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Fashion Week Through Her Lens: Artful Storytelling at NYFW

With fashion month in full swing we’re excited to share our lead contributor Bridget Badore’s recent captures from earlier this month at NYFW. We’ve always believed in the importance of celebrating the art of fashion during a time that is typically geared towards sales-driven initiatives. Nevertheless, with the amount of creative and digital tools that more readily available, art’s role in fashion week is only growing stronger. Take our own partnerships for instance: From our year-long Virtual Sketchbook series with guest fashion illustrators who live-illustrated and shared their own interpretations at each of the shows in real-time to our budding Fashion Week Through Her Lens series where our collaborators, like Bridget, share their unique point of view beyond just getting “the shot” we’ve witnessed (and perhaps contributed to) this evolution firsthand. Below you’ll find more on these themes along with Bridget’s exclusive photos and insight on what role events like NYFW play in a modern artist’s career.

My name is Bridget and I live

in Bushwick with my cat and my boyfriend. I’m obsessed with my fluffy orange cat, Queso, and I think she’s the cutest creature in the world. I’m an aspiring vegan and if I could be anything else besides a photographer I would either want to be a contortionist or host a sex-positive podcast (both of which I’m not quite as qualified to pursue). I grew up in the boonies of upstate NY, so sometimes I think I can come across as a tiny little country mouse and I’m trying to actively become more comfortable taking up space and expressing myself outside of my comfort zone. I enjoy good conversations, nice people, fresh air and good design. I’m a sucker for anything aesthetically pleasing, and I’m always trying to surround myself with things that inspire me. I’m not very good at the whole “life-changing art of tidying up” trend because I assign sentiment to everything and my living/working space is a huge clutter of nostalgia. I like having big conversations with everyone I meet and small talk is a big challenge for me. I try to be super intentional about everything in my life and I question everything – I think that in order to make the most out of the time we have on earth it’s important to never waste a moment working too hard at something that doesn’t make you feel content or full.

How do you think your “lens” has changed after experiencing NYFW for a second time? 

I’m starting to understand why some people feel bitter about NYFW. My first experience was very exciting because I was trying something new (that I had always been terrified of). The fashion scene in general seems very exhausting and fashion week is like a crazy compact version of that. I definitely feel like I don’t fit in at NYFW, but I’m starting to feel more comfortable with that (because really, who cares anyway?). If I’m not trying to hard to make sure my outfit is cool enough or comparing myself to all of the other guests standing around, then I can just focus on figuring out exactly what it is that interests me in the clothes and designs, and start making work that speaks to me personally. I’ve learned that things are only as scary or intimidating as you make them in your head and, like anything else, once you accomplish something it seems so much easier in hindsight. It was really cool to be at the Alice & Olivia presentation because that felt like a big deal; there were a handful of celebrities there and at first I was really nervous, but then I was like “Hey, I have an invitation to this show too. I deserve to be here just as much as anyone else here that seems cooler than me.” It’s important to remind yourself that you deserve to take up space too.

Revisit our first-ever Virtual Sketchbook featuring live-illustrations from WHIT’s SS15 Presentation

The fashion world is just another micro-world like anything else. It actually kind of mimics the “art world,” and of course there’s overlap as well. I realized that when I was at the Katie Gallagher presentation at Foley Gallery. I thought about this strange gallery space that was void of art being filled with models in lieu of photographs, and it all sort of clicked for me. When I was in art school I was so nervous that I didn’t fit in. I didn’t go to gallery openings because I was afraid I wasn’t smart or eloquent enough to hold a conversation. My senior year I started letting go of those hang-ups and I was like whatever! Who cares if I come off as an idiot – you’ll only find like-minded people and form meaningful connections with others if you’re honest about who you are. So once I started speaking my mind, I realized that I wasn’t alone. I’ve started applying that “art world” mindset to the fashion world, and I realized that everyone is basically dealing with more or less the same things at the end of the day and we’re all here in the first place because we have some significant interest in fashion. That should make us all excited to be in the same room!

