Straight up now, here is Paula Abdul at the Ralph Rucci S/S 2013 show!
Most people know Whitney Port from the MTV shows The Hills and The City. She is also a really talented fashion designer who has been showing at New York Fashion Week for many seasons now. Here I am speaking with Whitney and ELLE Magazine’s Joe Zee.
It was so much fun getting to speak with Toni Braxton at the SheKNows/Autism Speaks benefit. Toni does great work for Autism Speaks. And btw, she is beyond gorgeous in person!
Here I am interviewing the fabulous Martha Stewart at the Ralph Rucci S/S 2013 show.
Want to know what happens behind-the-scenes at New York Fashion Week runway shows? Just look online. But you want to know what went on behind the camera during the Bryant Park years (1994-2010)? There’s only one place to get it: Eila Mell’s book New York Fashion Week: The Designers, the Models, the Fashions of the Bryant Park Era. From fun facts to fashion rundowns to photos worth more than a thousand words, this book gives us all an inside look into a world of style that became a legacy. We sat down with the author to get her perspective on this year’s shows and all the industry itself.
What are you doing now for NYFW?
This week is an especially crazy week. I’m covering all the shows for FashionWatch.com, and in the meantime I’m working on a new book which will be out in September that is also related to the fashion industry.
Why did you become a fashion journalist? What was your path to getting where you are now?
I’ve had a really crazy career, I started out as an actor and I was unhappy doing that. I decided that I had a passion for writing but wasn’t exactly sure of what my focus was. My first book Casting Might Have Beens was about the film industry. After eight years of research and persistence it was finally published. It’s a real lesson about working hard and it paying off. I’ve always loved fashion and was able to merge my two interests in 2010 when I began working on my third book, New York Fashion Week.
As a fashion journalist, how did you see your role change in covering the shows?
I think that it has evolved. First it was just writing about the shows themselves, and I was writing [New York Fashion Week] at the same time, so I was more of a historian. Now I’m covering the shows with a focus on the current fashions, and what’s going on this season. It’s about the designers, and not so much the history.
What is your favorite part of NYFW?
I love seeing the shows, but I think even a little, tiny bit more than that is seeing people you don’t get to see the rest of the year.
Do you have a favorite designer that you like to see at the shows?
My favorite is Narciso Rodriguez, and Michael Kors, of course.
How do you feel about the newer lines that make it onto the runways?
I love discovering a new designer. I just saw an amazing show by a new designer named Misha Nonoo and she’s incredible. She had a beautiful collection, what I really loved and respected was that her price point was affordable. And there’s no sacrifice of quality. I also think Theodora & Callum is fantastic.
You seem to be very interested in anecdotes, where did you learn about the fashion trivia sprinkled throughout your book?
I interviewed a lot of people in the industry, and that was definitely the main source of information. To round that out, I also combed the archives of Women’s Wear Daily.
These photos are awesome, where did you get them?
My photos were actually going to be [a huge expense]. Then I was interviewing Kelly Cutrone, and she asked who was doing my photos. [When I explained what I was doing], she said, “No you can’t do that.” She called up Roxanne Lowit and Randy Brooke, and told them about the project and asked them if they wanted to work on it. It was such an honor to work with two top photographers.
Bryant Park was always synonymous with NYFW, and it gave a certain air to the shows. To me, Lincoln Center exudes a different vibe as a location, do you agree, and what do you think this means for NYFW?
I think of Bryant Park as one thing. It was in the heart of the fashion industry, right in the center of the city, and it brought in the crowds and a lot of excitement. Once it moved to Lincoln Center, it had a different air. It’s more about the arts. It’s not [necessarily] better, it’s just different.
Besides the obvious creative differences, what do you see has been the biggest (or most shocking) change to NYFW since the beginning?
Absolutely the biggest change has been social media. It’s changed how the industry works, [now] everything is immediate. Before we had to wait for photos, now as soon as the [show happens we get to see it]. Designers have to keep up with it; some of them are even putting [runway] looks immediately into production.
What do you think about live-streaming the shows, is it making them less exclusive?
I think that it’s making fashion more accessible, which is ultimately a good thing. I mean who do you want to reach? The customer. If I’m in Chicago, I can go [online and see the show]. I think it’s fantastic, why not?!
What do you think about Project Runway’s presence in the shows?
I think it’s really had a huge impact on the industry as well as across the country. The show has opened up a dialogue, making people aware of fashion, who probably didn’t know much about the industry before. Christian Siriano has totally broken out, and people don’t even associate him with Project Runway anymore. Daniel Vosovic has broken out as well, the show has given him a great opportunity, and he’s taken seriously by the industry. Emilio Sosa, he’s fantastic, [he debuted] his collection for ESosa [last Friday]. And he just did the costumes for Porgy and Bess on Broadway.
Where do you see fashion week going in the future, whether it’s the look of the clothes, the feel of the show, the way it’s reported (more commercialized, more editorial, etc)?
I think that eventually it might all be through social media. I don’t know, if in 10 years we’re going to have to go to the shows.
