If you’re a member of New York’s fashion industry, you could be forgiven for forgetting that this Friday — the first day of Post–Fashion Week — is also Valentine’s Day. This year, the annual day of romantic obligation follows neatly behind a semiannual week of romantic anguish. So, if you haven’t forgotten the holiday entirely, at least you’ve got a handy occasion to start making amends with your loved one.
“I feel horrible for my boyfriend,” a newly minted fashion reporter told me at the even newer club Up & Down Saturday night. It was after 11 p.m., and, despite our location, he was on the clock. “Our only communication today was an email I sent after I left the house at 8:30 in the morning to say, Can you buy me a giant bottle of Evan Williams? He said yes but I’m sure he’ll forget. I won’t know because I’ll never see him.”
First Fashion Week comes for your immune system, then it comes for your relationship. Whether you’re finishing a collection or braving piles of slush to see one, it’s a week of long hours, acute hangovers, and a relentless awareness of your precise location in the industry pecking order. This hazing leaves pledges feeling cranky and deserving of extra sympathy, or perhaps a reprieve from packing the kids’ lunches. Meanwhile, those outside the sorority feel abandoned in favor of glamorous hobnobbing: I know one woman whose text-brag about seeing Kanye West fueled a multi-day should-we-break-up fight. There’s no way to predict how Fashion Week stress will manifest in one’s relationship, but many agree there’s no way to prepare or protect a significant other from the upheaval. There is only damage control.
"I try to preemptively strike by telling my husband that I'll be scarce for the next week or so, but we always end up having some sort of a little spat anyway,” said Ruthie Davis, the shoe designer for Duckie Brown’s inaugural women’s collection. As a rule, she blocks out a few “date nights” with him. “This year we seem to be bonding over DVR'd late-night Olympic coverage.”
An obvious way to circumvent Fashion Week resentment is by finding a partner whose own career fosters sympathy and reciprocity. “I think the key is that my husband, Tom, is just as busy if not busier than I am,” said Lucky editor in chief Eva Chen. “He's a producer, so I end up being a producer widow when he's working, and then he's a Fashion Week widower when I'm working. We balance each other well.”
Integration is also worth a shot. If Fashion Week parties don’t horrify your significant other, attending alongside you may demystify the whole thing for seasons to come. For one junior editor’s law student boyfriend, Fashion Week simply means a surplus of plus ones for the industry events his girlfriend usually attends without him. “The habitability of the apartment goes down during Fashion Week,” he said at the Prabal Gurung after party — or, to him, date night. “She leaves clothes everywhere. There are 12 pairs of shoes in the living room. But at least I get to see her more.”
Others find success working Fashion Week as a team. Take party fixture Natalia Kills, who could be found licking the neck of her boyfriend, Willy Moon, a fellow musician, for the cameras at the Charlotte Ronson after party at the Sanctuary Hotel Friday night. “He styles me, then we go to the party and fuck in the bathroom,” Kills said. “We manage to squeeze in a lot of fun when people aren’t looking.”
Backstage after the show of his boyfriend, designer Timo Weiland, Jeff Petriello offered a subtler model for Fashion Week partnership. “I pretty much mentally just pretend he’s on a business trip,” Petriello said. Though it helps that Weiland checks in daily, often to plan the non-imaginary trip they’ll take once it’s all over. “I’m always like, Oh let’s go to this restaurant, or, Let’s go to this mountain B&B or whatever, you know?” Weiland said. “It’s nice to think about what you can do when you have a little bit of down time.” Petriello added: “It gets you through it, too.”
But unlike most business trips, Fashion Week is a marketing spectacle that is designed to be broadcast, either by traditional or social media. At the after party for 3.1 Phillip Lim on Monday night, Teen Vogue’s style features director Andrew Bevan was catching some flak for a particularly handsome group shot he’d Instagrammed at dinner. “I got kind of a jealous text,” he said, “but I thought it was cute. I like it.” This, he said, is the challenge of explaining Fashion Week in the age of FOMO, whether it’s to your mother, your boyfriend, or your roommate. “Of course I look like I’m having a good time on my Instagram, but I’m exhausted.” Not visible on Instagram: the blisters, the car sickness, the drastic temperature changes, the resultant sweat, and the dizzying repetition of shows, all of which, by the way, is called your job. And if, after all that, you feel entitled to have a drink and dance to “Drunk in Love”? “You burn that badge of merit if you go out,” Bevan said.
The less-committed might be tempted to give up entirely. There’s no point in having a boyfriend during Fashion Week, declared a fashion writer I spoke to at the Charlotte Ronson after party: Not when “Alexander Wang will probably make out with you.” (“Boys, girls, even some straight guys,” he said. “I swear.”) Morgan O’Connor, the dreadlocked 18-year-old Ralph Lauren model once linked to Lindsay Lohan, said he no longer tries to have a girlfriend during Fashion Week. “I stayed very truthful to her but it was a very hectic time,” he said. “For now, I’m single. I’m going to focus on my work.”
“Not being 18” is presumably a big help when it comes to maintaining relationships. But even the more seasoned members of the Fashion Week corps echo O’Connor’s priorities. Ask a veteran, and they’ll tell you that the boy drama fades relative to your true love: fashion. “Nothing going on to go wrong,” Betsey Johnson wrote in an email, but “I’ve never had love from a man as I’ve had from a fan.”
With additional reporting by Allison P. Davis and Kylie Gilbert.