It was New York Fashion Week, and I was writing an essay for The New Inquiry. I don’t usually sketch street style, but my editor Sarah Nicole thought it would be a good idea to sketch some of the characters outside the shows to complement the piece.
The must-attend, offsite shows have the most hectic street style scenes so I decided to hit up the Proenza Schouler show. It was a hot day. I only had a few outfits, and that morning I went with two plaids of similar scale – a little boy’s button-down shirt, tied at the waist, over a striped American Apparel tank, with a skirt I had made myself. And of course my plain old flat sandals. My only accessory was my purpose-built sketching bag.
When I got to the venue, it was crazy. A busy, narrow midtown street in between a thicket of high-rise buildings. They had blocked off a large section outside the venue – at first it looked like for construction, but then you realized the barriers were just so people would have room to photograph and be photographed safely. All around, security guards and police had to survey the wacky urban scene just to keep people from having accidents as they exited cars, clustered and mobbed about, teetering absurdly in impossible shoes.
I need a place with a good view to sit down to sketch at and the only decent looking thing was the traffic barrier. So I hiked myself up onto it. Cars went by within a foot of the other side. People would lean out of taxis in traffic and ask what the hell was going on. “Fashion” I replied.
This actually happened. There was a nice reflected beam of sunlight that bounced off a building on to me. I set my paper on my lap and picked up my brush. Before any of the other photographers noticed me, I glanced out of the corner of my eye and saw Scott Schuman shooting me. So quick! After that I was photographed by many others.
Once all the invitees had entered the venue, a lovely young photographer – I think her name was Elise? I’ve lost it – came up to me. She explained she was Schuman’s assistant and would I like to be in a documentary? She handed me a waiver – which hopefully I’m not violating now, I didn’t get a copy. She asked if I knew who Steve McCurry was, and I didn’t. Did I know the famous “Afghan girl” image? Of course I did! I had that issue of National Geographic when I was a kid, and looked at it often.
Well of course I said yes! I felt this wonderful uptick of validation… I had very carefully considered my appearance this season so I could “walk among” the fashion crowd and this was the ultimate indication that it had worked! I had seen The Sartorialist outside many shows for several seasons, sometimes while I was sketching, but he had never clocked me before.
After the show Schuman and McCurry came out and we all walked around the block, followed by a documentary crew. McCurry was polite and reserved. Scott has that really confident, assertive New York manner, firm handshake. Schuman introduced himself and I awkwardly mentioned I had met him before but when I had a much more ridiculous haircut (this is true), he said he didn’t recall. (It was at his book launch in Toronto which some remember better than others.)
He asked me what I was up to and I described The New Inquiry piece. “Kind of a refutation of the fashion-is-doomed narrative the elite critics like to go on about.”
“Good, we need more of that!” The Sartorialist replied.
Schuman and McCurry were scouting around for a place to position me, chatting with each other as they do in the mini-documentary for AOL. (You can see me at 4:30.) I was about to get art-directed.
A block away from the scrum outside Proenza, Schuman pointed to a scooter. “Go and sit on that for me, and sketch like you were before.”
I balked. “This is New York and that’s not my scooter – I’ll get beat up!” I protested.
Scott laughed “I’ll take care of it… or if the guy’s bigger than me, he will” – pointing to the tall, handsome documentary filmmaker, who nodded.
I approached the scooter and turned around and said “but it’s so sartorialisty!”
Scott just did a big old shrug, arms wide.
So I shrugged too and perched, ever so lightly, on the edge of the scooter.
Since I couldn’t set my paper on my lap, sketching was a bit difficult, but I managed to produce this sketch of Elise as she hovered around, while Schuman and McCurry shot me.
After a few minutes, it seemed like they were done so I went over and showed them the result:
McCurry praised my speed and spontaneity which was unbelievably gratifying coming from the master of so many iconic moments. Scott said something about how his girlfriend Garance Doré had developed her style to be quick because drawing slowly wasn’t profitable.
We all shook hands, and the whole crew hopped in a car and disappeared, and I was standing alone on the sidewalk with my paintbox in my hands as if nothing had happened.
I wondered if the pictures ever turned out as they didn’t appear right away. I don’t have a lot of photogenic confidence, so I thought maybe I had blinked or was too scruffy to be Sartorialized. Then, yesterday it appeared, and it’s stunning. Schuman has the skills to back up his business. Such a great shot, thank you Scott. I am not at all consciously posing here – the feet, the hands, everything is a natural gesture. You can even see my manicure. I’m delighted he selected the one where I am totally unaware of what is about to happen to me.