News & Runway

Backstage Diaries: New York Fashion Week with Wilhelmina’s Damien Neva


THURSDAY, SEPT. 5 — Fashion Week, for anyone not exclusively spectating from the sidelines of social media, is significantly longer than the succession of seven days suggested by its common name. For those on the inside, preparations for the runway jamboree invariably eat into fashion’s late summer holiday, otherwise known as the month of August. I am not immune to this creep and was busy producing the 7 Girls, 7 Boys, 7 Day — Wilhelmina Spring 2014 video series. I started the program last season and renewed it this season following its positive reception.

On Wednesday, I got my toes wet at the Michael Bastian show at The Pierre, which featured a quartet of Wilhelmina’s boys including Reid Prebenda, Dennis Klaffert, Hampus Lück and Clarke. The luxury hotel on 61st Street provided an illustrious backdrop (right) for the American menswear designer’s sporty collection with a French accent.

Fast forward several hours into Thursday morning and I was outside Lincoln Center, it was 9 a.m.

The square was mostly empty, save for the opportunistic street photographers and try-hard personal style bloggers on the prowl for the first bit of genuine content before the week turns to damp squib.


I made my way around to the Stage entrance for the Richard Chai show. Manon Leloup (above, left) and Sung Hee Kim (above, right) were cast for the show. I spoke to Richard who described the collection as being all about “soft geometry.” Styling by Tom Van Dorpe saw to it that the collection achieved all the angles Richard had calculated. I really enjoy this show and it is where I like to begin my Fashion Week.

Manon LeLoup for Richard Chai

Manon LeLoup for Richard Chai

After the show, I ran into Eli Hall (below), ever studious, who was the first model to make the 1200 call-time for Desigual. For his efforts, he treated himself to a frozen yogurt pop, one of the new, sponsored food-like products on offer backstage at Lincoln Center.


One product to have reared its ugly head for a successive season at Lincoln Center is the electronic cigarette. Two stooges with cigarette-girl trays took up what little space was available in hair and makeup at Richard Chai hawking their wares. The same thing happened last season and I brought to the attention of The Model Alliance and CFDA. Following this latest incident, the former promised to keep an eye out this weekend*. I am not going enter a debate about the sliding scale of unhealth of methods of nicotine delivery, but rather will say that if it looks like a cigarette, then it ought not be pushed on young models. Get that trash out of Fashion Week.

I concluded my day at the Lexus Design Disrupted performance featuring Coco Rocha. The 15-minute program incorporated choreographed dancing, 3D holography and wardrobing from the archives of Giles Deacon. You might be familiar with holography from its use for reanimating the late rapper Tupac. Thankfully, this technology is no longer strictly the domain of dead hip hoppers and may well be the visual future of fashion. I met up a few hours before the curtain raising at SIR Studio 37 with Coco and her husband James, who had only a dozen hours earlier returned from a holiday in the Greek islands. Needless to say, Coco showed little evidence of her travels and was poised for a demanding performance. All those years of Irish dancing continue to pay.

The enthralling spectacle of the performance cannot be overstated. That I actually used color (instead of my preferred high-contrast black & white) for the b-roll I used in my edit of my interview with Coco speaks volumes about the richness of the experience.

Fashion Week might have only just begun, but I reckon it could be a vintage season.

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Update: This article has been amended to reflect that the fact that the Model Alliance did not, as was previously stated, promise to address the matter in an upcoming model talk. You can read the original exchange here