the frow

Making Front-Row Seating Charts Is Harder This Season Than Ever Before

The front row — the frow, if you will — is the bane of any fashion publicist’s existence generally, but this season especially. The seating at fashion shows, as you probably know, is a direct reflection to the industry of how important people in it are. But these days, publicists have to make all kinds of people feel and look important while catering to their enemy rivalries. This means editors from rival magazines can’t sit next to each other, because if they do a chemical reaction could occur in the air molecules between them and they could spontaneously combust, sending the entire runway up in flames! No, seriously, they can’t sit next to each other because they’re rivals and — we don’t know — they might hiss and scratch?

Anyway, this summer saw an upheaval in fashion-magazine mastheads, as Stefano Tonchi went from T to W, Sally Singer went from Vogue to T, Anne Christensen went from T to Glamour, Candy Pratts Price went to after working at, split off from, and the list goes on. But do you see the intensely complicated enemy network that would arise from this? All the people who moved magazines and mandate frow seating won’t want to sit anywhere near their old employers, nor will their old employers want those people anywhere near them. And the frow is of limited real estate! It’s a headache for publicists and designers who are afraid of upsetting people.

“The front row is such a trauma,” said Mr. Khan, who will surely draw more eyes to his show since he dressed Michelle Obama for that infamous party-crashed state dinner last November. “I can’t have people coming backstage, crying, ‘I’m in the second row.’ ”

Thankfully, there are buffers to sit between editors, like celebrities and reality stars, but buffers aren’t what they once were — and come with their own dangers.

Before all the cross-title poaching, a newspaper critic or indie magazine editor could be positioned as a buffer between the rival factions — a sort of neutral country — but now, they may well be involved in intramural rivalries of their own. “We’ve lost our Switzerlands,” Mr. LaForce said.

Thank heaven for celebrities, the reality-show stars, and the ubiquitous cast of Gossip Girl. They are the new buffers, with a caveat, as Ms. Niro noted. “If you put someone next to Glenda Bailey,” she said, referring to the editor of Harper’s Bazaar, “Anna Wintour might not like it.”

But then there are the Tavis and Bryan Boys and other bloggers and tweeters and dot-coms this and that, and it’s all just too much for some people, like Michael Roberts, who was Vanity Fair’s fashion director until recently becoming the magazine’s style editor-at-large. He doesn’t even know if he’ll go to the New York shows this season. Keeping it all straight is too much of a headache, not his scene, damn the Internet, etc. But he notes:

“It has been changing for a while, since Billy Boy and that funny little girl who was 13 and looked 97 came along.”

He should know that that kind of brilliance on the frow will be missed.

At Fashion Week, It’s Where You Sit That Counts [NYT]

Making Front-Row Seating Charts Is Harder This Season Than Ever Before