Spring/summer 2021, 10 years later, is nostalgia season, so I’m back in New York in 2011 when, surrounded by the likes of Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, Michael Douglas, Emma Watson, and Anjelica Huston, I met the designer who spoke highly of Filipinos
An hour before the show at Michael Kors, the frenzy was on another level. It was just the frenetic atmosphere I needed, having fallen into a rut at work, though my plan was to disappear in New York, walking nameless in Manhattan or holed up in my hotel, binge-ing on Downton Abbey or, more appropriately, The Walking Dead.
It was February in 2011, snow had fallen, the streets were covered in ice and sludge.
I was on vacation. Uninspired in Manila, I entreated my employer to give me a month-long break. I just needed to get away in search of a restart button. Wish granted, so I went to New York.
But it was Fashion Week. No such thing as vacation for a lifestyle journalist, not at this time of the year in the epicenter of world fashion.
It was especially true in the morning of the Michael Kors show, slated at 10 a.m. on that terribly cold day. More than a presentation of his fall 2011 collection, it was a show that would celebrate his 30th anniversary in fashion.
By 9 a.m., I had put in two hours of work, the first hour in the queue for my NYFW accreditation pass, the next half an hour waiting for my turn to go backstage and speak to Michael, the next 10 minutes speaking with Michael amid the mayhem of backstage preps, and then the last 20-minute stretch finding my seat in a huge tent at the Lincoln Center and waiting for the show to begin.
The show was fantastic, an upbeat mix of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” and Odyssey’s “Native New Yorker” on loop. It was a peacock parade of statuesque models dressed in the decadence of the ’70s, the athleticism of the ’80s, and the tailored minimalism of the ’90s but as if from the reminiscences of the jet and limousine set of the late 20th century.
I sat behind Grace Coddington, who gave me a wink as I went past her to get to my seat. To my right, but on the front row, was Anna Wintour. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones stopped in front of me to air kiss somebody. There were Bette Midler, Emma Roberts, Debra Messing, Anjelica Huston…
Uninspired in Manila, I entreated my employer to give me a month-long break. I just needed to get away in search of a restart button. Wish granted, so I went to New York—and met Michael Kors.
I wasn’t on front row, like I was accustomed to in Manila, but I was in the right place.
Earlier, I was backstage with Michael. I took my turn after the slot assigned to The New York Times and before the one given to Vogue. It was just work—backstage privilege and all—that I shouldn’t even be doing while I needed some time away from it. But no sooner than Michael had shaken my hand had I felt that all was right in the world again.
Michael responded to me like I was an old friend. “I love working with Filipinos,” he beamed, enumerating key names of Filipinos in his core creative team, including a few he had worked with all those decades he was carving a niche in the fashion firmament.
So I sat there, dazzled by the “bellini” pastels of his fall 2011 collection. I didn’t regret not having asked Michael enough questions. After all, I only had 10 minutes, more than half of which he spent telling me about how creative Filipinos were, how he loved and felt loved by the Filipinos, and exactly how many stores he had in the Philippines, where they were, and how they were doing.
Michael talked to me as a Filipino. He couldn’t have talked the same way to anybody else backstage or at the show, not Anna or Grace or Carine Roitfield or Suzy Menkes.
Michael spoke to me in that deeply personal way just half an hour before he launched a collection as a love letter to the world.
And that world included me.
My place under the fashion sky, where everything was sorted into hierarchical categories, was 13,665 kilometers away from New York, but to Michael, while we were talking, I might as well have lived next door.
All was right in the world—and my place in it. And that year, in 2011, in the February chill, I considered it my fortune that I lived in a country that didn’t snow.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in 2018 in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Stores Specialists, Inc., the exclusive distributor of Michael Kors in the Philippines.