Absolutely Kavita in New York
Sunday, February 14 This is going to be a breeze. For the first time, New York is at the start of the international catwalk season. This is not going to be one of those usual hard-core, 10-shows-a-day monster routines that is par for the course in Europe. Most American designers seem to be completely disinterested in anything that happens outside Manhattan ('Hong Kong?' asked one bewildered fashion PR when I rang to chase a missing show invitation. 'Is that that new place in China or Japan, or wherever?'), so I resolve to go to only a handful of shows and not get sucked into the usual fashion neurosis.
6 pm: Cynthia Rowley is showing in a big hall at Grand Central Station. One of the main entrances has been shut and commuters are cursing at having to use another entrance. By 5.30 pm, at least 100 people are waiting outside, blocking the pavement. The temperature has plunged to freezing point. We are finally let in and I am told to get a seat assignment from a desk in the corner. At fashion shows in Europe, your seat is noted on your invitation. Here, once you receive an invitation, you need to call a special RSVP number, your name is put on a long list at the door, and they give you a seat number when you arrive. It is a ridiculously long-winded process but I remind myself that, apart from being neurotic, New York fashion people are inveterate control freaks.
The woman takes my name and asks me if I called to RSVP. 'Er, no, I've literally just flown in,' I say. 'Sorry,' she says, 'standing only. You should have called.' As I had an extra ticket, I had taken a non-fashion friend who was now bemoaning my plebeian status. 'I thought this was all glamorous,' she said. 'I thought they whisked you to your seat, gave you a drink. Isn't there any food?' We find a place to stand and watch the fuss on the other side of the catwalk over actress Natasha Richardson, seated in front row in a beautiful pale blue silk pantsuit. She looks great - shame about the career. Comedienne Tracey Ullmann appears seconds before the show starts, and some poor woman is booted out of her seat.
The show begins, but my non-fashion friend is perplexed, uttering things like 'Ugh, who would wear that?' and 'That model is pretty ugly' and 'Gosh, you can see her boobs'. Some people just don't get it, do they? Monday, February 15 1 pm: I am running down Broadway looking for a stationery shop. I am about to interview handbag designer Amy Chan, and, professional and experienced journalist that I am, left home without a notebook or pen. I am 20 minutes late and can't find a store that sells notepads, although there are cyber cafes at every corner. I stumble into Chan's soon-to-be-opened store at 1.30 pm, and we go round the corner to a grungily hip place called Cafe Gitane, where we share a beetroot salad and talk fashion. She is enormously likeable and insists I come back tonight for the party to celebrate the opening of her store.
Home to write. I fall asleep.
At 6 pm, I get up and head to Bryant Park, where many of the shows are being held, for the BCBG event. There are little gift boxes of Bumble & Bumble haircare products on each chair: the box on the chair next to me has been swiped, and the person who sits there tries to steal one from another chair before having her knuckles rapped by an usher. She takes one anyway. The show is great: gorgeous, user-friendly clothes that people can afford.
Next up Marc Jacobs, one of the hottest tickets on the New York circuit, especially since his success with the Louis Vuitton brand. I have a standing ticket, for which several people have told me I should be grateful. At 9 pm, we standing-ticket holders are still waiting outside while people are being seated. I am muttering something about how I could be at home watching Ally McBeal, when I spot Yves Carcelle, president of both Vuitton and Marc Jacobs, and his wife Rebecca, who take me in with them and instruct a PR to find me a seat. The show begins 40 minutes late, I am seated next to the music system, which is blasting my right eardrum. The collection is typically Marc Jacobs: felt sailor pants worn with cashmere sweaters and high-waisted girlie dresses that are meant to look pure and Zen. Everyone is gushing afterwards, but I don't get it.
I'm debating whether to return to SoHo for Amy Chan's party: there will be champagne, air-kissing, networking and I'm sure it will all be very jolly. Or I could opt for flannel pyjamas, peppermint tea and Jay Leno. No contest. I head home.
Tuesday, February 16 10 am: I am interviewing Max Azria, the BCBG designer. He's the ultimate non-fashion fashion designer: grey-haired, kind face, gold wedding band. Nice and normal. I opt to spend the day at home writing and making RSVP calls.
In the evening, I'm supposed to go to some fashion party, but a shoe designer friend, Beverly Feldman, calls. 'What do you want to go to something with a hundred fashion queens for?' she asks. Good point. Instead, she takes me to a place called Copacabana on the West side. It opens early on Tuesdays, and the entrance fee of US$5 (HK$39) includes a buffet dinner which looks as if it's been there - like some of the men - since 1942.
