Glitz, Glamour and Grind at Fashion Week

New York Fashion Week concluded its eight-day run on February 14. Based on coverage from the community and ethnic media, Fashion Week brandished a double-edged sword. On the one side, Desi Talk celebrates the work of South Asian designers hitting the runway, while El Diario-La Prensa looks at Uptown Fashion Week in Washington Heights. Behind the scenes however, a sobering reality of struggling models and sweatshop protests come to light through Feet in 2 Worlds and a video by Elena Popina.

Desi Talk profiles some of the big-name South Asian designers at Fashion Week: Naeem Khan, Prabal Gurung, Bibhu Mohapatra, Rachel Roy, Sachin and Babi Ahluwalia and Falguni and Shane Peacock. Parul Aneja, based out of Indianapolis, also made her mark, debuting at the Emerge! Fashion Runway Show on February 12, whose work blends Indian and Western styles.

Presenting a line of luxurious ready-to-wear evening and cocktail dresses, Aneja’s website shows creations that integrate rich Indian colors with embroidery and silk, blending Indian and Western dress designs that are both short and flowing, but universally elegant.

Naeem Khan at New York Fashion Week in 2010. (Photo by Sarah Mulligan via Flickr, Creative Commons License)

Naeem Khan, who was born in India and is based in New York, has his share of famous clientele, including Michelle Obama and Beyonce, but another milestone in his career looms on the horizon.

After making his mark in the West, Khan will now reportedly make his India debut with Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) to be held in Mumbai from March 22.

“I am incredibly excited to showcase my collection in India for the first time, especially in my hometown of Mumbai. It is truly an honor to be part of Lakme FashionWeek, India’s answer to the international runway, and I am thrilled to announce our partnership,” Khan said in a statement.

At the same time, as fashion and luxury mingled inside, protesters rallied outside against Adidas, who is unveiling a high-end clothing line. United Students Against Sweatshops joined garment workers from Latin America and Indonesia – locations that produce apparel for Adidas – in launching off a nationwide “Badidas” campaign. It kicked off outside Adidas’ fashion show, as captured in the video below by Elena Popina.

Among those in the fashion show itself, compensation for models does not always reflect the world of glamour and extravagance in which they work. A Feet in 2 Worlds article by Julia Hettich uncovers the reality of models like Berlin-native Theresa Kosminski, who often work for free. For Kosminski, and other model hopefuls, the gleam of the fashion industry is restricted to the catwalk. Hettich juxtaposes the lives of models like Kosminski and the relatively “better off” circumstances of the drivers who transport the models to shows.

A glance behind the scenes at Fashion Week (Photo by Julia Hettich/Feet in 2 Worlds)

Today Theresa has four castings to go to before she is booked for the Tadashi Shoji show at Lincoln Center at 2 p. m. and the David Hart show at the New Museum at 3. In order to be able to make it on time, Theresa’s agency provides her with a driver.

The driver’s name is Jose. He is a Mexican immigrant and one of the many unrecognized faces behind the glamorous façade of fashion week. “I usually work as a waiter. One day I overheard two drivers waiting for their clients outside the restaurant,” Jose remembers. “Driving around models from one venue to another sounded like such an easy job, so I applied.”

This is Jose’s third fashion week and the job didn’t turn out quite as fun as it seemed. “I drive by day and still work in the restaurant by night. I usually start around 7 a.m. and get home around 3 a.m. It’s a long day, but I’m better off than most of the models,” Jose says. While his salary as a driver is $19 per hour, girls like Theresa often have to work for free. “The big designers usually don’t pay, because they don’t have to. It’s considered an honor to walk for them,” she explains.

Meanwhile, El Diario-La Prensa reported that Fashion Week is not just limited to Midtown Manhattan. Uptown Fashion Week, an effort to promote local talent in its second year, took place on February 14 at the Triangle Building on 166th Street in Washington Heights.

Founder Albania Rosario says that the biggest challenge was convincing people and the media to head up to Upper Manhattan. But if they did, the night extended beyond just fashion design.

“For many, it’s still inconceivable to link fashion with Upper Manhattan, but this is a community full of life and creativity, and the designers display this with their fantastic work,” she says of the celebration.

But it is not all fashion and style. Rosario explains that the event also serves to call community attention to one of the social problems that most affects Washington Heights and Inwood.

“We also want to take this opportunity to make young people aware of domestic violence and the seriousness of the issue in our community,” she adds.

As a tribute to victims of domestic violence, the fashion show in Upper Manhattan has decided to change the color of the traditionally red carpet.

“We will have a purple carpet, not red, to support the battle against this problem,” says Rosario.

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  1. Pingback: Badidas Movement at the NYFW

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