The Amateur's Guide to Fashion Week

Look alive people, Fashion Week is here. Models have been watching their figures, Anna Wintour has been practicing her blank stare, and designers have been working their fingers to the bone for this moment — and it's finally arrived. And we've got you covered with our guide to talking about Fashion Week. 

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Look alive people, Fashion Week is here. Models have been watching their figures, Anna Wintour has been practicing her blank stare, and designers have been working their fingers to the bone for this moment — and it's finally arrived.

All that hard work should be appreciated. Whether you're a newbie, or just need to brush up on which esoteric female model to follow on Instagram, we've got you covered with our guide to talking about Fashion Week.

The Designers

Alexander Wang: Wang (this wonderful creature to our right) is famous for making perfect t-shirts. But he's also been criticized for it, too — at first, critics thought his style was too casual and not really high fashion. When he was appointed creator of Balenciaga, some were nervous that he'd run the legendary fashion house into the ground. But that didn't happen. Critics like The New York Times's Cathy Horyn and Hamish Bowles agreed he did good with the heritage line, so now everyone will be watching to see what his upped status does for his own clothes. It's good to be Wang right now — as long as he doesn't mess up. The show is on Saturday.

Oscar de la Renta: De la Renta is the Helen Mirren of designers — he's been doing Fashion Week since before your parents' first date. This year, the legend says he's over "mega shows," so he's only inviting 350 of his closest friends to his presentation. He told Women's Wear Daily, "it’s important for [certain industry professionals] to look at the clothes and see them. They shouldn’t have to go through 30,000 people, and 10,000 who are trying to take pictures of all of those people who are totally unrelated to the clothes." Yeah, you probably didn't get the invite. 

Opening Ceremony: All the cool kids shop here — pretty much every hot designer (Rodarte, Terence Koh) has done a line for the store. The retailer will make its Fashion Week debut this fall, and founders Carol Lim and Humberto Leon are going big. They've rented out Pier 57 on the West Side for an entire week, which they will fill with clothes, drinks and food vendors. (There will be cronuts, but will anyone in this skinny crowd eat the calorific treats?) The actual runway show is on Sunday.

Rosie Assoulin: Assoulin is the new girl in town, and critics are expecting big things of her. Eric Wilson at The New York Times labeled her as one to watch, and she's already got stamps of approval from Glamour, WWD, Lucky, and The Man Repeller. And she's young, cute, and handpaints her designs in Brooklyn. The show is on Monday.

The Models

If Fashion Week is like the Super Bowl of high-end clothes, these strange, good-looking, almost-children (this is the first Fashion Week where models are supposed to be over the age of 18) would be your stars. And those stars are more than just a pretty face. Below, the most compelling storylines about Fashion Week's models.

Models live by contracts: The modeling world has its own seedy underbelly, much like the oft-exploitative world of sports: models are often young and plucked from tiny towns in the middle of America and are in need of modeling agencies to represent them. Those agencies in turn take huge cuts of the models' gross income. Here's what those cuts look like in contract form:

Agencies are also paid by models for things like comp cards (a model's version of business cards), transportation, messenger services, room and board, and photographs. All this adds up. To make matters worse, most models are afraid to speak up about financial exploitation, because there is always "someone even younger and thinner waiting to take your place." Consider, also, that your average model makes only $42,000 a year. Obviously, Gisele makes infinitely more than that. But as most basketball players aren't LeBron, most models aren't Gisele.

Extreme youth sells: "Most working models start their careers at age 16," ABC News reports. Think of them as you might of budding soccer stars in Europe, who often begin training at high-intensity academies before they even turn ten.

Immigration is kind to models: Models are part of the H-1B class and usually are granted temporary work visas, Bloomberg reported. This makes other people, like programmers, furious even though models "will get fewer than 1 percent of the non-immigration H-1Bs." They even had an immigration reform friend in then-Congressman Anthony Weiner.

"Opening a show" and "Closing a show": Models make a name for themselves when they're either the first or last ones to walk out during a fashion show. Top models Jourdan Dunn and Cara Delevingne (right) have done this a lot. 

American models are back: Modeling is prone to fads. There were the doll-faces, then the Brazilians, then the Eastern Europeans. (Unfortunately, these fads have never been kind to non-white models.) American female models, at the beginning of the millennium, seemed to lose traction. But that's recently changed thanks to the likes of Joan Smalls, Arizona Muse, and Karlie Kloss. 

Models have cool names: Fei Fei Sun. Sigrid Agren. Chanel Iman. Cara Delevingne. Yes, you're probably right, at least one of models started out as a girl named Pam. 

America's top model is actually a guy named Sean: Forget Tyra's show. Forget all of it. The hardest-working and most successful model America has to offer is a guy named Sean O'Pry.  O'Pry has been killing it since he was first spotted on MySpace (remember that?) in 2006; he is reportedly worth around $6.5 million (huge for a male model) and has walked and modeled for the biggest designers in the world, including Armani, YSL, and Versace.

The Faces in the Crowd

With the proliferation of social media and "street style" photographers, Fashion Week has become as much about being seen as it is about seeing. The front row at each show will be littered with celebrities (or at least, like, Sophia Bush and Nicky Hilton). The real stars, however, are the editors, bloggers, and high-end buyers. Who to look for:

Anna Wintour: Vogue editor/God. It's her first fashion week since being named Creative Director of Conde Nast, a position the company created for her so that she may wield even more influence over the fashion industry. See her everywhere (but probably not Fashion Week's first plus-size show).

The Man Repeller: Leandra Medine, otherwise known as the Man Repeller, is the Jennifer Lawrence of fashion bloggers (i.e., everyone wants to be her best friend). She's a front row fixture and a proponent of dressing for yourself, not guys — although she "controversially" got married last year. You can probably catch her at Isabel Marant, Rebecca Minkoff, and Alexander Wang.

Nicole Richie: Richie, daughter of Lionel and ex-BFF of Paris Hilton, is suddenly a fashion person. She was a judge on the reality competition Fashion Star (which was kind of a joke and got canceled) and just came out with her own fashion line, House of Harlow 1960. Designers seem to love her, and she's really got that "expensive bohemian" look on lock. Catch her at Zac Posen or Charlotte Ronson. Probably not Rachel Zoe — the two are allegedly fighting over who called whom too skinny.

Joe Zee: Zee is Elle's creative director and used to a character on Whitney Port's Hills spinoff, The City. He wrote in August that "my most monumental coming-of-age moment was when I got my first front-row seat at a fashion show." Don't expect him to give up the good seats — catch him at Dianne von Furstenberg and Rachel Zoe (they are friends).

Linda Fargo: Fargo is a VP at Bergdorf Goodman, the department store every designer hopes to make it into one day. She's tough and incredibly stylish (she once absolutely bodied Whitney Port on The City after Port showed her a "cheap" collection). In all likelihood, see her at Jill Stuart and Donna Karan New York.

Eva Chen: Chen is on her way up in the fashion scene — Wintour recently named her editor-in-chief of the struggling Lucky. She's the first big fashion editor-in-chief of the millenial generation (she's in her early 30s) and a social media star. See her at Isabel Marant and Marc Jacobs.

The Parties 

Let us tell you a secret: People who are already invited and going to these parties are not reading this section. Unfortunately, for the hoi polloi who want to go, as The New York Times points out, many of these parties are either secret or invite-only, meaning you have to befriend someone to get in. But the question remains: do you really want to hang out with a bunch of people who, in the past, suffered from kale-induced diarrhea?

We'll leave you to ponder that question.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.