December 27, 2016
After last New York Fashion Week, I was struck with the inspiration to write a speculative short story. Here it is.
February 2017, New York City
In the mirrored TriBeCa lobby, Kira Nova is visibly exquisite from all angles, which doesn’t stop her mother from kneeling to remove Shih Tzu hairs one by one from Kira’s ripped black jeans. Kira’s eyes are curtained under her mink lash extensions while her iPhone 7’s white light glistens on her lipstick. A brand new, small, cream coloured, butter soft Lion Lee clutch hangs from her wrist by its subversive shoelace straps, like a boxing glove for a robot.
Beside her is Michael Morris, her agent, also deeply involved in his iPhone screen.
“Oh my god. Willow and Jaden are going to be at Lion Lee’s afterparty too.” Kira says to no one in particular.
“Did he text back yet?” her mother asks, flicking Shih Tzu hairs on to the glossy floor of the lobby.
“Mom, he’s working in LA today, I told you.” Kira says, looking away to regard herself in the mirror. She tugs tensely on an ombre tendril of blonde hair.
The elevator opens, and the three walk inside.
“Ok, so if Insiders Inc says $90K we’ve all agreed it’ll be worth it just to set a record for an online influencer.” Michael says, smoothing his own glistening black hair. “I’ll be surprised if they do! It’s high even for an A-lister, unless we concede exclusivity.”
“No!!! I have to go to Lion Lee!”
“So you have to be prepared to walk away. But if we get what we want, you’re going to have to do the work, Kira. Be friendly with Martin, wear the clothes, get the street style coverage, be seen having fun at the afterparty.”
“Ok, I promise.” Kira says, her voice flat but her face radiant, beatific.
“Good girl. Game on.”
Christina Bishop, account executive at Insiders Inc is pacing in her pantyhose feet on the smooth hardwood floor in the TriBeCa office.
“Ok Adam here’s the deal. Martin is being a total bitch this season. He threw a fit yesterday and threatened to switch to KCD if we can’t book Kira. He’s dreaming though if he thinks she’ll show up for under 50k. He’s not that hot, hasn’t been since the 80’s if we’re being honest, and Kira’s going to be looking out for her brand. But money talks. Even if we have to take a hit it’s worth it to keep the Major account, and being on good terms with Kira won’t hurt the bottom line either. So Darren authorized me to offer up to 90k if we have to.”
“Wow,” Adam says, leaning on the edge of the rustic reclaimed wood table, tucking his long hair behind his ear. “Do you think she’ll accept exclusivity?”
“Since you’re young and handsome I want you to wait on her hand and foot, do anything to make her feel special. I’m going to be doing most of the talking with Michael, he’s a notoriously tough negotiator.” On the table, Christina’s phone lights up. “Here they are,” she says, stepping into her stilettos.
They walk out into the vaulted, airy reception area, Christina extending her hand to Kira. They meet with a gliding, perfectly executed double cheek kiss.
“Kira, you look absolutely wonderful! Is this your mother? Enchanted, I can see where Kira gets her charm from. Michael how are you, great to see you as always. Can Adam get you a latte, cappuccino, espresso? The pastries just arrived from Balthazar.” Christine gestures towards a massive pyramid of warm, fragrant croissants beside an abundant display of fresh flowers.
“No I’m fine thanks,” Kira smiles brilliantly, softening her refusal. Her mother and Michael also demur.
“Great! Well let’s get to business then – here, come into my office. No, please, you first. Sit wherever you wish!”
“It’s incredibly stupid to be moving during fashion month. I have no idea where anything is and there isn’t enough room for all this crap here anyway. I miss the old office.” Enhance Magazine’s petite fashion editor Sally Masters steps over a box and lands in her desk chair heavily.
“Can’t we get Jessica to organize this stuff?” Gloria the editorial assistant asked.
