The very first time I attended a fashion show I was only 16 years old. Before that, I didn’t know what a fashion show looked like, how it worked, what the dress code was for all the attendees or how the experience would feel when watching the creative designs appear on the runway.
It was the end of August 2004 and I was in Madrid, Spain taking a 3-week summer course in fashion at a small fashion school called Vélez-Per. I remember being in the middle of my Fashion Sketching course and our teacher Manuel, a 50 year-old man with a huge passion for Asian culture and music from the 80’s, started reminiscing about his days as a student and the fashion industry back in the day.
Mercedes-Benz Madrid Fashion Week was about to start and Manuel revealed how the fashion industry had changed in terms of getting invited to shows. During his time as a student, fashion students used to get leftover tickets at the front door of the location where fashion week took place. Manuel expressed that, “Fashion industry is already so over-saturated that, sometimes, not even people working in fashion could get invited to fashion shows. There is no chance to have tickets left anymore!”
Later that day I arrived home with a bittersweet feeling. After Manuel revealed the harsh reality of getting into fashion shows, I wasn’t sure if there was any opportunity for “new” people to make it in the fashion industry. That thought was quickly replaced with my dedication to start fighting for my passion. With fashion week around the corner, I set my first goal: find a way to attend a fashion show.
While enjoying a dinner with my family, I told them that I was going to attend a fashion show the next day. My mom seemed pretty excited and right away asked if I got invited. I started to laugh and said, “I didn’t! I’ll figure it out tomorrow”, which is exactly what I did. I woke up the next morning, put a light turquoise dress on and took the subway to get to IFEMA (the name of the place where all the fashion shows and fairs take place in Madrid). Once I got there it took me about twenty minutes to find the front door. Finally I decided to follow a group of fashionable people who guided me to the main entrance. After some hesitation, I finally got the nerve to approach a few people and kindly asked them if I could have their extra ticket (just as my teacher Manuel used to do when he was a student). No one had any so I started to think of a back-up plan.
As I said, there were a lot of fashionable attendees around the main entrance but then I started to wonder where the access door for all the celebrities and models might be. I went on a mission to find the VIP entrance and suddenly, as I was about to give up, voilà! A red carpet right around the ‘garage’ door was surrounded by tons of photographers and reporters. Finally I had made it! But now I had to figure out a way to actually walk through the door. I was wandering around when I spotted a chauffer who was leaning on a limo smoking a cigarette. I desperately asked him, ‘Do you have any suggestions on how I can walk through that door?’ He smiled at me and responded, ‘Just act confident and pretend you’ve been working here forever’. As much as his answer sounded ridiculous to me, I had nothing to lose. So, I asked him for the newspaper he was reading to make me look more “professional” and then I got my attitude game on. I approached the red carpet with all the photographers and reporters while constantly thinking to myself, ‘act confident.’ My heart was racing so fast when suddenly a girl touched my shoulder and asked if I was interviewing any designer or model. This was my ticket in. I obviously responded with “Yes!”. I couldn’t believe I finally made it backstage and was surrounded by all the models, celebrities, designers, makeup artists and everyone else involved with the shows.
I excitedly called my mom and told her that I made it. I was in the middle of the VIP lounge and about to grab a seat for the first fashion show. My mom responded, ‘Good for you honey! Have fun and enjoy the shows because this might be a once in a lifetime experience!’ but I told her “I will but I have a feeling that this is going to be just my FIRST fashion week!’ And so it was.