That one time I ran into Anna Wintour at FNO in New York
“Anna Wintour!!! At Theory!! #FNO” read one of the many tweets.
Telling a “cultured” person about one’s distaste for high fashion in metropolitan cities like New York is usually met with one of two attitudes: acceptance (rarely) or wariness (usually.) The special minority that agrees with you will do so without hesitation, but the large rest won’t forgive your vocal desecration of such a wildly popular and “cool” art form so easily.
Here, spewing cultural heresy only serves to hold your city-bestowed sophistication at ransom until you produce a convincing explanation. Would those same urbanites place your chic points on a burning cross if you dissed an equally-valid vagary like, say, beekeeping? Probably not.
While that same first minority sees nothing but haughty pretension and shallowness in high fashion, the rest see luxury and glamour. Those in the second category also see idols in the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour, the latter being someone I had the displeasure of sharing a roof with last Thursday at Theory. If you’re a fashionista, then you’re probably assuming my encounter with Anna had something to do with last week’s Fashion’s Night Out and, yes, it did.
I had never participated in anything FNO-related before, but I happened to be working around the corner from Theory that night and was told by my rommate that “some really cool bands” were playing at their soiree, so I went. Then Anna showed up.
Oddly, being in the same room with such a glamorous person was anti-climatic — not because Wintour wasn’t well-dressed or gracious, but because those who gravitated around her, wannabes of the distinguished dame herself, were behaving like obnoxious children. Anna didn’t know, from what I could tell, that she’d been dragged inside a guestlist-less event for ordinary (!) fashion enthusiasts, and that quickly turned her smile upside down. With good reason, too: being rushed by hoards of drunk fans (most Fashion’s Night Out events serve free alcohol) with digital cameras on-hand can’t possibly be any fun. I almost felt bad for her but, instead, I shoved my way out while chuckling at Wintour’s humiliating circumstance: being forced to mingle with plebeians!
Here’s the core of my beef with the high fashion industry: it’s a business that carelessly makes its money off the insecurities of its clients. The point of their marketing, whether you realize it or not, is to make people feel terrible for not being able to afford exorbitantly expensive garments — but also for not being skinny, tall, graced with perfect skin, looks, etc. — and, sadly, they’re really good at it. Fashion industry masterminds know that having an impossibly beautiful woman like Charlize Theron model their latest getup will infatuate other women. They know that paying Cristiano Ronaldo to cavort around in their fancy underwear will project the sex appeal many men covet.
But this rant isn’t so much about the mechanics of the fashion industry as it is about its famous ringleaders — though they’re the ones indirectly responsible for all that bothers me about the industry. I can’t make sense as to why people seem to admire the cold, bitchy indifference of the Lagerfelds, Wintours, and Gallianos of the fashion world. If a politician acted half as petulant as Meryl Streep does in The Devil Wears Prada, which is supposedly based on Wintour, his or her political career would be but a flash in the pan. With the exception of Galliano — and only because his belligerent idiocy was hard to ignore — fashion dictators are hardly ever chastised for their callous attitudes. In fact, as evidenced by the absurd idolatry I saw during FNO, they’re turned into nothing short of cultural demigods.
You know what? I take my words back; it’s not so much that I “can’t make sense” as to why so many people idolize snarky privileged dispositions. I can actually summarize the reason in one word: insecurities. Is there something to do? Well, Octavio Paz had great advice on bunk idolatry: “The empire of the ‘chingones’ [big wigs] will end when the ‘agachados’ [drudges] stop admiring them.”