FIRST DAYS

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Written by Alexandra Pullen
September 5th, 2013
First Day of Company Class, First Day of New York Fashion Week Spring 2014


It was my first day of company class at American Ballet Theatre — and so the ordeal of “what to wear” had commenced. As an apprentice, I’m at the bottom of the food chain. A member of the company — yet still proving myself every day.

I opened my ballet apparel drawer to find a plethora of options, yet nothing to wear. Sigh. My options included picks such as the JKO uniform (not a chance), slimming black tights (too risky), or pink tights (glaringly student-esque, but a safe choice). Overestimating my walk to ABT from my apartment by 30 minutes, I arrived with plenty of time to pace in front of the building, with butterflies preventing me from entering. Once I finally mustered up the courage to enter the building, I instinctively opted to change in the the JKO dressing room. I changed ensembles approximately four times just to be sure, and then I still regretted my decision. Now just to find a space at the barre… Fast forward 90 minutes, and my first company class was complete. Intimidating, but I made it out alive!

Now it was time for my second round of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York! I freshened up from class and once again found myself struggling to find an outfit that would make me blur into the scenery. Fashion week in and of itself is a demonstration of NYC’s most eclectic and trendy fashionistas. The person I went with was literally wearing a table centerpiece on her head, and received countless compliments. Wear a wild outfit to fashion week, and you’re an instant fashionista. Take that same outfit out of context, and you’re just plain crazy. An outfit doesn’t merely clothe you, it expresses your personality and demonstrates how you want others to perceive you.

Upon entering the tent at MBFW, you are instantly a part of the fashion world. Simply by attending, it’s making a statement that you are important (no matter how false that may be) because you received an invitation to be there. When I entered the tent, the familiar rush of exhilaration hit me. It truly never gets old. I didn’t have much time to admire the scenery before I scurried off to my first all-access backstage experience for the 3 PM Desigual runway show with Lais.

We arrived quite early, so the models were just relaxing and eating (yes, food). The closer the time gets to the start of the show, the more madness ensues. I talked to different makeup artists and they made it clear how each component of the models’ look is meticulously calculated. Every decision is made with the designers’ vision in mind.

Lais and I entered through the stage door to the theatre right before the show started, where complimentary scarves were waiting for us. Just as the show began, Lais and I snuck down to the empty seats in the second row to get a better view and score more scarves. Christmas presents, anyone? I tried imitating the effortless way the male model next to me tied his scarf to no avail. Guess I was just missing the perfect bone structure and height. The collection was summery, bright, and colorful. The lighting was harsh and bright, the music was energetic, and the makeup was colorful. Like a ballet, these three elements play a vital role in conveying the mood of a show. The models all looked effervescent and radiant, and their personalities really shined through. But wait, aren’t models supposed to look staunch, moody, and robotic? Stereotypically, yes. However, designers can use any advertising platform they desire. Frankly, I’d be more inclined to buy something from a show where the models looked like they were enjoying the clothes they were wearing. A show designed to make buyers see the models and think, “She looks happy and carefree, I want to be like her!” is actually quite a strategic marketing ploy. It also makes for an energizing and uplifting performance for mere spectators like myself. This was a byproduct of the designer’s main note to the models backstage: “Look Happy!”

Backstage coverage for the Marissa Webb show at 5 PM was our next task. My job was to be the photographer. I got some interesting snaps of the models in their outfits just as they were getting ready to go on stage. Unfortunately, at 5’2″, my height doesn’t make for the best angle for photographing 6 foot supermodels — in stilettos. On the plus side, I got some great pictures of their shoes. Lais and I walked through the stage door to the Studio. I was taking photos during the whole show and only after that experience can I fully appreciate how hard it is to get a good shot of a moving model!

After the show, Lais and I went to the Empire Hotel for the GBK Productions Fashion Group International – NYFW Opening Party, with featured guest fashion icon Patricia Fields. We got loads of goodies like makeup samples, erasable pens, probiotic kefir, and hummus (which I got chided for taking too much of). Best of all, we got to meet the genius behind all of the outfits in “Sex and the City.” Everyone was trying to get her attention, so we used my youth as our “in!” She said that I was “adorable,” we got a picture, and then ravenous photographers pushed me out of the way mid-sentence.

Welcome to the wonderful world of fashion.
 


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Alexandra Pullen was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and was raised in Chicago, Illinois, where she began her initial ballet training at a local community center. Pullen studied at Dance Center Evanston, Evanston School of Ballet, and Chicago Ballet Arts, and also at the Ruth Page School of Dance, where she joined their company, the Civic Ballet of Chicago. She trained on scholarship at the Joffrey Academy of Ballet in Chicago under Anna Reznik and Alexei Kremnev. She toured with the Joffrey Trainees to perform as Clara in The Nutcracker Suite. She studied on scholarship at summer programs of the San Francisco Ballet School, School of American Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. In 2012, Pullen competed in the Youth America Grand Prix Chicago Semi-Finals and received a gold medal in the classical category and a silver medal in the contemporary category. She was a Finalist in New York City. In September 2012, Pullen was awarded the Shoot for Change Scholarship to attend the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at ABT, and joined ABT Studio Company two weeks later.

Pullen joined ABT as an apprentice in 2013.

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