With all its snotty parties, self-aggrandizing people, and the commerciality that seems to be symptomatic of New York Fashion Week, it's easy to forget that fashion is actually a good thing.
"I always had a passion for flashing. Before I had it, I'd close my eyes and imagine"
A weary Patrik Ervell gave me a limp handshake last night backstage following his NYFW Spring 2013 show at Made Fashion Week. There was a line of dudes behind me with shit-eating grins waiting for the chance to pat him on the back and possibly snag a photo. I can imagine the whole thing must have been exasperating for him, being forced to greet the talentless hacks who'll make a fortune peddling his art and the fanboy Stans (like myself) who think they have some connection with him because they buy his shit. All his hard work and creativity distilled into a five-minute spectacle in front of a bunch of self-aggrandizing angry people. When we shook hands, I wanted to ask him if it was all worth it.
This wasn't the first time I'd met Patrick. Almost exactly two years ago I was standing at the front door of his apartment in SoHo, which also served as his showroom. It was 7 PM on a Thursday evening in late September, and the cool breezes of autumn were starting to pick up. I had just arrived in New York for the first time in my life from Ohio and I was fresh from signing a lease with three other dudes for a teeny one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. Even though I was rendered destitute from the big move, I was determined to become a hip urbanite and cop some of the shit that I used to look at on forums and fashion sites in the wee hours of the morning back in Ohio when other guys were out boozing and banging beaver.
My roommate had heard through the grapevine that THE Patrik Ervell—the elegant designer from the Opening Ceremony camp who had his models walk on copies of the Financial Times during a recession—was having a sample sale. So we high-tailed it to the city to take advantage. The only problem was that we had the wrong date.
"Where's the pizza?" Patrik asked us with his door barely cracked open, the way old ladies do when they are weary of a home invaison.
We looked at him, puzzled. I had no idea who the dude talking to me was because I'd never seen his picture before, just his clothes pixelated on my Macbook.
"What pizza? I'm here for the Patrik Ervell sample sale," I said.
"Oh, I thought you were the pizza guy. I just ordered a pie. Come back tomorrow between noon and six. There's still some good stuff left." And before we could say a word, he gently closed the door. My roommate and I—both new to the city, obsessed with fashion, and still awestruck by the possibilities of becoming new people through the clothes we bought—looked at each other and giggled like little bitches. I came back the next day and spent the money I'd been saving up for Ikea furniture on a one-of-a-kind silk-lined blue and green barracuda jacket with a symmetrical diamond pattern on the front. I wore it until it started to smell like wet dog and the white silk lining turned gray.
This is me a couple of years ago, standing in Times Square wearing my one-of-a-kind Patrik Ervell jacket with Common Projects sneakers, APC Jeans, and a Rag and Bone buttondown. Portrait by Andrew Betsch.
It's been quite a while since those days. My connection to the fashion world has grown exponentially, and as I needle my way closer to the center, I'm beginning to realize that fashion isn't what I thought it was. All that glitter is not gold, and roses really do smell like boo boo. Part of this requiem has come from the fact that everyone hates each other in fashion, especially at Fashion Week. For me, talking about Martin Margiela and Raf Simons with my friends in a cultural waste dump like Ohio was like having our own language. The dream of style brought us together. But here, it's a culture of divisiveness. The writers hate the PR people, the photographers hate the models, and the designers hate everyone.
And, apparently, the door guys hate me. On Fashion's Night Out, after waiting forever to get into a party thrown by Supreme, I was told by some meathead in front of a crowd of people that "We aren't going by the list anymore. We pick who we want. You'll never get into this party. Ever. You might as well just leave right now. Go home." So I did, sulking down Houston Street watching out for puddles so I didn't ruin my white Rachel Comey bucks :(
Last night Opening Ceremony had a tenth anniversary party following the Ervell show. I was technically "on the list," and the possibility of going would have been masturbation material a couple of years ago: My favorite store throwing a big bash after my favorite designer's show. But after everything that's happened this week—the consistent rejection, the feelings of otherness, the vacuous angry people—I decided to go home.
I didn't need to ask Ervell whether or not putting up with all of this bullshit is worth it, because I know that it is. When done right, fashion—like music, film, or any other art form—can lift people up and move them. It can change your life and it can take you places. What I've realized is that fashion does all this in spite of the parties, the horrible people, and the obnoxious PR reps. You don't have to be at Fashion Week or the exclusive after-parties to get it. To me, all of that is either an illusion or a nessecary evil. The only thing worth talking about are the clothes. And like always, in spite of the bullshit, Patrik's clothes were dope and that is all I need. I may not go to another Fashion Week after this, but I'll definitely go to his sample sale with my hommies.
Check out pics of Patrik's Spring 2012 ready-to-wear collection here.
Stay tuned to VICE throughout the rest of the week for more from Wilbert on what’s happening during one of the most vacuous and awe-inspiring events that fussy New Yorkers take part in twice a year.