06 Feb New York Fashion Week & Bill Cunningham
It’s the silly season again: NYFW!
When I first moved to New York back in 2015, I completely forgot about New York Fashion Week! I had only been dreaming about photographing it for years before. However, it was a busy time. I was living out of my car for a few days when I first got to New York. I didn’t have an apartment. So, priorities! When I came to my senses, I had to find out where the shows were and what to gear to bring. I lived in Queens and getting over to midtown Manhattan was quite the journey. Getting around NYC is a bit complicated if you don’t know how the archaic system works. Luckily, my roommate had a car and we got there in no time.
September 15, 2015. I couldn’t tell you what show it was, but it must have been a good one as there was some seriously stylish people coming and going! Most of them were probably bloggers or influencers. Most people who attend are retailers. They aren’t there to impress. Professional and appropriate. But not 110%. It’s a trade show after all. It was actually quite fun though I only managed to make it to two shows. Really fun. Lots of great fashion.
Another issue: photographers. I remember going and seeing photographers just come down on anyone that looked remotely interesting. In fact, the more outlandish, the more attention. But I could tell how attendees were getting annoyed by the hordes of photographers who have the social skills of a hungry dog. Unless you give them something, they won’t leave you alone.
Me, I would try to read someone’s body-language before approaching them. If they looked upset or in a hurry, I wouldn’t bother them. Of course, they could have a sour expression by default! But most of the time, I was right. I think that if 80% of photographers behaved like I did, we wouldn’t have gone through the clamp-down like we were gradually seeing.
I went to lots of shows. I mean, some shows just attracted a type of person I loved to photograph: Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Carolina Herrera just to name a few. So in the absolutely freezing 2016 FW show, I went to photograph the attendees of the Ralph Lauren show.
I’m usually quite dressy. Certainly the best of photographers outside. Always. I’m a professional and I want people I’m photographing to see that. I think it allowed me to photograph people who didn’t want to be photographed by others. Or at least, not be annoyed by the respect I paid them…
It was absolutely freezing. While I was cold, my fingers were turning purple. The hot coffee I had would help for a few minutes. I’m surprised I didn’t get frostbite! I could barely operate the controls on my camera! Still, with my loving Canon 50D! I still have it!
I saw this commotion a few yards away from me…. A crowd was surrounding an elderly man wearing a vibrant blue coat. Yes, you know who I’m talking about! Honestly, I didn’t know it was Bill Cunningham. Someone told me “It’s the street fashion photographer for the New York Times”. But I didn’t know Bill Cunningham worked for the New York Times. I just knew his work. I was going to go up and say hello regardless. He looked like a really nice person. But there were just loads of people around him. Of course, there were some models around him who wanted to be photographed by him. I didn’t want to burden him and respected his space. He looked extremely frail. It was just a few months before he were to pass from a heart attack. I just thought “He takes one bump and he’s a goner!”.
When people started exiting the Ralph Lauren show, Bill jumped in there! I was impressed! You remember in Star Wars- The Clone Wars, when Yoda fought Dooku? How he came in with his crutch and then turned into this lightsaber war machine? That’s sort of what happened with Bill Cunningham He was in there with people ¼ his age. Didn’t matter.
I still remember if it were like yesterday…. I actually like to stand away from the crowd of photographers in the hopes the person will see me standing there and I get them all to myself. Which happened here! You couldn’t miss her. She had to be at least 6’4” and wearing Bill’s favorite color: white. She was this statuesque create. Absolutely beautiful.
I was to later find out that Bill and I took a pic of this lady in white. But his pic of her never made it into the Times. Because he didn’t get her face when she was posing for people. But I did! When that happened, it felt a sort of passing of the torch. I mean, I don’t have 100k followers on my street fashion Instagram account…. Only .1% of that number. And that’s fine for now. That stuff is for fun. And I think I photograph REAL style. I’ve seen so many accounts where it’s just either eccentric or as Bill Cunningham would put it: cookie-cutter style.
Do you see the mystery model pictured here? I’m quite certain this is an IMG Models stunt to give the onsite photographers some fun in-between shows. This lady was probably my first introduction to what a high-caliber model could do for you. In the 5-minutes I photographed her, I must have at least, 20 editorial-class images. At least! I’ve seen this stunt a couple of times. How about doing this more often NYFW? It’s not just fun for photographers, but for other on-lookers as well.
2018 and 2019 were kind of tough years for photographing attendees of the shows. I became less and less interested in making the effort to attend. The big shows, like Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta have their locations secret. I haven’t seen a big show since 2017 except for Carolina Herrera’s. It’s been relatively easy to find her shows. Not sure why or how, but it seems people interested in her shows are much better behaved. Busy but not a zoo.
I’m actually hoping to photograph attendees from about 6 shows this season. Mostly the ones right before or after lunch or early evening. I won’t be going to any of the bigger shows I’ve seen mostly because they are later in the evening and I have way too much work to do. I’ll have enough fun with what I have planned. Hopefully meet some interesting and great people. Especially with the Christian Siriano and Alice and Olivia shows. They tend to draw some really fun crowds.
If the organizing folks at NYFW are reading this, I’d recommend two things:
- Send out a PSA to Photographers and Influencers. Respect the space of attendees. If they don’t look to want to be photographed, don’t.
- Openness. I love how it seems to be easier for us serious fashion types to get access to the shows. A bit on the expensive side but I get it.
I know it can be a bit of a zoo…. It’s your show. Give people a shot to behave. To be professional. NYFW can be even better than it ever has been.
See you at the shows!