“Didn’t you hear Jessica took the buyout yesterday!” Sally rolls her eyes. “Frankly I’m beginning to wish I had too, maybe I could be sitting on a beach right now instead of living through this waking nightmare.” She sits up straight and opens her notebook. “I can’t believe what a struggle it is to get tickets this season! Did you call KCD about Lion Lee?”
“Yes I did, they said there was no mistake, they could only send one ticket this season because the venue is so unusual…”
“Do you have it? Show me,” Sally grabs the stiff black envelope from Gloria and rips it in half to reveal the brushed aluminum invitation. “What the fuck. The show is in Brooklyn? Fucking hell!” She opens her laptop and clicks on the calendar. “I’m supposed to be on 7th Avenue interviewing Martin Major at 3pm. I don’t know how I’m supposed to be in Brooklyn by 4pm. God damn it.”
Gloria’s skin flushes prettily, hopefully.
“I could send you to interview Martin,” Sally continues.
Gloria’s face goes pale.
“…but then Gerard is going to be pissed because Major’s a huge advertiser… and you’re the street style darling because you’re tall. So here you go,” Sally throws the invitation back to Gloria, who drops it. It hits the floor with a clanging noise. Gloria picks it up, holding the cold metal to her heart. “Make sure you wear something really great,” Sally continues, “they’ll be looking at your influence numbers in your review next month. I don’t know if there’s any Lion Lee in the closet right now. KCD keeps saying everything is already loaned out. You might have to buy something.”
“Of course!” Gloria says, mentally calculating her credit limit.
“Lucky bitch. Take the subway if you can, Gerard’s on my case about expenses.” She sighs. “It’s not like it used to be. Did you talk to Dylan?”
“Yes he’s out shooting already. He sent the first batch of pictures from yesterday.”
Gloria spins her laptop around and they shuffle through the Dropbox album Dylan sent. “That’s a beautiful one,” Gloria says, “look at her hair in the light!”
“But who is she? She’s no one. You can hardly see her face and those shoes are from two seasons ago. It’s useless. Where is Kira Nova?”
“He said he didn’t get her. I don’t think she’s gone to any shows yet.”
“Bullshit! I’m texting him.” Sally frowns at her iPhone. “If we can’t get Kira on the main page no one’s going to click on shit and Gerard’s going to fire us all and fold the damn thing. Gloria, see what you can salvage and get that slideshow up before you leave for Lion Lee. Make sure the first picture is someone, anyone.”
Dylan Darwin’s glasses fog up as soon as he enters the Starbucks. So does the viewing screen on his camera, which he wipes carefully with a soft cloth.
“Did you get Gloria?” Dylan’s buddy Aki asks.
“Yeah, she looks amazing.” He cues up the shots on his camera and they put their heads together to look. “She turns it out every time. I don’t know why she doesn’t start her own thing. Enhance barely pays her. They barely pay me,” Dylan shakes his head.
“It’s cute how she has no clue how hot she is. But she can’t sell it if she doesn’t believe it,” Aki says thoughtfully. The two young men lower their heavy knapsacks carefully on to the crowded communal table. Other patrons shoot them dirty looks for taking up so much space. Dylan immediately opens his laptop and hooks his phone up to his portable charger. “Can I grab you something?” Aki asks.
“Yeah a double espresso… and a couple Red Bulls for later. And a breakfast sandwich. I’m already running on empty here.”
“Seriously man, it’s only day two.”
“I was up until 3am editing and barely caught the train on time for Victoria Beckham. And now my phone’s blowing up. What now.” Dylan turns his attention to his vibrating iPhone.
Aki returns and Dylan shoots back his double espresso like a shot of whiskey. “Where’s Kira, where’s Kira,” he exclaims in falsetto. “Fuck I wish I didn’t need the money. If I could just shoot babes like Gloria all day I’d be in heaven.”
“Shooting these big girls is hazardous,” Aki says “you’ve gotta be like Bruce Lee out there to deal with the paps, security, fans. Remember Josh fucked up his knee getting that shot of Gigi? Street style is getting too crazy, man.”
