DEEP IN THE SHALLOWS

One of the paradoxes about fashion is that it is essentially a deeply inward way of looking out to the world. It’s an old theme, dressing ourselves to hide ourselves, and using masks to reveal the truth.

Observing the crowds at Fashion Week, one can’t help but feel this effect is rather amplified. There isn’t a lot of introspection happening, amongst this group of gorgeous, svelte, preening self congratulators, unless it’s into the mirror.

But it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

The first show I was able to make it to today is Riddle Me This. An appropriate title, as by some mystery of the universe I am seated in the front row right next to an important New Zealand celebrity, well known for his fashion statements. His horror at having me next to him is almost palpable. Clearly I am not a fitting person whom next to be photographed, should anyone want to, or to converse with.

“How are you finding the shows?” I ask. He pauses.

“Oh you know,” he says, nonplussed at my lack of observable cachet, before adding, “I loved Zambesi.”

I think it’s probably very important to love Zambesi at Fashion Week, or at least to say so in socially dilapidating company. It proves at least that you were invited to the show. I am about to compliment him on this achievement, but he scuttles for the door like a seasoned professional, beating the Plebeian crush by a mile, while I am still gathering up my umbrella.

In the interval I’m lucky enough to chat to a broadcast television stylist.

“It’s my dream job,” she enthuses as she watches the people on the floor below. “Except that shopping six hours a day is so tiring.”

“Life is hell in the trenches,” I say.

“Oh look,” she points vaguely, “there are my colleagues,” and vanishes.

Next up is Trelise Cooper, who delivers like the New Zealand fashion heavyweight she is. Trelise really gets fashion I think, as her enormous production unfolds. Her design team must have a fearsomely prodigious creative output, as her show is really three in one, accompanied by a wall of helium balloons, LED light gift bags and a display of hair styling that would leave most ordinary people reeling in incomprehension.

I admire her ambition, her scale and her imagination, but not the length of her show, which at forty minutes – something like half the length of a film – causes my mouth to dry up. Her finale, I’m told, is remarkable, but regrettably I have already slunk away to find libation.

Last up is Kagi, in an ironic David Attenborough parody with theatre and dancers and just enough stripping to please an audience certainly keen for some titillation. The hair flicking from the women as the semi naked male dancers move down the catwalk almost causes a welcome breeze.

Standing around afterwards, I am an eavesdropper to the paradox of masks at work.

“They just don’t get me,” one fashion design student is telling another. “All the third years want to set their shows to Lana del Ray.”

“Oh my God,” says her effeminate friend, in the most intelligent statement to fall from his mouth in five minutes. I suspect he may be in third year himself, given the look on his face.

“You should have heard the models,” sulks a dresser. “I said, DARLING I HAVE TO FIT YOU IN TWELVE OUTFITS.” Murmuring unsympathetic sympathy ensues.

Another couple are gleefully maligning a social climber who has gained weight. “She’s gotten fat!” they exclaim. Of course what they really mean is she’s finally approaching their own weights, and this pleases them greatly.

We’re all drowning in the the shallows, and loving it.

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