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May 18, 2006

Front Row Ps and Qs

Text by Bandana Tewari. Illustration by Farzana Cooper

It is well known that the show-stoppers on the ramp are sometimes overshadowed by the front row habitués. Bandana Tewari gives you tips on how to snag your share of the limelight by sliding sinuously into the coveted seats

Any front row habitué will tell you, after many a stirred martini, that getting one’s derrière on a front row seat is a socio-economic coup. There is a delicious reciprocity between designer and (front-row) designate. After all, it’s a fashion truism that luxury needs women to desire. But more importantly, having beautiful women sit on the front row makes luxury desirous.  So for better or worse, designers and their PR posse find it utterly convenient to pigeonhole the stylish sisterhood in order to facilitate the process of approval or elimination for the front row seats. So here’s how you can snag your share of the limelight!

Mind your Front Row Ps!
POISE: noun; great coolness and composure under strain.
Whether it’s a sulky pout whose faux melancholia exudes a certain War & Peace charm or a seductive Gatsby pose that radiates international glamour, to be fashionably self assured (yet emotionally unsure) is key. Dare you arrive without crimson varnish and opulent rings, legs moisturised to a glamorous sheen, hair and make-up airbrushed with a sweep of nonchalance, and hope to covet that seat? No! Finding the right combination of front row poise and personality is like finding the right foundation for your skin. It can take years before hitting upon the goop that can make you au naturel.

POSEUR: noun; a person who habitually pretends to be something he is not.
If you think it’s just the models, think again. The front row habitué is also the owner of the spectator’s gaze so it’s important to give your best performance. It’s well known that sometimes the chameleons on the ramp are overshadowed by those on the front row. So take your pick. Can you be the Animated Flutterby who repeatedly tosses her head and squeals in delight, making the secret that she coos into her neighbour’s ear seem utterly delicious and unattainable to the second row enthusiasts?  Or are you the Cerebral Stylista whose love for asymmetry, Mary Janes and crochet necklaces is a silent condemnation of Hiltonesque fashion? This may not necessarily mean she can give a discourse on Post Modernist Fashion but she’ll certainly point out, very quickly, the last season’s LV shoes ‘so-o’ unbecoming on her best friend. Or are you the Ethnic Clunk? Everything she wears is clunky and clumsy but she wears it with India pride. Overblown gypsy skirt, beads and bindis and enough beaten gold or tarnished silver to fill a full-size bank vault. This one is sometimes seen as a front row hazard (she’s usually swathed in yards of fabric) and she’s likely to snitch another seat for her favourite nephew who is all of ten years old.

POMP: noun; ceremonial elegance and splendour.
The hallmark of a front row proficient is to be able to sneer or be smug, not in a rude but in a reserved manner. This for you is displayed with great alacrity by the Fashion Pomp who is the queen of Limited Editions. Weaned into fashion protocol from childhood (The Cartier Trinity ring was a gift for turning three) she has no qualms pooh-poohing fashion for being trivial and transient, and style, of course, eternal. (Living in excess is humbling sometimes). Nonetheless her secret front row confidence still comes from knowing whether it’s a Spy, Gaucho, Baguette, Birkin or Kelly, she has the limited edition one sitting next to her like a warm cat. In fact, for anyone willing to snag a front row presence, please, never underestimate the power of the bag. The right bag is to you what the chihuahua is to Paris Hilton – highly decorative and photo-op extraordinaire. Sometimes you may have to leave your spouse behind just so you can walk your bag.

PLEBEIAN: noun; unrefined or coarse in nature or manner.
Front row has a beguiling glamour attached to it that can sometimes be seen in the same light as say, celebrity fixation. But no one wants to be fixated. So never display overt enthusiasm about desiring a front row seat. It’s mode hara-kiri. What this really means in fashion parlance is never be ‘too wanting’. Designers have a strong sense of smell. Their noses are located somewhere between their groin and their solar plexus. Desperation is a smell they can identify even in their sleep. So to be over-enthusiastic is to be a Pleb. For the initiates ‘pleb’ is short for ‘plebeian’ meaning ‘vulgar commoner’, someone whose fashion delight could range from loud costume jewellery to flouting fashion’s cardinal rule: wearing fake Chanel tweeds. But there is also the Reverse Pleb. A Reverse Pleb will be seated head to toe in different designer labels (all genuine) thrown together with the enthusiasm of a three-year-old decorating an Xmas tree. You don’t want to be that.

Designer Cajoling: A Dummy’s Guide to Front Row Rites of Passage:
Spend, Buy, Splurge just six months before the show. You will climb up his list of ‘spenders to watch out for’. But go beyond six months and you’ll qualify as ‘real’ consumer and you may be sidelined.

If you don’t know what to say about his design sensibility, just say Avant-Garde. He’ll be smug as a bug.

Agree wholeheartedly when he says functionality has nothing to do with fashion. Wear that brocade coat in the heat of April just to appease him.

Agree that shows should start late. It allows ‘ambience time’ meaning people will have no choice but to look at you for a dreadfully long period of time.

Get this right and yours is a true coming of age of a social dilettante. And whether you have Jerry Oppenheimer’s Front Row book tucked comfortably under your arm or not, just remember, ever so often to stroke your bag like it were your favourite pet. All eyes will be on you!

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