Was it ‘good’? I didn’t have the right context, and should’ve researched the designers to learn their story. I knew I enjoyed it, but would the other Vogue editors think it was as fun and amazing as I did? How do you cultivate an eye for this sort of thing, and compare a collection to the other ones you’ve seen? I’m starting to understand just how much thought goes into this, and how you do need years of experience to really hone your opinion. . . . I’m a nurse, so I’m used to things being good or bad, right or wrong. The gray area is more foreign to me. Everyone did seem to love it though—I really enjoyed talking to the other editors afterwards. They weren’t just like, ‘I love the shoes!’ It was more about the full experience and the vibe.

“That said, I couldn’t believe how quickly it was all over. By 9:30 p.m., I was already telling Emily the details over dinner.”

Area Spring 2019

Area Spring 2019

Photo: Courtesy of Area

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