So I'm walking down the street in Soho with Hannes and Larry and Kathy and Jenny when the woman, a complete stranger, stops me and exclaims, "Ohmygod! Is that a Kara Janx top?"
Here's the backstory. The past few weeks, I have been filled with excitement. Season Three of Project Runway has begun. Although I've been a fan since Season One, I owe the discovery of this wonderfully creative, catty, and inspiring show to my friends Helen and Kate. They nagged me throughout Season One, before I saw the light. "Have you watched?" Every Thursday morning, I had to hear their persistent nagging. No! I don't have time for Project Runway. Anyway, it was a Saturday morning that first season, a winter morning, when I stumbled across a Project Runway marathon. Here's a secret about me. I love watching television on Saturday morning. I mostly love old movies at that hour, sometimes as early as six a.m. But with the advent of the reality TV show, I've been known to linger on Bravo or BBC America on a Saturday morning. So this particular Saturday which fell during that week or two between the selection of the final three and the Fashion Week runway show, I caught all the back episodes of Project Runway. I was addicted instantly.
So now we're in Season Three. Not only did I find religion, but I introduced my sister Darla to Project Runway (she was a natural -- she had a friend who was friend's with Nick from Season Two -- it was inevitable), she got her husband hooked on it, I got my own husband hooked on it, and I fished out friends and co-workers who shared the addiction. The sewing, the designs, the drama, the gay men! What's not to love about his show? But most of all, we love Tim Gunn.
But I digress. I think I'd watched two episodes of Season Three -- the last one I'd seen was the one where my beloved Malan was eliminated. What a lovely person. Sure his dress looked a bit like a log and was too short. But he had heart and vision and determination. He deserved to stay. I was in the reception area in my office when I overheard a couple of my younger co-workers talking about Project Runway. "I love Project Runway," I interruped them. Immediately, we were engaged in a hen session. "I love Malan," one of them said. "Angela sucks, did you hear about Keith and the sketches?" I was complete. There was Amanda, Shakima, Aprill, Meaghan (the new girl whom I'd hardly spoken two words to), and suddenly they were my bestest of friends. It was a Wednesday, I think. I went home gleefully that evening to watch Project Runway. When I came in on Thursday we debriefed.
Now this particular Thursday, Hannes was away on business, and I had plans to keep myself busy by attending an art vernissage at a gallery in Chelsea. All week I'd pondered what I'd wear to this event so that I'd look hip and stylish, just like the women in Sex and the City. I'd planned to wear a cool halter top with jeans and high heels to push me way above my normal six feet stature.
I was poring over e-mails from my new bestest friends when Aprill sends along an invitation to a party for Kara Janx at Girlshop, a hip little boutique in the meatpacking district. It was also that same night and the same time as my vernissage, but who isn't going to try to work in a party with Kara Janx an almost finalist from Season Two and my beloved Malan who'd been cut (criminally so) from show two of Season Three. Keith was also supposed to be there, but most of us could already tell he was an a-hole.
I asked the girls if they were going to the Kara Janx party. Aprill said no. She wasn't dressed appropriately, she said. That day, she wore jeans and a very cute tee, but she felt it wasn't Project Runway enough. Amanda seemed like she could be talked into it, but she similarly felt she was underdressed in her jeans and Old Navy top. I said, "Ladies, you are a blank canvass." They weren't buying it.
I e-mailed my girls Darla and Kate and Helen with news of the party. Kate e-mailed me back right away and told me she knew the woman who owns Girlshop. Outstanding coincidence! Unfortunately, Kate was already committed for the evening, although she was kicking herself, as she too felt the need to work in a Kara Janx party if possible. It wasn't possible for her. So I knew I had to go to the party for all my Project Runway loving friends and family. Somehow, I talked Aprill and Amanda into it. Did they fall for that "blank canvass" line? Probably not. I think what did it for them is that I proposed that we go to the vernissage first and have a glass of wine. After that, they would be loose and wouldn't care what Kara Janx or Malan or anyone else thought of the way they were dressed.
I don't know what I expected. I guess I thought it would be a huge party, and I wouldn't be able to get near the Project Runway celebs. Or perhaps I even thought they wouldn't REALLY be there. Whatever. It was a small, very intimate party. They were there, except for Keith. We weren't feeling him anyway, remember?
