New York Fashion Week starts this Friday, September 6. After years of covering everything that came down a runway, this is my last season. The industry has changed too much, the importance of the shows has dwindled, the schedule is a mess, and not everyone’s playing. The time has come for me to hang it up. When the shows end October 2, I’ll be done with fashion.
Or so I thought.
We were doing back-to-school shopping in early August when my nine-year-old daughter, Tipper, comes up to me and whispers, “You know what I want for back-to-school?”
“No, what do you want?” I asked, fully expecting her to request a new pair of shoes or a new backpack.
“I want to do a photoshoot with outfits and things,” she said. “I want to do it just like you do your models.”
Trying to describe the emotion I felt at that moment is practically impossible. Think somewhere between ready-to-vomit and bursting-with-pride. On one hand, I know this industry far too well and while the way models are treated has gotten significantly better over the last few years, it’s still a mess. Eating disorders are still a significant issue. Underaged models are still frequent victims of abuse. Roughly sixty percent of runway models end the runway season in debt. The hours are too long, the sleep is too short, and they’re treated like cattle backstage. Why on earth would I want my daughter to go through that?
At the same time, for those who have the discipline and a unique look, it can be an amazing opportunity to travel, to meet famous and important people, to explore different cultures and lifestyles, and create relationships that expand the opportunities one has through life. A number of models have gone from the runway to the designer’s studio, the editorial bench, or become entrepreneurs of fantastic ideas. Why would I want to deny my daughter those chances to do something that could positively impact her life?
So, we did her photoshoot, but we laid down some age-appropriate rules. She’s nine, after all. She had to work with clothes from her existing wardrobe. No, I’m not calling in any favors from designers for her. No makeup. Again, she’s nine. She doesn’t need it. Also, it was 93 degrees out when we shot and she sweats. Makeup would have been dripping. Mommy did help with her hair, but most everything else was up to her. Daddy would choose the pictures and Mommy would have final approval.
Tipper wanted to shoot at Holliday Park. I wasn’t expecting much, especially when she said she wanted to shoot by the ruins. But then, she stepped up, chose locations that work, paid attention to where the sun was, hit poses I never expected, and not once tried to cheese it up. Want to know how many times I had to give her direction? Twice. That’s it. She knew exactly where to look, how to stand, and how to turn her body for the camera.
She’s been paying attention.
As we were walking back to the car for her to change clothes, Tipper took my hand and said, “I want to be a fashion model when I grow up.”
I swallowed hard, which isn’t easy to do when your throat’s dry. “Why do you want to be a fashion model?”
“Because I’m good at it,” she answered.
So here we are with fifteen finished photographs. Is this the beginning of a successful modeling career? Maybe. She has her Mom’s metabolism so weight gain isn’t likely to be an issue, and all signs point to her being sufficiently tall. But then again, she’s nine. This time next year, she may want to be a veterinarian. Or a dog trainer. Or a YouTube celebrity.
I have to remind myself on a daily basis that, as a parent, it’s not my job to decide who or what Tipper is going to be. My job is to support her decisions, make sure she has access to the right resources, and be there for her no matter what might happen.
For now, she wants to be a fashion model. So, maybe I won’t hang it up just yet. I’ll keep taking her pictures and if, when she turns 16, it’s still something she wants to pursue, I’ll grab my cane (or walker, or wheelchair) and be there every step of the way for her.
So, dear friends, let me introduce to you, Tipper and her first photoshoot. Encouraging comments welcome.
Dad’s going to need more scotch.