And then there was fashion. After a great night out with some of the nicestandfunniest people, it was onto the businessof the trip.
First thing Sunday morning I was due at the Starrett-Lehigh Building. Home of Martha Stewart. (And so many others, including Ports 1961.) Occupying an entire city block, this commercial-industrial wonderland was completed in 1931. Back in the day the ground floor accommodated freight trains which could pull right into the building, but nowadays you'll more likely find industrial designers and fashionistas roaming its halls.
For someone innately enamoured with NYC, the thrills are often small and frequent. From wandering down Perry Street, to peeping a C-list actor on a restaurant patio, it doesn't take much to rouse me. There's nothing like the delight of getting your NYC-bearings, nothing like hailing a cab and stating, confidently, "601 West 26th Street! No, no, take West!"
I tried to keep a lid on it, but sometimes my voice would expose my school-girl excitement, shattering my cool exterior.
Upon arriving at the building that first day, I felt like Audrey Hepburn outside Tiffany - the gentle curves of the building, the quiet only a Sunday morning can provide. I'd see in days following that the building gets real busy, but today it was mostly-dark and only a little bit creepy, in the best way.
With views of the Hudson to the east and downtown Manhattan to the west, Ports' offices and showroom sprawl across a gigantic suite on the 8th floor. The terrace is huge, and the sights even bigger.
Their offices aren't unlike the fashion houses you've seen on TV. Lots of desks, lots of hustle, and a seemingly-endless parade of beautiful girls in well-cut clothing. While most were dressed for round-the-clock-cocktails, in this context it didn't seem unreasonable. Sky-high heels and billowing silk. Bright colours and bold patterns, all before ten in the morning. Truth be told, I felt like a fashion vagabond in my summer shorts and sneakers. It also happened to be 42°C, so my hair fell flat with omnipresent moisture in the air. Fashion chaos!
Our beautiful Russian model, Yulia, arrived early, a vision in big sunglasses and easy-glamour. Her type became quickly recognizable while wandering the streets of NY; top-knotted and rakish, models roam this city in droves, thousands-strong.
On this particular day we would shoot 75 looks from Ports' Pre-Spring 2012 collection, a series of sophisticated and moneyed pieces, often worth more than my entire wardrobe combined. Lightning-fast quick-changes, tits to the wind, one knit dress over Yulia's head while she stepped into a pair of pants or slipped from a heel to a flat. It was rapid-fire, factory photography and it was fantastic. I loved every second of it. Chin up, chin down, loosen your hands, drop your right knee. Great! Next! Chin up, chin down, turn the purse, relax your shoulders, pop a hip. Terrific! Next!
If you're wondering, the answer is yes. Yes, every once in a while I'd have to slip away and stare at the ceiling for a minute, forcing tears back up into my sinuses. How did this all happen? How'd I end up in New York City shooting pictures? These moments were happening all the time. Walking up Hudson Street: tears. Ordering a gin on the rocks, alone at a bar: tears. In a cab, crossing the Williamsburg Bridge for the first time ever. Tears. Not to paint a melancholy picture here, but the whole thing was, at times, a whole lot to take.
This Sunday was easy and fun, with only Tu, the model, hair and makeup. A gentle primer to this world. We'd blast through a couple dozen looks, break for lunch, then back to it. I had a little studio set up in an empty room, my stuff stashed there like I owned the place. Hours would pass, suddenly dusk over the Hudson River, with barely the blink of an eye.
But I'd soon see, as one working day turned into five, what realfashionchaos was about.