I told the girls -- straight to the booze ladies. There were free Midori cocktails. We took whatever they were pouring and casually began looking through the clothing racks. Very, very hip store, that Girlshop. There were several people dressed in variations of Kara Janx signature kimono-style dress. This was the famous dress she'd worn on the runway -- and maybe it was the show where she was eliminated -- and the judge (I'm going to guess it was Michael Kors) said something like, "Why would you send your model down the runway in THAT? What's that dress you're wearing? Did you design it? It's fabulous. You should have put her in that!" From that day forward, the Kara Janx dress was famous. I think it was available on the internet, but at 200 and some dollars, the stretchy casualish dress was a bit too rich for my taste. So where was I? We found the Kara Janx rack. I don't recall even fully reading the invitation, but when I saw the sign above her rack, "Fall 2006," I remembered that the party was a pre-launch of her fall line. These kimono dresses and tops in various stylish color combinations must have been the cornerstone. We moved on.
We sidled up to Malan first. He was talking to a middle-aged woman wearing a tee shirt that said something about Tim Gunn on the front. Malan was graciously saying goodbye to her. As she pushed past us, I noticed her shirt was autographed all over. Geez. It was a crazy fan lady. All of a sudden, my friends and I felt a rush of courage. If Malan was that lovely to this sideshow stalker lady, he would never chase us away. We greeted him. He shook our hands, smiled broadly, and delicately bowed his head to us. He was wearing a beautiful chocolate brown pin-striped blazer, brown pants, and some kick-ass reptilian black shoes with severe, squared toes. Nice. Extraordinarly stylish, but very understated. None of us knew what to say, so I clumsily told him we missed him on the show last night and asked if he would be coming back. What an idiot! I know from Darla's experiences with Nick that they're not allowed to say anything. Nick would again and again tell his friends he couldn't tell them whether he was in the final three. Why did I go down that path with Malan? The conversation ended abruptly, but very politely there. We told him it was very nice to meet him and moved on. I really didn't feel at that point that I was in any shape to approach THE Kara Janx.
But who were these two anyway? Kara and Malan were two totally normal people who happened to be very talented and had appeared on a reality show. Apart from reality show bit, all of my friends are very talented at what they do. It wasn't as though I was meeting . . . Meryl Streep or . . . Mahatma Ghandi. Yet, seeing them gave me pause. I imagine it must be weird for them to be launched into instant celebrity without really asking for it.
Anyway, somehow I found myself at Kara Janx's back. She turned around suddenly, and we were instantly engaged in conversation. I told her I loved her designs, but it was way too hot (we were in the midst of a July heatwave) to try on one of her tops or dresses. She happened to be wearing a black one with magenta trim. The woman next to her, who seemed to be some sort of publicist or somehow in Kara's employ was wearing a beautiful, deep brown top with blueish trim. I told the woman how much I loved the color combination of her top. Both she and Kara encouraged me to just give it a try. Then she said that the tops were exclusive that night and only at Girlshop. How could I not try on this exclusive top, having been asked by the designer?
The next thing I knew, my friends and the employee working the dressing room were talking me into a $196 Kara Janx top. At this point, I had had one glass of wine and two Midori drinks. Two hundred dollars seemed like a good price. I went up to the counter and whipped out my husband's American Express card. It was all so simple.
My friends and I stayed at the party awhile, choking down our Midori drinks and talking excitedly about my top. We agreed I would wear it the next day at work. While we were settling on these plans, Kara Janx pushed through a crowd and pulled my arm. I turned, "I bought one!" She said, "I know!" She seemed as excited as I was. She thanked me, and she gave me her business card. Rather, the publicist woman (or whomever) gave me the card. Bam! And from that moment on, I was officially on cloud nine.
The next morning, Nancy, our receptionist, took my photo as I came through the door. All sorts of people complimented me on my top all day long. Some of them were Project Runway fans, many had never seen Project Runway or knew of its relevance but simply loved the top. People actually came to my office to see it. My boss said, "I heard about the top. I want to see it."
The next evening, a Saturday night, I had dinner in Soho with my husband and a few friends. We were leaving the restaurant and walking down West Broadway when I noticed a man and a woman approaching us in the distance. The woman was wearing a bright pink sort of peasant skirt that had a very peculiar but fantastic empire waist. She was wearing a white top, and maybe it was all actually a dress. All I knew was I'd never seen anything like it. I didn't stare, as I was engrossed in conversation with my companions. But I noticed her. As we were passing, she stopped me and exclaimed, "Is that a Kara Janx top?!" It took me a second to realize she was talking to me and another second to realize what she'd said. "Yes! Yes, this is a Kara Janx top!" Then she asked me where I got it. I told her Kara had had a party a couple of nights ago at Girlshop and that this top was exclusive for Girlshop and only available that night. The woman then told me that Kara Janx was her sister-in-law. She said, "She didn't even tell me she was having this party!" We were both excited about the coincidence. I told her that Kara had personally sold me on this top, otherwise I might have thought it completely too sweltering to even try it on.
The woman in the pink skirt said it looked great. I thanked her. We moved on through the night, going our separate ways.