If you're in New York City on September 10, you have a choice. Remember the people who died on September 11. Or remember Naomi Campbell's 25 year career. It's a matter of taste, I guess.
This not the first year that New York Fashion Week, and it's fruit-fly cluster of events, overlaps the anniversary of 9/11. But it's the first time the issue's been so blatantly ignored.
As big a city as it can feel, New York is also a small town. Only nine years ago we lost our friends, family and neighbors, in a really frightening, traumatizing way. The structure of our landscape physically and figuratively was decimated. It spurred anger, bigortry, war and sometimes, kindness. People lost their jobs, and they continue to lose their health to this day.
Naomi Campbell has a different reaction to the day. "I think after 9/11 you can't say anything anymore on a plane," she told the press in 2008 to explain why she got arrested for losing her temper at an airport.
People: that woman is being honored by Dolce and Gabbana for getting paid to model for 25 years, only blocks away from a memorial service for 9/11. At 6pm, September 10, the same minute as the city-wide shopping festival Fashion's Night Out launches, the Trinity Church will hold a vigil for those lost in 2001.
I used to go to Trinity church for lunch when I worked for my dad downtown 15 years ago. Days after September 11, 2001, during the Jewish Holidays, my father, a Queens-native who'd worked in the financial district for three decades, cried at the table. He'd never done that before. He raised his glass to speak and started sobbing. My sister and I nervously grabbed each others' hands under the table.
He could have died that day too, but he was on a business trip. We were all very lucky, though we didn't acknowledge it to each other.
He had difficulty catching his breath as he explained "I keep looking for some of those people that I'd see everyday on my way to the office and they're missing. I know they 're all gone."The day and it's aftermath for New Yorkers was a disaster. And on September 11th, you'll hear that word a lot. At Fashion Week. Prepare for a lot of "this week is so hard" and "this is a disaster!" proclamations. That's usually in reference to a model dropping out, a dress not arriving, a Peroni-sponsored party running out of Peroni. And trying to get a taxi or a restaurant reservation? "Murder!"
On the morning of September 11, just an hour after the anniversary of the moment the first plane hit, Lacoste will kick off their runway show. Then Cynthia Rowley, then Vivienne Tam. Right now, reporters, designers, socialites expected to make appearances, publicists, are all probably exhausted, pulling sleepless nights working round the clock in honor of fashion.
For a little perspective, I spoke with Kevin Brame, an organizer of the Tour of Duty run, a marathon of international firefighters who have been running across the country-- from California to New York City --to raise money and awareness for families of fallen firefighters. They started in Santa Monica earlier this month and "crossed deserts, tore ligaments and withstood wind and rain," to finish their relay the morning of September 11 at ground zero. They're also exhausted.But unlike the fashion industry, they're not complainers. They're also not beggars."We're asking for donations, but we're not out to beg. You can throw a quarter in the bucket and that's great," says Brame.
Meanwhile, Fashion's Night Out, is beseeching shoppers to open up their hearts and their purses to fuel the fashion industry.
The frustrating thing is the cause of 'fashion' is getting more media attention than these runners. Who can compete with models in expensive clothes? Certainly not regular people. The New York Times rationalizes Campbell's perpetual pet stature in fashion--as someone who makes news. You can't buy the kind of publicity she gave the issue of blood diamonds, even if it was against her will. In that case, maybe the industry wants to do a little more to raise money for ailing first responders or families of lost firefighters, instead of holding court in Lincoln Center. The Tour of Duty guys could certainly use the help.
If only to pay for hotel rooms. Many firefighters who participated in launching the marathon couldn't afford to come to New York for the final celebration. "The hotels were too expensive," says Brame.
It couldn't have helped that NYC & Company has recruited 40 New York hotels to offer discounted room rates for Fashion's Night Out patrons. Between the industry's veterans and the tourists they're attracting, lodging for those attending the memorial is harder to come by.
This is not to say the twice a year Fashion Week event isn't crucial to the city's revenue. It provides jobs and fuels the local economy. But it's also so caught up in itself. Why would D&G honor a woman who's tossed off 9/11 as an inconvenience? Why should mourners have to compete with a crowd of hungry shoppers? And above all, why does fashion week need so much attention?
When the media does pay attention to the 9/11 anniversary it's fueled by political agendas: the mosque, the investments, the war. But there were also people who died. And people who are still dying because of that day. And this is their day to make that known.
So maybe next year, just a suggestion fashion arbiters, pick another week to put up your circus tents.