Caffeine's a must in style whirl

The Baltimore Sun

New York -- Over the hectic eight days that make up Fashion Week - which is wrapping up today in New York's Bryant Park - what you eat is almost as important as what you wear.

After all, you'll need enough calories to get you from the Lacoste show at 10 a.m. to the Ralph Lauren show at 8:30 p.m., and back up again for the DKNY show the next morning. And yet, for the fashion-obsessed, there's always the worry about fitting into next season's slinky sarong.

"Everybody's like 'caffeine, caffeine,' " says Anastasia Wylie, 23, who was waiting under the tents with two friends one day last week to get into the Temperley London presentation. "I've had two cups of coffee - iced and hot. Normally, just one cup is enough."

Indeed, the food of Fashion Week isn't actually a solid food at all, but a beverage instead. Anything with a jolt of caffeine - espressos, Coke (Diet is the preferred variety) and punch-packing energy drinks - is consumed throughout the fashion extravaganza as if it were finals time on a college campus.

The energy boost is necessary. Fashion shows start as early as 9 a.m. and the last ones end sometime between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Then the parties begin, lasting until the wee hours. In between: receptions, showroom-viewings, camera-posing and air-kissing.

"You wind up eating sugar and carbs and things to keep you going," says Fern Mallis, senior vice president of IMG Fashion, which presents the New York shows each year. IMG, in fact, encourages sponsors of the runway presentations, who set up booths around the perimeter of the tents, to serve some kind of snack, Mallis says - because officials know that visitors often have little time to eat a real meal while attending shows.

This season, Dylan's Candy Bar served popcorn, MetLife handed out chocolate-covered pretzels, and a company called Nespresso offered scoops of ice cream in tiny cups of frothy espresso.

"Half the fashionistas kind of look the other way" at the treats, Mallis says. "The other half can't get them down fast enough."

Alison Brod, owner and founder of Alison Brod Public Relations, which helps publicize and organize many of the shows at Fashion Week, says the eight days under the tents are "the best diet program."

"You never sit down to a meal," she says. "You just take bites. The irony of it all is there's this amazing food backstage, for the models and all the crews, but you don't really get to eat it. So many people lose weight."

Brod is right about the food backstage. Many designers and their production teams hire caterers to feed the people who will put on each season's show.

At this year's Rebecca Taylor show, for instance, the designer brought in turkey sandwiches on both wheat bread and sub rolls, mango smoothies and assorted juices, a bowl of mixed berries topped with rich cream, cookies the size of bread plates and boxes and boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

"We eat whatever they have at the shows," says Danielle Hamm, 18, one of Taylor's red-lipped models who was eating a sandwich, a cookie and a pile of strawberries and cream while waiting backstage for the 5 p.m. show to begin.

"Coffee would be awesome if they had it, because half the time we're really tired. My favorite is those Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I've already had two," Hamm says.

And we thought models didn't eat. Turns out, it's the behind-the-scenes workers who are willing to waste away for the sake of beauty.

Victor Henao, an assistant makeup artist working for M.A.C. cosmetics at the Rebecca Taylor show, details his Fashion Week diet: "Water and cigarettes. Oh, and coffee and doughnuts."

Henao finds this diet to be delicious and nutritious.

"That covers all four food groups, doesn't it?" he says. "There's dairy in coffee; you've got wheat in doughnuts. And there's protein in cigarettes."

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