We had just hit the fashion lottery. Seriously. At 10am on September 2nd, eager fans of Riccardo Tisci's goth-chic aesthetic were able to sign up online, on a first-come-first-serve basis, for tickets to his September 11th runway show. 100 tickets were reserved for residents who lived near the venue, and 280 set aside for NYC fashion students and faculty. That morning, people sat at their computers, refreshing the page every second. Five days later, there was a ticket to one of the hottest shows in town in my inbox, and I hadn't even remembered to sign up.
On the morning of September 11th, I lay in bed at home in Brooklyn listening as the firemen stationed across the street prepared a commemorative 9/11 memorial. The neighborhood gathered as someone played "America the Beautiful" on the bagpipes. When Tisci planned the show to mark the opening of the Givenchy retail store on Madison Avenue, he didn't expect the CFDA to assign him, a foreigner, this sensitive day of mourning. Seeing no other way around it, he ultimately ran with it. The show's theme was family and love, and the venue would be strategically located at the Hudson River Park's Pier 26 with an unobstructed view of the World Trade Center as its backdrop.
As my friend's plus one, I was one of the few people invited to be a part of this family, and experience the so-called love Tisci had been going on and on about in Instagram posts leading up to the show. This was a ticket to the restricted world of high fashion, and I'd be attending alongside some of the industry's leading professionals, models, and celebrities.
I showed up at 4pm that day to pick up my ticket and wait in line. There was, surprisingly, very little peacocking. Only a few winners showed up in sky-high platforms and over-the-top facial jewelry, though one guy had affixed fake crystals to his face, mimicking Tisci's mask-like couture looks. Everyone else came dressed to depress (as the saying goes) in all-black outfits that made them look more "fashion" than any Givenchy Rottweiler T-shirt could.
The invites resembled the invites the A-list guests received, the letters GIVENCHY printed in black instead of gold. Each envelope came with a beautiful watercolor-themed poster emblazoned with what appeared to be Givenchy muse Mariacarla Boscono's face in gold. The best part? Each winners' name was beautifully hand-written on their poster in airy cursive.
After receiving our invites, we were directed by security guards —who resembled models themselves — to a separate entrance. We were handed cold Smartwaters as we waited along the pier, the breeze coming in a bit cool off the water. Standing in line, I could tell how much an invite meant to a lot of the people there. It meant a lot to me, too. Ticket winners spoke with excitement about the secret they were about to be let in on, taking selfies with their invitations and Snapchats of the line that extended down the pier.
The venue was impressive. Slabs of rusted, recycled metal stood for walls, and wooden crates served as seats for the A-list guests. As the ticket winners walked in, we were siphoned off to the side — separated from the wooden crates by a single woven rope. Ticsi employed the help of famed performance artist and friend, Marina Abramović, to create the venue's intense mood. Atop tall metal pillars, performance artists outfitted in black and white moved in slow motion as they stood beneath running water, embracing one another and clutching tightly to trees. A monk also stood atop a pillar, ceaselessly chanting for nearly 45 minutes.
As industry guests started pouring in, I ticked off the boldface names. There were Cathy Horyn and Suzy Menkes, two of the fashion world's most revered journalists, standing side by side. There was Amanda Seyfried in a metallic fishtail skirt. There was Ciara in all black, Nicki Minaj in leopard print, and LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault sitting next to Julia Roberts. Oh, and Vogue's Hamish Bowles in an orange floral suit anxiously looking for his assigned seat. While we stood there for nearly an hour awaiting the show's start, perhaps the most fascinating thing was how invisible we were. Excited calls out to editors, buyers, athletes, and celebrities went unnoticed. We were kind of just there.
Kanye and a very pregnant Kim emerged in a flurry of camera flashes, and after a few calculated poses, hurriedly made their way down the runway to their seats, signaling the show's imminent start. The sun had set, the chanting had stopped, and the World Trade Center shined in the distance.
As cheesy as it may sound, none of the celebrity stuff seemed to matter as soon as the first model made her way down the runway. We were captivated immediately, setting aside our phones to take it all in. The collection, although safe, was beautiful, and as the last look made the rounds, excited whispers and audible gasps spread through our section.
And just like that, it was over. Some people attempted to leave before the music stopped. I did not. I waited until Tisci came running out, arms waving graciously at the applause. I thanked Melanie for the fourth time that night as we're ushered off to our separate exit. This wasn't my first fashion show, and it won't be my last. But I'll hold on to the invite, and the poster. If only to remind myself of how lucky I am.