It was the last day of the 2002 New Zealand Fashion Week. It was also laundry day for me so all my cool clothes were in the process of being washed and dried. I managed to score tickets to the big public event, “Style On Stage”. I considered asking one of my manfriends to go along with me, but as most of them are going through gay/not gay sexuality crises, I decided being asked to fashion show probably wouldn’t be the best thing for them, so I just showed up on my own.
I’d never been to a real fashion show before. I had attended to a fund-raising high school fashion show, where nervous teens modelled old lady fashions from the frock salon down the road. There was one of those mall shows where local part-time models showed off the latest season’s tracksuits and t-shirts. And then there was the department store lingerie show where the mainly male audience had showed up to see the supermodel walking around in her undies. But no, I’ve never been to a real fashion show.
I showed up to the Auckland Town Hall and was surrounded by a whole lot of people – mostly women; mostly what my Dad would call “well dressed”. Then there were the people who were wearing stuff like purple zebra skin pants with a mustard yellow geometrical peasant blouse and a giant triangle of fuzzy red fabric thrown over the shoulder. And then there was me, wearing my laundry-day finest. It was skanky old t-shirt and bad-fitting jeans time.
I took my seat and the show started. When models are on the runway, they don’t act like a regular person does. The female models have a particular kind of walk. Rather than walking with the legs a little bit apart, runway models put each leg right in front of the other, so it’s like their long thin legs are coming hurtling down the runway. To balance this, they pull their pelvis back and are kind of leaning back their upper body. When I got home I tried walking like that. It takes effort.
And yeah, just like all the pop culture cliches, the models all had a look of utter boredom on their faces. It was almost like they were so bored with the runway work their minds had left their bodies, leaving their faces blank and expressionless. It was a really creep voodoo zombie thing.
I enjoyed the music most of all. There was a lot of early ’90s hip-hop. It was funny watching the blank-faced models strutting in time to LL Cool J yelling, “Mama said knock you out! I’m gonna knock you out!” But my favourite moment came when “Bonita Applebum” by A Tribe Called Quest was playing. A model came walking down the runway. Q-Tip rapped, “Satisfaction, I have the right tactics.” She reached the end and paused. The beats cut out and Q-Tip’s lone voice rang out: “And if you need ’em I got crazy prophylactics.” I think I was the only one laughing.
The show was highlighting a number of New Zealand fashion designers who’d had stuff in Fashion Week. The clothing ranged from ordinary clothes that anyone could wear down the street, to the freaky conceptual stuff that needs to be diluted before it can be fit for public consumption. There were no deliberately visible nipples, but there was one poor lass who twice was stuck with wearing a low cut jacket with nothing underneath and quickly had to grab it to stop her boobs from popping out.
Despite all the cool music and little oddities that were distracting me, I was paying attention to the clothing being paraded. The thing I liked the best was skirts and trousers that had belts slung in low diagonal lines. I could declare that the must-have accessory of the now, but I know I’d probably never wear a skirt with a low-riding belt. Unless, of course, it was laundry day and I had nothing else to wear.