nyfw spring 2023

TikTok Helped People Scam Their Way Into Fashion Week

Photo: Sean Zanni/Getty Images for 1PENEMY

New York Fashion Week’s shows and parties are typically reserved for a relatively small number of people — select members of the media, some buyers, influencers, and a handful of invested celebs. This year, TikTok users decided to change that.

Sneaking into fashion shows is nothing new. New Yorkers and students in the city have been doing it for ages as a rite of passage. But there was something particularly mayhem-inducing about the sheer volume of people attempting to attend shows this season.

In August, videos began circulating on TikTok with titles like “How to get invited to NYFW” and “The secrets to getting into NYFW.” TikTok user Tiffany Baira created a video that shares what she calls the “holy grail” — a highly coveted PR contact list for the brands presenting at Fashion Week — which could be found at the link in her Instagram bio (or is available to the public via the official NYFW website). In the video, Baira notes the list is outdated but promises that many of the contacts are still the same. It garnered around 350,000 views and nearly 55,000 likes. A comment under the TikTok read, “I love that you never gatekeep anything. You always share your knowledge,” to which Baira replied, “Tbh I always had to learn all this the hard way and want to do whatever I can to help up and coming artists.” And that was just the beginning.

Quickly, a number of other TikToks began sharing the emails list, including one that highlighted a homemade spreadsheet filled with direct contacts to publicists running shows during the week, including highly coveted ones such as Tom Ford, Coach, and Collina Strada.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with helping each other out,” says Sydney Bernhardt, a 23-year-old content creator who posted a video on how to request an invitation to a show and included a list of PR emails in the link in her profile. “And more so, trying to get rid of the gatekeeping concept, and more so, helping other women.”

The race to democratize Fashion Week was on — but not at the cost of turning a profit. People were still determined to make coin. One guide to Fashion Week was being sold for $99. I’m nosy, so I bought it. The Dropbox file contained two email templates: one for requesting an invitation to a show and another for asking designers and publicists to pull clothing from their collections to wear during the week. The rest of the kit included another list of PR emails, which were a mixed bag of generic, incorrect, and blank; a video that was also available, for free, on the influencer’s YouTube; and a PDF titled “The Ultimate Guide to New York Fashion Week” filled with open-ended suggestions, like staying in a hostel and taking the train while in the city.

I had just wasted $99. Others likely had too.

It almost goes without saying that fashion should not be reserved for the elite. It should be a practice, and even an escape, for anyone. But for publicists like Lindsey Solomon, who runs the public-relations firm Lindsey Media and is responsible for brands like Collina Strada, Sandy Liang, and Susan Alexandra, it was hell.

“I can’t tell you how many emails I got this season for requests. It’s three to four times as much as I usually get,” Solomon told me between shows. “I appreciate the due diligence that it takes. But the general consensus is like, you find the information and you just bombard them, and it’s just not appropriate.”

Solomon said he took 24 hours offline during Labor Day weekend to deal with a family emergency. Upon his return, he had received more than 1,000 emails in one day alone.

“I’ll be perfectly honest, I feel doxxed,” he said. “Where the email is so out of left field, so random, it’s like, How did you get my email?

I had to be the one to let him know I had seen his email in multiple videos on TikTok, available to anyone the algorithm may deem even remotely interested either in fashion or in being seen at a fashion event. He, in turn, shared the most unhinged email he had received, though he couldn’t for certain prove the sender had found his contact info on the app. The email highlighted the sender’s relationship with a “highly connected” finance bro named Chad and included this iconic sentence, which I will be adding to my résumé: “I am beautiful, and I understand press optics, so you can rest assured that my physical image and composition will expertly cater to the atmosphere.”

“I definitely don’t think there’s anything wrong with sharing emails with your friends who are other content creators, because I definitely think a lot of times brands are looking for content creators,” Bernhardt said when I asked about the fashion community’s thoughts on sharing publicists’ emails. “And it not only helps them with outreach, but the worst that a brand can do is just say no, like, politely decline your email.”

For some publicists, however, like Gia Kuan, declining a request wasn’t necessarily an option. Kuan, who runs the firm Gia Kuan Consulting and was also inundated with requests for show accommodations, saw her overflowing inbox essentially come to life at the Marc Jacobs Heaven after-party. In the days leading up to it, there was a consistent piece of postshow gossip that the invitation to the party, where Doja Cat, Charli XCX, and PinkPantheress were all slated to perform, had been leaked on social media. Speaking as someone who arrived at this event promptly around its start time of 10 p.m. and happened upon a crowd so large it wrapped around the block, it seemed the rumors were true.

“On the day of the event, someone told me they saw the flier on TikTok, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I have to brace for the worst,’” Kuan said. “And we did have a crazy big crowd, it was madness — but in the end, it was under control.”

Kuan said over 2,000 people showed up, far more than expected.

I was personally far too tired to deal with being pushed, as one often is when a large number of people are attempting to get into any sort of door, so I turned around and went home. Braver souls, like Jared Muros, stuck it out. He ended up sneaking into the party behind a group of people who were pulled in by Kuan’s team, and he posted about his experience on TikTok.

“I was watching a lot of YouTube and TikTok videos about how to get invited and how to get in,” Muros said of his Fashion Week prep. One of those videos was Baira’s. A model himself, Muros also walked right into Vogue World, the star-studded conglomerate event for which tickets reportedly cost $3,000. “If they don’t want people to sneak in, they need to up their game or up their security,” Muros added. “Most of the stuff, I just walked right in. I don’t want to blame anybody, but it’s more on them. I know no matter what, I’m going to get into these events.”

Even the gatekeepers in PR who are currently besieged by requests know that the system is broken and that a great party needs some element of chaos. Still, they’re trying to both obey the fire codes and keep their clients happy.

“I think people need to have an understanding of how much work is put into the production of a tight, well-curated show. And to have people come and expect that they can just come in and sit wherever they want?” Kuan said. “I also don’t like gatekeeping fashion. I think it is something that’s for everyone, but there’s a time and a place for that.”

This post has been updated.

TikTok Helped People Scam Their Way Into Fashion Week