All the women, to paraphrase fashion arbiter Mr Blackwell's appraisal of Mariah Carey, look like 'shrink-wrapped cheesecake': lots of Lycra, Spandex and high-heeled white shoes. It's trashy and unpretentious and I LOVE it. They even water down the champagne.
Beverly and I discuss the summer's hot item: the Fendi baguette bag. The fully embroidered ones can cost $5,000. It's 9.30 pm and I'm falling asleep at the table, so I go home.
Wednesday, February 17 10 am: Ralph Lauren is showing on West Broadway. It seems to be a purpose-built venue, with simple, low padded benches and black walls. Everyone who works for Lauren looks like they should be in his ads: lean, blonde and Wasp-ish, with perfect white teeth and fitted black suits. Seated opposite me is actor Samuel L. Jackson in a beret and shades, but nobody seems to be fussing over him. The clothes are beautiful: double-faced cashmere coats and colours like lilac and palest yellow. But it's very samey, as if Lauren had taken a few key pieces (turtlenecks, trench-coats, A-line skirts) and made them in a dozen colours.
Noon: Michael Kors is showing back at the tents. While I'm waiting for the show to start, I see Hong Kong designer Barney Cheng, who is excited about selling a sportswear line to a couple of big-name stores in New York. The Kors collection is the best I've seen so far. It's hugely commercial but with an edge. There are some gorgeous pieces, like the black-leather shift dress, calf-skin skirt and long, unlined cashmere coats in desert shades.
Immediately afterwards, I race uptown to hip French bistro La Goulue for a girlie lunch. En route, I see Naomi Campbell looking like a bleached Big Bird in a huge, white-feathered coat. I also spot Ralph Lauren and his wife cruise past in a black Mercedes-Benz limo with tinted windows.
3 pm: I rush over to Fifth Avenue to interview Evelyn Lauder, daughter-in-law of cosmetics queen Estee Lauder. The reception area of the office resembles a swanky penthouse apartment, all blue-and-white furnishings, antique Chinese cabinets and Ming porcelain. I am told that my interviewee is at home, with the flu, and that the PR had been trying to reach me all morning.
I go window-shopping instead. I walk through Barney's, perhaps the most chic, and chronically over-priced, store in the world. The cheapest thing I could find was a towelling top from Marni at $175.
At 7 pm, it's back to Bryant Park for the Anna Sui show, where I fall asleep waiting for it to start. It's her usual kitsch, funky thing - headscarves and fleece skirts with floral appliques - which doesn't go down well in Hong Kong.
There's a party at Shanghai Tang tonight, which I should go to (dim sum, Chinese fortune-telling, more networking), but I wouldn't last more than 30 minutes, so I go home to bed instead.
Thursday, February 18 Not only is it still freezing, it's raining too. I head over to the Royalton, the Philippe Starck-designed hotel on the West Side, where Calvin Klein's Asian PR Tania Wong is hosting a lunch. Also there are her counterparts from New York and Australia, two editors from the soon-to-be-launched Vogue Japan and someone from Taiwan television. The conversation turns to how badly the Asian press are treated in the fashion industry; the Vogue Japan editor wasn't invited to Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs or any of the other big shows.
Back downtown for the Vivienne Tam show; I like her personally, love her clothes and, hey, there's the whole Hong Kong-solidarity thing. I am caught in traffic and end up sprinting the last five blocks or so. I'm a little disappointed with the collection, it's not as strong, focused or fun as it used to be, and instead is all a bit serious and pseudo-intellectual.
Friday, February 19 Noon: Randolph Duke is showing his sexy, glamorous collection. In the front row are two of the three Miller sisters, Alexandra von Furstenberg and Marie-Chantal, the Greek princess. Everyone seems to love the glittery tops, slouchy sweaters and bouffant skirts. It's so beautiful I feel inspired.
At 6 pm, I venture to the Milk Studio, on top of a trendy office block in the meat-packing district, where Calvin Klein is holding his event, the last major show of New York fashion week. It takes me 90 minutes to get there from Madison Avenue. Christy Turlington, in the audience, is a vision. The collection is all black and sleek and very Calvin Klein. Afterwards, several hundred people have to make their way out via three elevators and wait for non-existent cabs. Some poor chap from a lower floor squeezes into the elevator. Someone behind me quips: 'What can be worse than being stuck in an elevator with 300 fashion people?' Her companion replies: 'Nothing.'