A Front Row Seat for New York Fashion Week

By Crystal Schreiner 

Chris Benz showcasing his next line at the Lincoln Center during NY Fashion Week. Photo: Crystal Schreiner.

Chris Benz showcasing his next line at the Lincoln Center during New York Fashion Week. Photo: Crystal Schreiner.

My last semester of my senior year has finally arrived. I’m one class short of my actual degree in advertising and trying to juggle school while managing my roller-coaster life outside of the classroom. Between running a lucrative start-up business called GoGeddit.com with other Marquette alumni, freelancing to build my portfolio and working in Marquette’s Student Media Department, it’s been crazy.

It’s been sleepless. It’s been a challenge. But it has also led to amazing opportunities.

Growing up next to a beautiful sheep farm in a small town called Athens, Wisconsin, with a mere 1,000 people and no stoplights never stopped me from trying for my goal in life to be big, bold and over-the-top. I’ve always had a dreamy image in my head when trying to imagine what gigantic cities were like, and especially when picturing what the nation’s competitive capital, NYC, was like. I was so intrigued at the thought of skyscrapers and city lights painting the sky. And I now know that with hard work and persistence, anyone can find his or her way to New York if so desired.

The rule of the game is as follows: first, find a passion. Then live it, breath it, and carry it with you everywhere you go. Sooner or later, you’ll find yourself standing in the middle of Times Square with a little tear of happiness in your eye.

I’ll never forget that moment.

What is this passion of mine? Fashion photography.

Which all leads to my most recent endeavor, participating as a photographer in possibly the world’s largest fashion show for New York Fashion Week. Documenting NYFW as a photojournalist is a fashion photographer’s dream ( next to being published in Vogue).

Everything seemed to happen at the last minute. I bought my plane ticket not even 5 days before the extravaganza started, packed up my most stylish clothes and shoes, and ventured by myself to the Big Apple for an amazing week adventure with two Canon cameras around my neck, an iPhone in my pocket and my laptop in my backpack.

Fashion Week is extremely glamorous; I can’t argue against that. But photographing that glamour is a lot of work. I found myself shooting with the big industry names alongside me. From Marie Claire’s photographer, a fellow snapping shots for models.com and elitists who have been shooting Fashion Weeks around the world for decades, everybody seemed to be somebody. It was empowering, encouraging and inspirational.

I was shooting as a contributing photographer for a hugely popular national online fashion magazine/blog called Refinery29.com. My assignment was to catch unique street looks and spot trends in the city and outside of the shows. Each time, if the person had more than a New York minute, I quickly jotted down that person’s name and occupation, and the names of the designers of every item that they were wearing at that moment. Boy, did I learn a lot of new designer names!

During my first day out and about, I spotted a fashionista with unbelievable high heeled shoes and a beautiful pink Fendi purse. After a quick interview with her, I discovered she was an online fashion editor of the New York Times. She complimented my jacket, and when I walked away from that conversation, I promised myself I’d keep that coat forever!

Refinery29.com published my street photos online which was awesome to see! The photo department there also needed backstage photos of a few shows, and I was more than happy to help out and dabble into the behind the scenes part of NYFW.

I also photographed two very well known designers, Erin Fetherston and Chris Benz.

Fetherston, among her honors, was a recipient of the 2007 Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation Award, a finalist for the 2007 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, and in 2009 was inducted as a member of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award. The Erin Fetherston collection can currently be found in luxury boutiques and department stores around the world, as well as www.erinfetherston.com.

American fashion designer Chris Benz’s success in the fashion world has led to numerous television appearances, including a week as guest judge on Bravo’s “The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection” and an appearance on HBO’s “How to Make It in America.” He is also a regular columnist for Fashionista.com, one of the largest independent fashion websites in the U.S. Benz’s clothes are frequently featured in Vogue, Elle, Glamour and other publications, in addition to his own fashion line.

Navigating to the shows was usually one of the biggest challenges, as I was carrying what felt like the equivalent to my weight in equipment and was completely unfamiliar with NYC. I used the underground metro a few times before eventually finding that waving down a taxi to take me to an exact location was a more efficient way to travel.

I was a social media madwoman, tweeting, updating, and “hashtagging” every moment I could get with my iPhone. Within hours I saw my Instagram photos on several blogs and even featured right next to Teen Vogue on one of the most popular fashion photography sites on the web.

Almost everything I learned was from simply following the lead of others and making small talk. I had to learn how to talk, walk, dress, and interact with the crowd. The outfits were unreal: wide-brimmed hats, fur coats and vests, bright neons, huge shades, platform heels and patterned pants.  It was the art of style unfolding before my eyes. It was also something I wished I could be surrounded by more often, rather than the standard leggings, Uggs, and Northface looks frequently seen around campus.

The experience opened so many doors for me as an artist. New Yorkers will teach you a thing or two about how to work efficiently and get to business. The experience helped me to understand more about the fashion industry and most certainly tightened up my skills as a paparazzo.

I could talk about the experience forever and probably even write a book about it. My hopes are to continue shooting, and I’m already scoping out Mercedes Benz Miami Fashion Week. Following my trip, as discovered via social media and then requested, I’ve sent my backstage photos to TIGI Haircare in the Netherlands and am sending more to a fashion PR outlet tonight. I’m in the process of planning to design and produce my own fashion photography magazine called EDGY, for a class here at Marquette and have the my last issue of the Marquette Journal student magazine to help cast, style, and shoot for the StylePhile section.

I’m shooting for the stars, which means I have to build a pretty solid base and rocket ship to get there. I don’t mind the work.

I’ll stick to my father’s advice: the harder you work, the luckier you get.

Crystal Schreiner is a senior in the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University. She is a freelance fashion photographer and currently assists with running GoGeddit.com, an online start up business that she helped launch.

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