Your book includes a lot of discussion on supermodels. We don’t seem to see the same supermodel mentality that we once did in the ‘90s, is that just because we are glorifying the past?
I don’t think so. I think each era has its own personality. There are top models working now, but they are not household names [like in the ‘90s]. The supermodels of the 90s were reflections of their time, which was a time of excess. I am a huge fan of fashion magazines, and I used to always love to see which model got the cover. Now they all use celebrities [to sell magazines].
What do you think of the celebrity culture at the shows? You can almost judge a show before it even starts based on its audience.
That’s right! It’s true, you have to be careful as a designer which celebs you put in your front row. [Celebrity relations have] existed for a long time, it’s not going away. It’s a way for a designer to get his or her name out there, so I understand it.
Last time Eila Mell and I spoke was back in February, in the thick of New York Fashion Week. We were discussing her previous book – New York Fashion Week – and she alluded to a new project in the works focused on Project Runway. Well now it’s six months later, and Eila’s book – Project Runway: The Show That Changed Fashion – has hit shelves to the glee of both critics and Project Runway fans. Eila spoke with us about what it took to put this book together, and the style she encountered along the way.
STA: I’m so glad I’m getting to talk to you again, I’m so excited about your book!
Eila Mell: Thank you! It was so much fun doing it, but, you know, it’s nice when it’s done.
STA: What made you gravitate towards making PR the focus of your book?
EM: In my last book, I touched on PR. For a show that not a lot of people had faith in at the very beginning to be approaching it’s 10th anniversary is an incredible milestone. I felt that now was a perfect time to celebrate the show in a book.
STA: Who was your favorite contestant that you interviewed?
EM: I feel a little uncomfortable using the word favorite just because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I have to say I have a very soft spot for a few of them. But my absolute best would have to be Emilio Sosa – he’s fantastic, so talented.
STA: Love him! He just debuted his own line at NYFW in February.
EM: It was a beautiful show, my favorite that I went to, and I can’t wait to see what he does in September. He was also nominated for a Tony Award designing the costumes for Porgy and Bess, so he’s had an amazing year. What people might not know is that he’s really funny, he has the best personality. I don’t know how much people got to see that on the show because in the show he was focused on the work.
STA: This year is Project Runway’s 10th season, what do you think has made this show sustainable for so long?
EM: Absolutely because of the show’s integrity. It’s not manipulated, and what you’re seeing is creative people do what they do best. The cast is the best in the business, and that’s why people respect the show so much. You don’t just have whoever as judges, they have Michael Kors, they have Nina, it’s just an amazing show. There is no other place that showcases designers and gives them a voice other than PR.
STA: Any favorite Season 10 designers?
EM: I am loving Ven Budhu – his [candy design] was amazing (shown at right), you couldn’t even tell it was candy! Right now I’m rooting for him, he’s super talented.
STA: Any fun tidbits from working on the book?
EM: Here’s a funny thing, when I met Heidi for the first time, I actually ended up insulting her without meaning to. I was talking to her and said, “How does it feel to have the contestants think of you as the mean judge?” And she said, “I’m the mean judge?!” She didn’t know! She was very good-natured about it, and not insulted, but I was sitting there thinking, “Oh my gosh, what did I say?!” Because people talk about it on the show! She was laughing and didn’t care. But then I was so relieved, because this woman who worked with her Googled it and said, “No no Heidi, they do, they refer to you as ‘Klum of Doom’!”
STA: Well she’s got that tough German accent and she tells it like it is!
EM: I think that’s what makes her so good, and I hope that people give her the credit she deserves. In comparison to some of the other hosts on reality TV, you can really see what a great job she is doing.
STA: And that seems to be one of the reasons the show does so well.
EM: You have Heidi coming at it as a model, she’s worn the clothes and knows designers. Then you have Michael Kors who is a designer, and he understands the creative process. And then Nina comes at it from an editorial point of view. That blend is really what makes the dynamic work because you’re getting three very valid points of view. Other shows just don’t have that.
STA: Do you have a favorite interviewee?
EM: Getting to interview Michael Kors was a career high for me. I was floating for days after. He’s someone who I think is so talented and brilliant business-wise. I love that he started from a modest background and built an empire. I think that’s fascinating.
STA: And Nina Garcia seems like an enigma to me, I wouldn’t know what to expect if I met her.
EM: She’s very cool and very together, just like she is on the show. She’s so chic, oh my gosh…her closet is the one I would want.
STA: Since NYFW is almost upon us, what are you looking forward to?
EM: Absolutely looking forward to what the PR designers are doing! Emilio [Sosa] is showing, Victor [Luna, from Season 9] is showing – I have a soft spot for those two, my buddies. And then Michael Kors always, he’s incredible. It’s fun to see what Marc Jacobs does, and [I love] Alexander Wang and Altuzarra. I cover the shows for FashionWatch.com, and I have a ball doing that.
We’ll definitely have to keep on the lookout for your coverage while reading your new book!