As an artist yourself I’m sure you can agree there’s a resurgence in storytelling and art at the shows. How do you think it is being re-introduced into the mix?

Definitely. Well, I think that designers are trying to do anything that they can to separate themselves from the routine or expected at NYFW. It’s important to try to do that in a meaningful way in order to really connect with people, so naturally involving art and storytelling would provide an accessible entry-point for a lot of show-goers. I saw a beautiful presentation by WHIT where she had her models on a podium mimicking a life-drawing class (I particularly enjoyed this because I used to do art modeling in college, so I was coming at this from a lot of different personal entry-points). Whitney had collaborated with a bunch of emerging artists to do live drawings throughout the entire presentation. That was very exciting because it gave the viewer un-ending visuals and dozens of different perspectives to interpret the presentation through. At Nanette Lepore, the clothing was presented on mannequins with floral arrangements replacing the heads (designed in collaboration with Lori Field), echoing the beautiful designs on the pieces of clothing themselves.
The walls were also adorned with artwork created by Lori and everything existed together as if the clothing, art, and everything in the room existed in the same fantasy world. The presentation felt more like a party and less like a stuffy display of clothing – that was really fun. Alice & Olivia’s SS17 collection was presented in this large room full of different sections inspired by different faerie tales, with different magical elements influencing each little “world.” I felt like I was walking through an incredible storybook brought to life. It was insanely beautiful and inspiring; although with a storybook, part of the magic is that you’re existing in this fantasy world in your mind and you’re alone with your own interpretation of the story. In the presentation, I was obviously sharing this story with hundreds of other people, which took you out of the magic. Of course, that’s the nature of a presentation. So as far as fashion week presentations go, if I can get a tiny bit of magic every few moments, that’s a success to me. I think this artful emergence in storytelling has been a really wonderful way to bridge the gap in this “inaccessible” fashion world to make it more personal for a wider range of viewers.

Designers are tasked with the job of telling a unique story about their collections to stand out from their peers. As a photographer shooting during a crazy event like NYFW, how have you learned to do the same through your own medium?

I think I’m still trying to figure that out. My work is driven by intimate interactions and so much of what I’m interested in is hard to capture in this impersonal environment. I honestly don’t think I’m making images that stand out right now. I’ve just been trying to trust my eye and see what I end up with. I think it’ll take me a couple more NYFW experiences to really figure out exactly what excites me about photographing it. I think a lot of projects for me end up revealing themselves through the process.

Did anything stand out to you this season in particular? How do you hope to continue to evolve as as a photographer as a result of attending NYFW?

I loved being at WHIT and seeing some of the models interact with one another. This happened a bit at Alice & Olivia too. It’s so nice to be reminded that the models are people, because it gets to feel a little stale if you’re just staring at blank canvases that only exist to hang the clothes on (although that can be an interesting –
  • Nanette Lepore SS17 Presentation
  • Katie Gallagher SS17 Presentation
  • WHIT SS17 Presentation
  • Alice & Olivia by Stacey Bendet SS17 Presentation

interpretation of the model as well; it’s just not as interesting to me personally). Like I said, I’m very interested in intimacy, interaction, and personal connection. I want to feel connected to something if I’m spending my time looking at it.

What is one question you wish more people asked you with regard to shooting NYFW?

Do you want to shoot backstage? Haha, but honestly, shooting backstage seems like a big daunting task and I’m starting to feel like I could muster up the courage to try it soon. I’m sure I’d be super nervous and uncomfortable at first but whatever, I’m all about challenging that. I think I could find more of the personal elements of NYFW that I’m craving in a backstage environment. I’m more interested in process, and what goes in to creating a finished piece.

Revisit all of the Fashion Week Through Her Lens stories for more NYFW inspiration and insight

Story by Rachel Schwartzmann – Photos by Bridget Badore for The Style Line