Not everything at fashion week is what it seems. It takes so much more grit than you're used to.

I’ve always dreamt of attending fashion week since high school/the moment I started blogging. I dreamt of sitting front row to Alexander Wang and BCBGMAXAZRIA’s Herve Lerger. I’d step outside and be surrounded by street photographers shouting my name before running fashionably late to my next show.

But the fact of the matter is, none of that happens, especially if you’ve barely hit the tip of the iceberg. In reality, no one gives a shit about you (pardon my French). You’re never going to get into Kenzo, you’re never going to get into Gucci, you’ll never see DVF, and the Wang tour is at its last couple of shows for good (so I’ve heard). Not unless you’re Chriselle Lim, Aimee Song, or a somewhat D-list celebrity.

You don’t realize how far you’ve come or see your hard work come to fruition until fashion week rolls around (which I’ve learned needs at least an 8-month prep in advance, so in essence you’re always #NYFWPREP-ing). Fashion week will determine your ‘status’ and is the ultimate milestone for bloggers depending on the brands that want you. If a brand flies you out or a hotel sponsors you (which rarely happens unless you have a million followers), you’ve definitely made it. If you’ve gained access to brands no one really knows about, you’ve made okay progress.

Alas, this must sound jarring and quite arrogant compared to my usual narrative but what it really is, and what I got, was a reality check, which led me to believe that I didn’t work as hard as I thought I did. My expectations were partially met and everything else was just a rude awakening in the best way possible.

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Seeing NYFW in full effect was beautiful yet discouraging, it engulfed me but spit me back out as far as the looney could possibly reach, and fashion week would proceed to hock the proverbial looney that I was until it was made clear that this is what I needed: a challenge. The fashion week goers put everything I knew about being pretentious and cutthroat in the industry to shame. Everything that I thought was an artistic statement, a concept, etc. through Polydeux was nothing in comparison to the gravity of fashion week. Even the NYC residents dressed amazing and they weren’t even ‘anything’.

Fashion week was like reliving Mean Girls - where no one would really want to talk to you unless they knew what they could get from you, whether that was clout, connections, or more clout. A haunting example would be when my homie attended a brunch for a high-end publication only to be asked how many followers she had. Like, really?

To think that bloggers in LA were pretentious, dressed well, and were cutthroat - NYC influencers are a whole different animal. They’re The Devil Wears Prada’s Meryl Streep in every way possible. Even at parties, they were there to show that they were there with other well-dressed creatures. They’re not there to actually connect. In fact, they won’t even give you the time of day.

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As harsh as this is, this was the wake-up call I needed to step up to the plate. I’ll be honest with you, I was only sponsored by a few brands, none of which were actually clothing brands. I got rejection emails left and right, especially to shows. It hurt, knowing that everyone else was being invited to showrooms, were being gifted with NYFW care boxes, were partnered with transportation services, etc. but no one was interested in me. I blame a lot of this happening due to it being too late of a notice and especially on my follower count. (Definitely learned that the hard way.)

The ongoing rejection (if I ever heard back from a brand) hit my self-esteem at a time when I needed it the most. I didn’t want to fly out to NYC just to have my lack of self-confidence eat me alive. It manifested this anxiety, in which an ongoing mental battle ensued leading up to NYFW.

I then realized that if no one was going to believe in me or support me, especially during one of the most superficial times of the year, then I’m the one who is going to have to do it. So I did. I spent $200 on outfits for the week alone. I stayed at work as long as I could to rack up a paycheck big enough to fund myself, even if it meant not having anything left to use for the week that I came back (which is now). I overnight shipped everything to my cousin’s house and spent countless hours reimagining new looks. I was so stressed out, anxious, and nervous that I hardly slept. To me, spending all this money was an investment in the opportunities that would arise during fashion week.

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Or so I thought.

While we went out there for fashion week, I had the intention of hitting a few of the shows I had lined up and would skip the others to shoot and play tourist around the city. Instead, we ended up attending only one show and went shooting and played tourist (and spent time with family) the entire time. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret it. I believe we had too large of a to-do list for the amount of days we had there. At the same time, Justin’s to-do list was very different from mine and it was hard to find a balance.

Some of you were asking for more about my fashion week experience regarding the shows and it felt like I was disappointing you guys in not having anything to show.

Two things can be learned from here: one, is that I’ve learned that I’m afraid of doing things alone and this is a reminder than Justin and I are two different individuals. I shouldn’t be afraid to do the things that I want, even if it means being alone. Being as anxious as I was, it was hard for me to want to let go of his hand and in doing so, I feel that I missed out on a lot of opportunities that I could’ve had. I also think that maybe it’s not the right time. The things that are meant to be will never pass you.

Two, attend fashion week towards the beginning half. I think in attending midway, we missed most of the good stuff, and again, potentially more opportunities. Oh, and balance.

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At the end of the day, I feel reassured from this past NYFW trip. There were several downs and moments where I could’ve given up, but instead, I felt more inspired and more motivated to work harder and refocus on what Polydeux’s priorities are. Overall, I fell in love with fashion all over again. I think I had gotten too comfortable and too bored out here in LA. It’s hard to gain a new perspective when you see the same things every day. I couldn’t think of anything new to bring to the table in the past few months, so although this fashion week appeared to be a flop, it was so much more than that. I’m so blessed for everything that went wrong and everything that stressed me out.

It feels good seeing maturation as it parallels my art. I’m looking forward to channeling this newfound energy and passion again, and especially proving everyone who brushed me off that I’m more than what my numbers say that I am. I am quality. I am a voice. I am substance.

NYFW FW18, I’m coming for you.

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Photography by Justin Quebral