“When I first moved to New York and I was totally broke, sometimes I would buy Vogue instead of dinner. I just felt it fed me more.” —Carrie Bradshaw
I recently joined a new company and our team went to lunch yesterday at Soho House to get to know one another better. We all took turns making introductions, and, instead of firing out key bullet points, we started sharing mini personal stories of a defining moment that made us move to New York. For one girl, it was going into business with her father. For another, it was reading through the encyclopedia as a child. I was the last person to go.
I wasn’t sure what to say exactly, but then it dawned on me: “An issue of Vogue was accidentally mailed to my house back in 1995.”
I still remember that moment, clear as day. It was a beautiful summer day in Texas and my dad had freshly mown our lawn. The smell of freshly cut grass still gets to me today. I was sitting at the picnic table in our front yard, under the shade of the tree that my parents had planted when I was born. I was fourteen years old.
Dad walked down the driveway to check the mail and shuffled through the stack as he made his way back up. He stood in front of the picnic table and tossed a magazine to me, “Here, this one’s for you.”
“Dad!” I said, excitedly, looking down at the glossy cover, “Did we order this?!”
“I think it was sent here by mistake,” he said, before disappearing into the house.
My knowledge of magazines before that was a smattering of Highlights for Kids, National Geographic, and Time. This, however, was fabulous. VOGUE, in all caps. A French word! It was the most sophisticated thing that I had encountered in my life thus far.
Kate Moss was wearing a minimalist pink satin shift dress by Calvin Klein with a pair of black pumps. It was her first Vogue cover. The saturated hue and luxuriousness of the Duchesse satin of the dress were foreign to me. I studied everything. The cut was so minimal, yet looked so… Expensive. I hadn’t seen anything close at the mall.
I recall coming to a page with bold-faced names, like Donna Karan and Isaac Mizrahi. I had no clue about how to pronounce their names, but the one thing that stood out was where they went to school: Parsons School of Design. I dog-eared this page and later boldly underlined this part. I must find out more. That’s where I need to be.
The issue featured Mod influences in fashion at the time. Kirsty Hume and Nikki Taylor were shot in an editorial together, wearing skinny black turtlenecks, string bikini bottoms, and kerchiefs on their head. Their eyes were defined with bold strokes of black kohl eyeliner and their lips were perfectly nude. I rushed into my mother’s vanity and experimented by dabbing her concealer on my lips. I gasped. It looked so modern. That magazine was my treasure. It unlocked a world that I could never even have imagined.
I daydreamed about going to Parsons until I was a junior in high school. When I met with my guidance counselor and told her that it was the only school I wanted to apply to, she scoffed at me. “That’s not very realistic,” she said, “I would recommend that you attend the community college here for two years and then transfer to the University of Texas, which has a fashion program. Or you could also look into applying to the Art Institute of Houston.” Was it that absurd of me to want to go to Parsons? It infuriated me and only made me more determined.
My cousin and her then-husband took me to New York for a weekend that spring so that we could visit the school. It was my first time on a plane. We shared a tiny room at the Holiday Inn in Times Square. The next day, we toured Parsons and sat through orientation, where they spoke about the rigorous program, the expectations, and how being smack-dab in New York City offers a dynamic energy not found in traditional university campuses. I didn’t want to go back home!
I applied and wrote an essay about Ralph Lauren’s advertising campaign for their new fragrance Romance. When my acceptance letter arrived in the mail, I stared at it everyday. I didn’t know how I would get there or how I would pay for it, but I was in. My family scrounged up money for airfare and my mother gave me a check for $1,500. I got on that plane not knowing with no idea what my life would become once I got off.
The cab stopped in front of the dormitory building on East 12th Street, near Third Avenue. Everyone else was surrounded by their parents and family. It was bustling with swarms of people. I stepped out of the cab with an overstuffed duffel bag and a huge, heavy cardboard box. Deep breath. Here I go.