“Josh got the shot though.” Dylan says, and pauses, tenses. “I’m gonna kill that bitch.”
“Good luck pal,” Aki says, unzipping his parka. “I’ll keep an eye out for you.”
Sally is in the all white and silver showroom on Seventh Avenue, the grey midtown skyline clinging to the floor to ceiling windows. She is looking even tinier than usual because she is seated on a very long, low couch with a tall glass of champagne on a long glass table in front of her. Sitting across from her is the icon himself, fashion designer Martin Major. Behind him is a Polaroid photograph of Martin as a very young, handsome boy posing between Halston and Andy Warhol at Studio 54, blown up to life size.
“This is really a collection for the modern girl… she’s connected, she’s recognized…” Martin says dreamily, “by following her on Instagram we can all feel like we’re in her pocket!” He giggles.
Sally starts to write that down, except she can’t justify why she would want to remember something so inane, so she stops and takes a drink. When she turns back to Martin she’s momentarily distracted by his oddly wide nose… it’s how people look these days when they’ve had too many injections.
“Um, so…” Sally stalls and falls back in relief when an assistant enters and grabs Martin’s attention.
“They’re here!” Martin exclaims. “I’m so sorry, I have to run right now. I can’t tell you why. So great talking to you, Stacy!” He prances out of the room, like he’s on his way to the disco.
Sally is alone in the showroom. She looks out at the Chrysler building and sighs. How is she going to write 500 words about this non-encounter? Not that anyone’s going to read it anyway. She looks down at her phone. Dylan has just sent her a picture of Gloria flourishing her new Lion Lee coat in snowy Brooklyn. Sally knocks back the rest of the Champagne in one gulp.
“What if she’s not there?” Martin says anxiously. On his phone is Kira’s latest post on Instagram: a shot of her with Lion Lee backstage after the show, both smiling broadly. Martin’s chin is puckered with doubt. He doesn’t double tap the picture.
“Christina says she’s going to be changing to go to Proenza and she’s thrilled to see the clothes. It’s going to be fine.” Andy, Martin’s assistant, pats his arm gently. The car pulls up to the Ritz-Carlton and the two men get out, Andy unloading the garment bags and boxes on to a brass dolly, while Martin checks in with the concierge.
In the elevator, Martin unzips a garment bag and pokes a finger in to touch the fringed dress inside. “Do we have everything?”
“Three outfit options and the new booties… yes it’s all here.” Andy pats Martin on the shoulder again. The older man paces in place in the elevator, and then the door slides open. They walk down the hall and knock on the door.
A very silent, slow moment passes, all that is audible is Martin’s shallow breathing. Then the door opens. It’s Kira.
She’s tinier than expected, barefoot, wearing a bathrobe. Even without makeup, her face is unnervingly beautiful, large eyes and dark lashes and eyebrows, even her skin seems to emit light somehow. Martin gasps and they perform the double kiss. “You’re even more gorgeous in real life,” he gushes.
“Oh, hardly,” Kira says. “It takes an army to put me together actually, come meet everyone!” They enter the sitting room of the suite. Kira sits in a chair in the center while introductions are distributed to Andy, her mother, Alice the make-up artist, the dogs, and her agent Michael, who takes on the bulk of the conversation while Kira’s makeup is being applied. The room has a warm, powdery, perfumed atmosphere.
Andy and Martin pull out the outfit options for perusal – the fringed dress, the cashmere turtleneck with the feathered skirt, the suede romper, each to a chorus of “so cute!” “I love it! “Kira this will look so great on you.”
“The booties just came in today,” Martin says, “so this is an absolute exclusive. I promise that you are the first girl in the world to try them on.” He kneels and opens the box as if he is proposing marriage. Everyone giggles.
