Seeing Fashion Week from the First Row

Laura Brown, the editor in chief of InStyle magazine, at the Proenza Schouler show on Monday. Credit Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

Laura Brown, the editor in chief of InStyle magazine, at the Proenza Schouler show on Monday. Credit Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

Over the course of her 15 years in New York, Ms. Brown, who is from Sydney and still speaks with a pronounced Australian accent, has become a prominent figure in the fashion industry, appearing as a judge on Bravo’s “The Fashion Show,” interviewing Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton for Harper’s Bazaar and accumulating 119,000 followers on her Instagram account, where she posts photos with friends like Karolina Kurkova and Christy Turlington.

Yet Ms. Brown insists that when it comes to street style, she is not the one the photographers are after.

“People are always rushing past me to get to Nicky Hilton or something,” she said.

Ms. Brown rushed from one show to another on Monday. Credit Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

Ms. Brown rushed from one show to another on Monday. Credit Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

She took a sip of iced coffee, a routine unaffected by the 38-degree weather. “I know it’s weird,” she said. “I don’t mind hot coffee, but this feels like a refreshing beverage.”

So far that morning she had seen The Row (Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s collection) and sat in the front row at Carolina Herrera. “I bolted backstage after the show,” she said. “I’m always the first one. Security is like, ‘What are you doing?’ I’m like, ‘I’m a friend! Not going to harm her!’”

Ms. Brown hoped that her day would end by 10 p.m. She goes to certain designers’ dinners during fashion week — Diane von Furstenberg’s, for example — but mostly avoids late-night parties. “I’m a bit of a nana,” she said. “I burn bright and I flame out early.”

Still, she had made time for one big bash the week before: InStyle’s party for its March issue, the first that she had edited from front to back since leaving her post as executive editor of special projects at Harper’s Bazaar in August.

As part of her mission at InStyle, Ms. Brown wants the magazine to become more relatable, and to reflect the hybrid roles of many of today’s celebrities. Hence, the inclusion of contributors like the writer and actress Lena Dunham, the fashion blogger and entrepreneur Leandra Medine, and the actress and model Hari Nef. Hence also, the cover star, Emily Ratajkowski, a model and actress known for her activist side (she campaigned for Bernie Sanders last year).

When the car drew close to the Zimmermann show, Ms. Brown jumped out and jogged-slash-teetered down the remaining block, arriving with minutes to spare. After the show, she dashed off in search of the bathroom.

It took her 15 minutes to get there.

On the way, she chatted with Malcolm Carfrae, former head of communications for Ralph Lauren; congratulated Nicky Zimmermann; and posed for photos with Olivia Culpo, 2012 winner of the Miss USA pageant, and Shay Mitchell, an actress.

Back outside, her hobnobbing duties done, Ms. Brown grabbed Ruthie Friedlander, who runs InStyle’s website, and Sam Broekema, the magazine’s accessories director, and hopped back into her car.

Inside, Mr. Broekema and Ms. Brown flipped through a stack of photos: accessories for the May issue that needed Ms. Brown’s approval.

“It’s the new Panther from Cartier,” Mr. Broekema said in a French accent.

“Can you say ‘Panther’ again?” Ms. Brown said. “The only French I know is ‘I’m tired’ or ‘I need my wine’ French.”

The designer Rosie Assoulin gave Ms. Brown a tour of her presentation on Monday. Credit Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

The designer Rosie Assoulin gave Ms. Brown a tour of her presentation on Monday. Credit Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

At Rosie Assoulin’s presentation downtown, Ms. Brown and Ms. Assoulin wove between the models, Ms. Brown capturing everything on video. “Can you do the thing where you explain?” she said as Ms. Assoulin pointed out details. “Explain! Explain!”

After checking out every look and greeting Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz, the editor of Vogue Arabia, Ms. Brown huddled with Ms. Medine and Emily Weiss, founder of the Glossier skin care line. She showed them a photo of two of her favorite looks, then posted it to Instagram (caption: “I love you @rosie_assoulin!!!”).

Between shows, Ms. Brown recalled her first fashion weeks, in London in the late 1990s. “I snuck into a couple of McQueen shows, but then I started to get invited,” she said. “I would be in, like, Row J or something.”

It is Row J no more. The last stop before lunch was Proenza Schouler, where Ms. Brown was planted in the front, as she is at every show.

Part of Ms. Brown’s job is to know the right people, the interesting characters, the up-and-comers and the established players. The shows are a chance to pay her respects to the designers she knows and to take a peek at the ones she is curious about. The accumulated knowledge helps her choose looks for shoots and decide which designers to team up with for articles.

It is a lot of socializing, and fashion is full of personalities — and sometimes drama. The secret to Ms. Brown’s success may be how effectively she keeps her head above it. “Go be mad at something else,” she said. “I’m a nice girl and I’m happy to be here.”

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