While I was waiting outside of the Andy Hilfiger show, I met an aspiring model named Zulu. He was full of gumption and had big plans to sweet talk his way backstage wherever he could. He was young. I think I remember him saying he was 18. We always see the world through a different lens at that age. We’re full of passion without reason. Full of big dreams without roadmaps.
We only spoke for about 10 minutes on and off while we waited for the doors to open. But his big-eyed awe of everything that was Fashion Week left a mark on me.
I walked into New York Fashion Week: Men’s with a skeptical mindset.
Just days before these shows took place, both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile had died at the hands of police. The racial tension across America was hitting a fever pitch. Yet here I was dedicating the next four days of my life to fashion.
Was I choosing to keep myself in the dark? Blind to more important topics that were affecting people all over the country that looked like me? Was I making a wrong choice by attending? Would my presence be better served at a protest or a candlelight vigil?
"Were all the black models on the platform thinking the same thing? Conflicted over whether to show up for work and get captured in timeless Instagram moments."
Were all the black models on the platform thinking the same thing? Conflicted over whether to show up for work and get captured in timeless Instagram moments. Or sit this one out to show respect for those black men who were flooding our timelines for all the wrong reasons.
I was conflicted over whether or not to enjoy a week that I always looked forward to. But I stayed.
I tried my best to find the joy that I remembered from Fashion Weeks past. To ditch that chip on my shoulder. But it was easier said than done. I was viewing things through a different lens now.
Was I being ungrateful? I was a self-proclaimed fashion blogger who’d gained access to 23 shows when most people couldn’t get into any. A young black man who’d woken up one day and decided to metaphorically hack the fashion industry. I’ve paved a path that allowed me to ogle at great collections in the flesh instead of flipping through magazines.
This isn’t exactly the stuff of existential crisis. My internal conflict could probably be filed under #FirstWorldProblems before it’d ever find a home under a philosophical subcategory. But it mattered to me.
"This isn’t exactly the stuff of existential crisis. My internal conflict could probably be filed under #FirstWorldProblems before it’d ever find a home under a philosophical subcategory."
When I think of all the money I’ve spent on photoshoots and clothing…all the energy I’ve invested in crafting editorial stories…the time I’ve spent liaising with PR professionals from all over New York City. I did that all because I felt I had a right to be here. I loved fashion so much more than all these other people who were just on site to see and be seen. This mattered to me. At least at one point it did.
I packed in 23 shows and presentations over the course of 4 days. When it was all over, I was exhausted, and I wasn’t sure why. Why I’d just exerted all this energy fawning over Fashion Week when there was so much happening everywhere else. There was a time when the end of Fashion Week equaled euphoria; endless hours of pouring through photos and video to relive the top moments. But this season, I was just happy for it to be over-a feeling that had much bigger implications for me.
As I was heading home from a long day of fashion shows, I saw Zulu standing just inside the back entrance of one of the shows. Engaged in conversation with one of the PR reps. It seemed his plan was working. That he’d just talk his way into one of the city’s most exclusive events instead of feverishly hunting for an invitation. I admired his commitment and his passion to Fashion Week. He really cared about this and was willing to do whatever it took to get in.
But not me. I once felt that way about Fashion Week. Like a clueless outsider that’d climbed enough rungs on the social ladder to get a peek inside this exclusive club. But after being inside for a little while, I missed the outskirts. I felt the same passion that Zulu felt for the fashion industry, but I felt it for something else.
On my way home, I knew that I needed to leave this part of my journey behind. It was time for me to use my voice for something more important.