“Wow,” Kira says, pulling the open toe bootie out of the box. “These are so hot!” Her eyes open wide along with her mouth creating a photo-ready face that conveys absolute delight. Like a mirror, Martin’s own face spontaneously spreads into something similar but more genuine and less photogenic.
“I’m so sorry but I have to get dressed for the next show now!” Kira says suddenly. “Thank you so much for such beautiful things,” there is a flurry of double kisses scattered around the room and somehow Martin and Andy find themselves back in the glossy, silent hallway.
“I think that went well!” Andy says.
“Oh god.” Martin says, bereft. “She hates them!”
Kira stands barefoot, hair and makeup done, reflected and multiplied in front of the three-way mirror, lacy triangles of lingerie tied loosely around her smoothly curved, tanned torso, the day’s potential garments hanging on a rolling rack behind her. She takes a mirror selfie, just for herself, or maybe for Justin.
She bends down and slides her foot into the left open toe bootie, and as she balances on one toe to put on the other, she falls over abruptly on to the plush carpet.
“Are you ok my baby? I’m so sorry I didn’t see what happened there!” her mother says, picking her daughter up. Kira’s skin is soft and warm, with youthful resilience, headily perfumed with Roar, Lion Lee’s debut scent.
“I’m ok. I don’t think these heels are properly balanced,” Kira says. She stands and jiggles her stance, placing weight on the heels and then removing it, her shoulders and hips hypnotically rotating to balance. Alice comes and stands beside Kira’s mother, observing the tilt of the heels.
“Which outfit are we wearing?” her mother asks.
“Definitely the feather skirt and turtleneck.” Kira says, pulling the shirt over her head. Alice starts fussing with her hair again. “Do I have to wear the shoes?”
“You have to wear the shoes!” Michael’s voice rings out from the living room. “Christina will bust my balls if you don’t.”
“What makes you think I care about your balls?” Kira says, putting the hook in the eye on the waistband of the feathered skirt.
“Hmmm… I can think of just about 90,000 reasons,” Michael says.
“I’d rather wear my Weitzmans… it’s cold out too! Look outside it’s snowing!”
“The Weitzmans are too high for the skirt, there’s no separation, it’ll make you look chunky,” Alice points out.
“Are you sure you’ll be ok?” her mother says, dubiously. “You’d feel very silly if you fell in front of everyone. Imagine it on Page Six.”
“I mean, I wore those sadistic Loubies for that shoot in Covent Garden, jumping all over the place and I never fell even once. I think I can handle these ones just fine, if all I have to do is get from the car to the runway. They do look super-cute with the outfit.”
To this last point, everyone agreed, including Michael. “Oh yeah. If anyone can make Martin Major look hot, it’s you, Kira. It’s a fashion week miracle.”
Thirty minutes later, Kira is seated on the leather backseat of her car, snowflakes blowing outside the window, cab horns honking outside in the midday midtown traffic. Lifting her iPhone to the ceiling of the car, she manages to capture the entire outfit, even including the shoes in one corner of the square frame. She pouts, gently rolling her eyes like a cartoon character, regarding her own face coolly as it assumes that specific form that is rewarded with the most likes.
“Super excited… to be wearing… @martinmajor … Michael was there a hashtag?”
“They’re holding up the runway for you,” Michael says, taking Kira’s phone and adding the contractually obligated hashtag.
“Awesome,” Kira smiles. “Todd” she says, addressing the bodyguard in the front seat. “Make sure you stay back farther than you did at Proenza so you’re not photo-bombing all my shots.”
The car stops and Todd gets out and opens the door for Kira. Stepping out on tiptoe, her hair blowing into her face as she puts on her sunglasses, and already there is the sound of boots hitting the pavement and shutters clicking.
Blowing on his fingers in a vain attempt to warm them, Dylan hears the footsteps and looks up at Aki. They nod wordlessly and start moving in opposite directions, knowing that she’s here and hedging their bets over what direction she’ll take.
