Meet The Back-Row Superfans Who Bring The !!! To NYFW

Photo by Erin Yamagata.
By now, you're probably familiar with the caste system at Fashion Week: top-tier editors and celebs in the front and the rest of the crowd in the back. But here at R29, we believe the back row is where all the action is — that’s where you’ll find the real superfans with the purest love of fashion.

From Lois Fenton, a men's style writer who took notes from the back row of Christian Siriano, to Octavia Thompson and Asha Jackson, whose industry professor surprised them with tickets to their first show, the people you're about to meet will remind you of two things: 1. Fashion Week is an experience and 2. the seat you sit in is in no way correlated to your love of fashion.

Keep up with #BackRowIsBest on our Instagram account @R29Fashion as we get to know the intriguing, fashion-obsessed, and downright stylish attendees occupying the back rows. You never know who you might find.
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Photo by Erin Yamagata.
Lois Fenton
Lois Fenton, writer of Male Call, a style advice column for men, has been attending Fashion Week for over 20 years. When she took her seat in the back row — 20 minutes early, pen and paper in hand, ready to jot down her thoughts — we felt like we just had to find out her story. Hair did, nails did, everything done, there was a curious air about her, but she also seemed very warm, something you don’t always find at Fashion Week.

And her thoughts on style were just as charming: "The reason I like men's fashion is because something that's in for women this year is gone next year. But a man has to wear something for 30 or 40 years before it's considered 'out of style.' I always say that a man can inherit his father's tuxedo and it'd look perfect. But if a woman wore something from way back when, she'd look like an idiot."

As for why she was attending a women's runway show? "I like to attend shows because my readers like to think that I go to Fashion Week. And I like to go. It's fun." We agree, Lois. We'll see you in February.
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Photo by Erin Yamagata.
Gregory Johnson
Each season, Fashion Week offers up some of the most carefully crafted looks you’ll see outside of a fashion editorial. And in the case of jack-of-all-trades Gregory Johnson, attention to the little things is key (e.g., the matching top and clutch, that arm party). "I'm a fashion intern, a student at F.I.T., and I do some freelance styling on the side, which has helped me get here today. You could say I have my hands in the cookie jar when it comes to fashion."

However, when asked exactly how he got there, the details were artfully obfuscated: "I'm here on behalf of someone I help style from time to time who is too famous to reveal. Sometimes, we'll go to shows together. When she doesn't want to go, I get to go in her place."
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Photo by Erin Yamagata.
Claire Millar
Claire Millar of fashion blog Lately I've Been got her first exposure to the fashion world as a model. From a young age, she's modeled for Converse, who happens to be sponsoring her visit to NYFW this season. What that means, in her own words, is a lot of shoe boxes. "I'm a Chucks girl. I'll wear them with a silk evening gown any day. This Fashion Week, I get to put on a different pair of sneakers every day and make the same statements I would in a pair of heels." Preach.

When asked whether or not the sneaker dictated her looks, Millar said simply: "I think more about the clothes, in a way. I think to myself, 'Okay. I gotta make this look really interesting since I'm dressing down with a pair of Converse.' It gives you a lot of opportunity to be crazy on top."

And had we not approached her got to talking, we wouldn't have known this fun fact: Millar rents her apartment out to Ford Models, which means a constant flow of fresh faces in and out of her space. Her current roommate? Jarrod Scott. (Yeah, we know.)
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Photo by Erin Yamagata.
Asha Jackson & Octavia Thompson
Being a fashion student in any city has its perks. Fashion schools across the globe employ the best of the best from the industry, and if you're as lucky as California-based FIDM students Octavia Thompson and her friend Asha Jackson, you get a professor as good as theirs.

"One of my teachers is the designer of all of the BCBG stores. When I expressed my interest in wanting to go to shows, he emailed me literally a week ago saying he got tickets for me and Asha."

"This is our first fashion show, so I'll definitely remember this forever," Thompson beamed. The women's enthusiasm could be seen from across the room, which is a good reminder to anyone hoping to be a part of the industry that paying it forward can go a long, long way (from coast to coast).
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Photo by Erin Yamagata.
@modaobsession
@modaobsession
(who has chosen to remain anonymous in the spirit of her Instagram account) was second in the standing section waiting outside the venue of Jonathan Simkhai's Spring 2016 show. As a former furniture designer turned stay-at-home mom, fashion shows are for pure entertainment purposes only. How she gets there each season varies: "For my fifth wedding anniversary, my husband, who works in television, got us backstage passes to the Milly show and to meet [designer] Michelle Smith. I got to say hello and see all of the models getting ready. I don't know how he did it, but it was really cool."

And it’d seem that with a few Fashion Weeks under her belt already, she knows her stuff: Without missing a beat, she pointed out a woman deeper in the line who was dressed head to toe in one of Simkhai's designs from last season. But the reason she was attending this season was more on par with the rest of the showgoers: "My Instagram account only has, like, 5,000 followers, but I have a lot of friends who are higher up in the fashion industry, so it makes me seem more legitimate. But actually, last season when I came to Jonathan's show, I somehow found myself in the front row and my photos from the runway were the most liked photos from his show on Instagram. So, I think that may have helped me this season."

Sure enough, good fortune was on her side this season, too, and she made her way to an empty seat in the front row, where we snapped a photo of her.
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Photo by Erin Yamagata.
Courtney Flynn
The amount of countries represented at Fashion Week is enough to fill a conference at the United Nations. People come from all over the world to see what's going on and what they can take back home to their readers. Courtney Flynn, an intern at Vogue Australia and student at the Fashion Institute, flew 20-plus hours from Sydney to soak it in. But she's quickly realizing just how different the cultures can be.

"This is my first time in New York, and boy, do you guys have some big personalities. We have some similar people at home, but here, I've never heard so many swear words in my life. It's hard in Australia in fashion, because we're so small, but anything goes here in New York. They tell us to be professional and not take photos with celebrities and whatnot, but people here don't seem to care."

Flynn is here with a group of students who were carefully selected from her program to represent her school and to get some experience under her belt.

And a lesson in confidence: "Interning at Vogue Australia back home is a bit of tough love. You have to have thick skin when you're walking through the building. You'll be there from 8 a.m. but they won't let you leave until midnight. And we're not even on paid salaries.

"They basically gave us a list of shows we could go to and we're supposed to walk up to the counter and say we're with Vogue Australia — and then we get in. You'd be surprised by how many Australians are in New York."
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