We Sent a High Schooler to Fashion Week: Her Honest First-Hand Account

As the editor at Who What Wear who works on our Ask A Stylist series, I get more than my fair share of emails from young women looking for guidance on how they can upgrade their personal style for everything from job interviews to weddings to date nights. But I recently got an email from a 17-year-old girl named Tess Tobin that read as follows: 

I come to you seeking your advise on the impossible: getting into a New York Fashion Week show. You see, my birthday happens to coincide with Fashion Week, and therefore every year I have tried to get my hands on the incredibly elusive tickets, and every year I have failed (rather miserably I might add). I am not naive to the fact that most designers aren't particularly keen on giving up one of their precious seats for an unknown 17-year-old girl, especially one who cannot pay an exuberant amount of cash. I am well aware that the task ahead is Herculean, but I don't care, I will do anything to get under those tents. So, please, help a fellow fashion fanatic out and steer me in the right direction. Thanks!

Having just relocated to Los Angeles from New York, my NYFW invites were still pouring in, and with each one my heart getting more and more crushed, I felt that if I couldn't be the one to enjoy The S/S 15 collections of Clover Canyon, Jill Stuart, Rebecca Taylor, and beyond, then someone should get to. Tess seemed like the perfect candidate, so I sent her in my stead to several shows this week. What follows is her honest first-hand account of her experience.

Keep reading to see what happened when 17-year-old Tess went to her first Fashion Week!


Tess Tobin

The front row at Jill Stuart

The shows of New York Fashion Week are the epitome of exclusivity, visible to an outsider solely through the filtered lens of Instagram. So on Wednesday, September 3 at 10:07 p.m., when I discovered that I had obtained the unobtainable—access to not one, not two, but three shows the upcoming week—I just about fainted.

When I arrived at Location 5 studios I knew I was in the right place immediately (no Google Maps necessary)—the high concentration of $500+ designer shoes in the style of classic Birkenstocks gave it away. Packs of bearded men passed by, handing out Women’s Wear Daily like overgrown paperboys from Williamsburg. The security guards were by far the skinniest, most beautiful security guards I had ever laid eyes on, although I could probably take one on, considering that they were all wearing 6-inch heels. But their pouts and iPads were sufficiently intimidating enough to maintain order. I approached with a timid “Are we allowed in yet?” After demonstrating that I was not a crasher, I was issued into a freight elevator.


Tess Tobin

A chic look spotted on the streets of New York

The doors opened to a world of fluorescent white. I had seen countless YouTube videos, pictures in magazines, and Instagram posts of set-ups just like this, and yet I could not help but gawk. Everyone and everything was just so chic, so stunning, so real. As I was taking a mental panorama, I accidentally bumped into someone.

“Oh, hi!” she exclaimed. “I sat next to you at last night’s show!”

I froze. This is good, I thought to myself, she mistook you for someone else, probably someone important. Oh my God, I look like I’m someone important! Play it cool. “Um,” I stuttered back. “No, uh, not me,” I managed to gurgle. Just as a red flush was spreading across my not-quite-so-chiselled cheeks, I spotted my first celebrity, Leandra Medine of Man Repeller. To be honest, there were probably more than handful of celebrities in the room—everyone looked like they were famous—but right then I only had eyes for her.

 “Leandra!” I wanted to shout.  “My girl, how are you doing?”

I made a beeline for her, all set to casually compliment her on her über-cute off-the-shoulder blouse. But alas, Leandra was busy with friends, and I wasn’t about to look like a rookie fan interrupting her, so I played it cool and creepily took a photo of her instead.


Tess Tobin

Clover Canyon S/S 15

I quietly went back to my seat and just watched. Not the show of course—like all fashion shows, it was running late—but rather the people in the room. I carefully dissected the outfits, trying to pick a favourite. No two outfits looked alike, but a common thread of impeccable style united them all.

The lights went out, the murmuring silenced, and the volume of the music increased. Strong, confident-looking women dressed in blush tones and soft hues strutted around the room. Phones were whipped from pockets and the room was set ablaze from the flashes of hundreds of cameras. Look after look paraded, each scrutinised by the audience. And then, just like that, it was over.


Tess Tobin

Designer Betsey Johnson does her iconic splits on the runway after her S/S 15 show.

The lights returned and a swarm of fashionistas formed, ready to scramble off to their next show. And then, just as I was about to leave, I heard a voice from behind: “I like that skirt, it’s really cute.” I couldn’t tell you who the person was, but it didn’t matter. All I knew was that someone with immaculate taste had complimented my outfit, and in doing so had proved to me that I belonged. As I exited the showroom, I left on cloud nine. 

What do you think of Tess' first NYFW experience? Tell us in the comments below!

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