On the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 5, a black SUV pulled up in front of an abandoned industrial warehouse on 12th Avenue and 54th Street. Out stepped Bergdorf Goodman buyers Linda Fargo and Roopal Patel—delicately, because Ms. Fargo was wearing high, white, gladiator-inspired sandals; Ms. Patel’s were severe, black, and dominatrix-looking.
Mere feet away, an army of publicists manned the entrance to the Rag & Bone fashion show, which had commandeered a portion of the building’s vast acreage. The two front-row fixtures from Bergdorf greeted New York Times writer Eric Wilson before breezing through the line. A horde of standing-room-only guests, restrained by a rope, looked on impatiently (some sweatily), shifting in colorful ballet flats or Converse sneakers. Suddenly an Elle contingent appeared from an unseen chariot, dry and composed, caboosed by Stylista star Anne Slowey, teetering in blue pumps whose heels looked like colorful, precariously stacked children’s building blocks.
One might think that front-row footwear this Fashion Week would be more, well, restrained—given that half the shows anybody wants to go to are being held in far-flung venues within spitting distance of the West Side Highway in Chelsea. Especially considering that editors and buyers like Ms. Fargo and Ms. Patel may attend upward of 50 shows this week.
Wrong! The fashion flock is teetering higher than ever, clad in satanic black styles like Ms. Patel’s; hazardously high, peep-toed Mary Janes like the ones adorning the feet of fragile-looking MisShapes DJ Leigh Lezark (spotted in front of the Rag & Bone warehouse); and the occasional massive gold platforms, as observed encasing the hoofs of stylist Rachel Zoe, who sat front row at Diane von Furstenberg on Sunday, Sept. 7.
“These are Lanvin,” said Ms. Zoe, pulling down her sunglasses as a photographer angled for a shot. “They’re very comfortable, I might add.” Under her white bohemian dress and green Missoni scarf, they looked like gilded cinder blocks.
“Oh, honey, I always go for high,” she said, almost pityingly. “I think the key is, you have to have platforms, and then you can actually stand in them longer. If you don’t have a platform, it’s kind of hard to survive in a 6-inch heel.”
Power publicist Alison Brod, backstage at Vena Cava the next day, agreed that heels during Fashion Week are all but mandatory: “I so rarely wear 3-inch heels as opposed to 5-inch heels,” she said, motioning toward her low(ish) peach patent-leather Viviers, which she’d only pulled out because it was raining and Saturday. “These are my weekend height,” she explained. “People who wear flats must be so much happier!”
SHOES HAVE INCREASINGLY become a focus of runways, with titanic designers like Manolo Blahnik and Christian Loubotin collaborating with young up-and-comers like Peter Som and Chris Benz, and other fledgling designers, like Alexander Wang, branching into footwear just several seasons after starting their businesses.
And so they are naturally a focus of the front row. A distinctive pair of shoes can dress up a simple outfit—cheaper than a head-to-toe designer look for women who must look the part while surviving on publishing salaries and borrowed goods. Then there’s the implied cachet of having arrived via Town Car.