“Kira! Kira!”, the paparazzi assholes start yelling.
Dylan runs as fast as he can into the intersection, faster than anyone else, checking his shoulder but feeling, rather than seeing, the flow of traffic around him. Horns start honking aggressively and he ignores them. He allows his body to turn onto autopilot. The wind is blowing from the northwest and suddenly there she is, crossing the street, her hair whipping sideways away from her face, and miraculously he has a clear shot of her from head to foot and everything else fades into the background. She looks incredible. Time slows down. It’s happening. “What the fuck,” Dylan can’t believe it. It’s the money shot.
Dylan starts running backwards without looking, adjusting his focus, his heart beating wildly.
“Like it wasn’t even ten minutes,” Sally moaned. “And I’m supposed to write 500 words about this collection? Spoiler alert, it just looks like every girl on Instagram, like Major is so desperate to be relevant.”
“On Twitter they say that Kira’s going to Major!” Grace says, frantically scrolling her phone “They’re holding up the show for her!”
“Thank God she is even later than us. He must be paying her a mint,” Sally says. “Dylan better shoot her arrival and send it to me by the final exit. Yesterday’s numbers were pathetic.” She leans forward to direct the UBER driver “It’s the next right. Can you speed it up?”
Time suddenly resumes it’s furious pace, as another photographer jumps in front of Dylan’s shot. “Get the fuck out!” Dylan shouts, gesturing wildly while trying to run ahead of his rival.
“Fuck you!” the other photographer yells, running towards Kira and crowding the shot. Kira quickly tries to dodge the conflict just as the traffic light changes – a cab brakes suddenly, a police officer blows his whistle – in a heartbeat Kira slips on a patch of ice and falls in front of a turning vehicle.
“The venue’s on the right here” Sally directs the UBER driver. “Hurry up we’re late!” Then there’s a bump and a horrible crunching sound.
From The New York Times:
Beloved influencer Kira Nova, followed by millions on Instagram, and recently rumoured to be dating Justin Bieber, stumbled on ice in the street and was hit by an UBER while running late from her sponsored luxury car to the midtown venue of a fashion show for renowned American fashion designer Martin Major. Observers at the scene estimate she was being shot by approximately 60 street style photographers at the time. Nova was rushed to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. Martin Major, openly weeping on the runway, canceled the fashion show which was being held up in anticipation of Nova’s arrival.
Fashion industry leaders expressed devastation at the tragic loss of Nova, aged 21, and vow to end the rampant scourge of street style photographers which is blamed for her death. Police are asking all street style photographers at the scene to submit all photos taken of the incident to reconstruct the moments that led to Nova’s death.
Bieber could not be reached for comment.
Correction: hospital records confirm Nova’s age at the time of her death was 26, not 21 as per her official website.
Among the thousands of photographs collected from Saturday morning’s incident, in one a street style photographer is seen seemingly directing Kira into traffic in the background of another photographer’s shot. That shot is on the cover of today’s New York Post. The image goes viral as fans of Kira and conspiracy theorists insist that the pointing photographer is responsible for Kira’s death. Dylan Darwin immediately becomes the target of an internet witch hunt, his website hacked and his personal information doxxed, and is promptly fired by his client, the fashion magazine Enhance.
Amid rumours that the passengers of the vehicle involved were in fact editors of the same magazine, publisher Gerard Park announces that the 40 year old magazine will fold, citing financial difficulties. The driver of the UBER, identified as a Spanish speaking immigrant, has been taken into police custody.
The CFDA makes the unprecedented decision to cancel NYFW mid-week. Designers are restricted to having showroom appointments for buyers only while industry leaders scramble to come up with a strategy for the European fashion weeks.
On Sunday night, Kira’s final Instagram photo becomes the “most liked” of all time, the comment section becomes an endless scrolling shrine of flower and heart and crying face emojis, along with less sentimental comments like “killer shoes”.