Wek Attack! As Fashion Week Commences Atop Skyscraper, Sudanese Supermodel Alek Gives Our Reporter Ver-tigo

On Tuesday, Sept. 4, supermodels Sasha Pivovarova and Alek Wek, along with IMG Fashion senior VP Fern Mallis, designer Tracy Reese and a Mercedes-Benz executive named Drew Slaven, flipped a giant switch in the Empire State Building lobby, heralding the illumination of its spire in a mélange of next spring’s supposedly trendiest colors: orange, purple and red. (Yikes!)

Yes, Fashion Week is here—whoo-hoo! But doesn’t the entire spectacle seem a bit frivolous and irrelevant, especially in a time of war?

“People are people! We can’t just scrutinize fashion just because it is about the clothes and about products,” said Ms. Wek, 30, on the 86th-floor observation deck of the building. The model only added to the vertiginous scene, wobbling as she was on toothpick-thin legs and wearing a silk head scarf and a colorful knee-length floral patterned dress by Diane von Furstenberg, in whose show she’ll walk on Sunday, Sept. 9. “We know what it is, and it’s work and it’s business, and that’s how I take it. I don’t take it so serious in terms of going to bed with it—that’s just ridiculous!

“People work very hard in fashion,” Ms. Wek went on, her soft transcontinental murmur gradually slipping into Cockney, “even though the show just ends in 20 or 15 minutes, there’s a lot of work and a lot of families involved, so you can’t just judge it, like, one onion isn’t smelling good and the whole sack is like that!”

Aside from the excitement of Fashion Week, Ms. Wek was looking forward to that evening’s publication party for her new book, Alek (Amistad): a memoir about her journey out of war-torn Sudan and into the top tier of the world’s headiest industry.

“The only way I could [finish] was really to write everything by revisiting those moments,” she said. “And really for me, this point in my life, I really needed to so I could move forward” And how did she prepare for the forthcoming slew of shows? “I went to a small island off the coast of Tuscany, and it was up a small hill, and I would hike every morning and go to the beach and in the evening, and that really just gave me a calmer of a mind frame and just take this busy week to stride in terms of opportunity,” Ms. Wek said, beaming.

Then, after submitting to a round of popping flashbulbs, she took her own camera out of its case and turned towards the cityscape below: “Wow, now I’m going to be a tourist!”