Fantasy captured at Fashion Week

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MORGAN HARDING/ THE HIGHLANDER

A pink party dress from the Milly NY Fall 2012 collection steals the show on the main stage of Lincoln Center.

Morgan Harding, Web Master

Receiving an invitation to the Milly runway show during New York Fashion Week, held every February, is a rare treat that leads to an experience filled with the notions of art, celebrity, theatre and even liberty and equality.

In the courtyard of Lincoln Center, fashion and street style photographers snapped pictures as aggressive as paparazzi, making the well-dressed show-goers celebrities for a moment. Some rushed by in an effort not to miss the show, while others donned their wildest wares in hopes of being spotted and landing in an online street style gallery or the glossy pages of Elle or Vogue.

Melissa Sgroi, chair of the communications department, attended the show and enjoyed the street style aspect of the experience.

“You had people who, I didn’t know who they were, if they were just hangers-on or there for publicity, who were dressed in these outrageous outfits, akin to Halloween, and it was great fun to watch them. It was a celebratory atmosphere and that to me was one of the most fun things about it. You really want to see the creative outfits that people have on. I wish there were more of them at our particular show,” said Sgroi.

Like the Big Apple itself, fashion week moved faster than a New York minute. Few things compare to the hustle of running past three large security guards who serve as the barrier between fashion’s elite and the average girl-on-the-streets. Once inside the doors of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week “tents,” a sense of elitism and pride strikes the invitee. All around the spacious rectangular room are vendors, exhibits of unfinished gems, trade publications and sponsors of the weeklong event that celebrates clothing and the hope of the upcoming season.

In the center of the lobby sits an island of check-in desks, lined with iMacs and PR reps dressed from head-to-toe in their employers’ designs, ready to decide if you are on the list of invitees. After the flash of an invitation, a few swift

keystrokes and the click of a mouse a receipt is printed with a personal QR code, granting access to the venue. “You couldn’t just get in. Security was incredibly tight. I think our tickets were checked three times,” Sgroi said.

Rush becames sudden stillness, a shock to the event-goer, as the big city bustle stops and attendees enter a space almost frozen and unaffected by the outside world. It is breathtaking, like entering another world where everyone is chic and nobody cares what you look like. It’s a world where everyone is prepared to celebrate fashion, decadence and being a modern woman. A celebration is exactly what Sgroi feels New York Fashion Week is.

“One really neat thing about it to me was that this was the only situation I have ever been in my entire media career that was such a celebration of women and what it means to be female, how there is no shame in really enjoying fashion and dressing ourselves, and the possibilities of what we can look like. There is no shame in that. There is nothing that we have to hide in that. It was that rare place where it is just a celebration of women and clothes and the way people look and the artistry of it all. And you didn’t have to apologize for it,” said Sgroi.

She likens the event to a movie premiere. “First of all, it is a big deal about making your entrance and it is in a way, but when you walk in everyone was looking at who’s in the front row.  I was trying to look across from where we were to see who the special celebrities are, or the special personalities, just like you would at a movie premiere. It was dark and quiet and every single person was whispering about what they were about to see. There was really this anticipation of a show, just like a movie. There was no red carpet, but it operated the same way,” said Sgroi.

Still and video cameras appeared to be stacked on each other creating a wall, with videographers and photographers alike ready to capture the magic of the runway show, the birth of new fashion. As attendees took their places surrounded by fashion journalists, celebrities and buyers, whispers began to flow throughout the venue and the anticipation collection increased.

“Because of the anticipation, there is so much more to that, to the fashion. It’s the front row, the personalities there. We saw Kristen Chenowith and were thinking that it was someone else, and I’m looking around and it was so much longer than just the 10 minute show because you are looking at the journalists, the people outside, the levels of security, and of course the people inside and trying to see who you can recognize, and then their clothes. So the fashion show really starts the minute you walk in,” Sgroi said.

Michelle Smith’s Milly NY Fall 2012 show actually began 15 minutes late, allowing for the anticipation to build even more, so when the lights went dim, the crowd went silent. Then the music began. The show that Smith titled “Future Perfect” has been hailed by fashion journalists as a mix of “American Girl in Paris” and “The Jetsons,” which makes perfect sense given her past in the French fashion industry.

“My Fall 2012 collection is bold and modern: innovative technical fabrics merge with traditional couture techniques, and vibrant pops of color excite a base palette of black and white,” said Smith in a pre-show interview with Mary Hall, The Recessionista.

The colors were one of the many things Sgroi loved about the experience. Design trends have included happy colors in recent years, and Smith used bold cobalt, chartreuse, teal and hot pink.

“What was neat was that they were happy colors and yet they had a real elegance to them. They were almost dusty primary colors. I can’t even explain it. There was one burgundy that leaned toward pink a little, but it was very dusty, very greyed down and a little bit more elegant, so a person like me is watching them and thinking, well gee, I could wear that because even though the cut is a bit younger, the color is more sophisticated than the tropical brights we’ve been seeing,” said Sgroi.

The designer applied these colors to dresses that, while classically Milly, were bolder and edgier than her designs of past seasons. The audience made audible gasps as a bright white swing coat seemed to float down the glowing runway, and people seemed to lust after the bright pink party dress with its sharp black overlay that looked as though it was cut by a laser. It was this strong contrast, with a base of black in each outfit—in homage to the classic NYC staple—that made the Milly NY Fall 2012 collection such a success.

With a parade of hand-beading, scalloped hemlines and structured bodices, the show came to a quick close and Smith and her daughter Sophia came out to bid the attendees adieu (in the collection’s apparel, of course).

Sgroi thought it was beautiful. “The quality and craftsmanship of the clothes was worth seeing. There was one jacket that I knew seemed to be the favorite of everyone who was there. In fact, I looked on fashion blogs and everyone has the photo of the model in this one jacket. It looked like it was all hand beaded and it was just beautiful. It was beaded into this pattern and just the quality of it is so much fun to see,” Sgroi said.

The show was much more than fantastic clothing, new trends and the fashion elite. Sgroi saw it as the next level of women’s work. In the past, women were associated with caretaking careers, but Sgroi points out that this was entirely different.

“It was women’s work, and it was flashy and stylish and it involved a lot of money. It was important and very liberating. It was women celebrating clothes that cost a lot of money, and it was decadent, and no one had to apologize for that. The designer was female. Most of the journalists were female. It was a neat, neat thing to see that women’s work has become so elegant, glamorous and nothing is dictated. It’s all women’s work from the start to the very end: the publication of it,” said Sgroi.

Sgroi wishes that everyone could have the opportunity to attend a show at Lincoln Center, but acknowledges that it wouldn’t be as special if it were a mainstream event.

“I really wish more young women could see it for the simple reason that it is pure fantasy. Even the models don’t look like models. Nothing is as you would believe it is, and whatever you thought it was, it wasn’t. It was better. A lot of it involved work, and that I love,” said Sgroi.