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Photos and text by Lais Lacher.

Going to fashion week had been a dream of mine since I was 12 years old, but I never thought that I would get to go. This February, I not only got the opportunity to attend, but I also got to photograph over 30 different shows! I went as a photographer and fashion correspondent for Fashiontographer, a fashion magazine based in Washington, DC.

I arrived in New York City the day before fashion week started and stayed with my lovely friends Gerardo and Erika and their cute dog Mowgli in Harlem. I really should have gone to sleep earlier that night because I had no idea that it would be one of the most fun, crazy, and exhausting experiences I have ever had.

When I arrived at Lincoln Center the first day, it was a lot different than I expected. For some reason I thought that fashion week would take place under actual tents over grass. But I was completely off. The tents were huge and had a place for people to edit their photos, places to lounge, a hair salon, and a restaurant. Sometimes Lincoln Center felt like a big fancy party with free champagne and passed hors d’oeuvres. When we got tired of Lincoln Center we would just head over across the street to the more relaxed Empire Hotel, which always had freebies such as cocktails, jewelry, and beauty products.

The agenda each day was pretty similar. The first shows start early at 9am and the last show ends at 9pm. You have to decide which shows you want to see that day because it is impossible to see all of them. Then you get in line at least 30 minutes prior to ensure that you will get in. Waiting wasn’t so bad because I had my friends Walter and Anastasia to chat with. When they let the photographers enter the room there is a big rush to get the prime center positions located on the media riser. Then you are crammed in with as many photographers that will fit into the pit. The shows usually last around 20 minutes and then you rush off to the next show. Then you repeat this four or five times a day for seven days.

I had never photographed a fashion show so it was a challenge at first. Taking pictures in low light with models walking briskly down the runway is a lot more difficult than I had expected and the photos from my first show were very blurry and dark. The models came out within seconds of each other so I didn’t have much time to figure it out. I tried every combination of exposure, aperture, shutter speed and ISO until I found the right balance between them all. The other photographers were surprisingly very accommodating and helpful. In fact being in the pit was one of the most entertaining parts of fashion week. There is a crazy but lovable pit director who yells at everyone telling them where they can or cannot sit. While we were waiting for the show to begin, the other photographers in the pit were always cracking jokes to pass time.

In addition to the shows, I also did a few interviews. The first interview I had was with Monika Chiang and I was super nervous, but she ended up being very sweet and patient which made me less edgy for my following interviews. Her collection of rock and roll and equestrian inspired clothes was also a great way to start fashion week. After my interview with Monika, I had interviews with Misha Nonoo, Joy Cioci, and Son Jung Wan. I also took advantage of my backstage access to interview Lynn Desnoyers and other makeup artists. I also spotted fashion icon Shail Upadhya and asked if I could do an interview with him as well.

Shail wasn’t the only fashion icon I spotted. I got the chance to watch Bill Cunningham photographing the Michael Kors show. I was able to snap a few pictures of him, but when I tried to chat with him after the show he pretended he couldn’t hear me and rushed off to his next show. #Interview Fail. Seeing Anna Wintour for the first time was also a thrill. Up close you can really see how much attention goes into her hair, makeup, accessories, and her overall look. She was definitely the best dressed at whatever show she attended. She generally kept to herself at the shows entering and leaving through the back door and was occupied by her Blackberry until the show started. There were two bodyguards that blocked people from taking photos of her, but I still managed to get a few. I also got photos of Iris Apfel, Patrick Mcdonald, Grace Coddington, Andre Leon Talley, Nina Garcia, Rachel Zoe, and Terry Richardson.

One of the crazier experiences I had was during the Joanna Mastroianni show where fashion icon Zelda Kaplan collapsed and later passed away. The show started and everything was normal. Then I started to see people throwing water. At first I thought there was a catfight on the catwalk. But Kaplan passed out and they were trying to revive her with the water. Then a security guard came in and carried her out. The show continued to go on as if nothing had happened. Later in that day I was shocked to read that she had passed away.

There were also tons of famous people at the shows. Barbara Walters, Oscar de La Renta, Kristin Chenoweth, Russell Simmons, Anderson Cooper, Viola Davis, and many, many more. However, the clothes were the real stars of the show. Some of my favorite collections were Monique Lhuillier, Misha Nonoo, Candela, Anna Sui, Bagdley Mischka, J. Mendel, and Rochambeau.

I also did some fun things post fashion shows. My friends and I were invited to Carlos Miele’s after party, but because none of us could correctly read the email on the invitation and therefore didn’t RSVP, we were denied entrance. But that wasn’t a problem, a few meters away was an awesome rooftop party thrown by Twelve Magazine and Red PR. There we bumped into Nicky Hilton, again, and lots of fabulous fashion people. My friend Walter also invited me to private tour of the American Ballet Theatre. We even got to see some of the dancers rehearsing! We also did some fun dinners with the whole gang including Lisa Klein and Jennifer Harlow.

When the week was over I was sad that it had ended, but I was exhausted and am not sure if I could have done one more day. I learned so much during this experience and for my future trips to fashion week, I hope to take better photos and have more interviews set up. I can’t wait for Spring 2013 Fashion Week! Huge thanks to Walter Grio for giving me this amazing opportunity!

Shows I went to in order:

Monika Chiang
Richard Chai
Tadashi Shoji
Chadwick Bell
Misha Nonoo
Rebecca Minkoff
Nicole Miller
Charlotte Ronson
Son Jung Wan
Hervé Leger
Vantan Tokyo
Monique Lhuillier
Joy Cioci
Diane Von Furstenberg
Carolina Herrera
Carlos Miele
Emilio Cavallini
Reem Acra
Betsey Johnson
Badgley Mischka
Vera Wang
Naeem Khan
Dennis Basso
Pamela Roland
Michael Kors
Joanna Mastroianni
J. Mendel
Anna Sui

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