Waris Ahluwalia—actor, designer, explorer at large—traverses many worlds, armed only with wit, tact, and a sharp black suit. Thus we thought him the ideal person to offer advice on some of the knottier questions of twenty-first-century life. For this inaugural column, we asked a few friends in fashion to submit their queries, particularly on how best to navigate the intricacies of fashion week. But Waris welcomes any questions or dilemmas that may ail you. Please write to him at Love_Waris@fairchildfashion.com.
Dear Waris, I am friends with a number of designers and feel obliged to go backstage after their shows to say hello. But if it's a bad collection, I never know what to say. I feel like a phony if I offer congratulations, but it seems uncharitable to tell the truth. What's the best approach in this situation?
I understand where you're coming from; indeed it's a situation I find myself in most seasons. Focus on your role as a friend, which is simply to offer support. I'm sure you know in your heart that they are talented. Remember you're here to celebrate their accomplishments as a friend, not as a buyer. If you must say something, speak to the designer's talent more than to the collection and leave the reviews to the critics who are more qualified to be unkind. Take comfort in Oscar Wilde's views on the matter, "The truth is rarely pure and never simple."
Besides, it's always nice to see a friendly face backstage when you're being bombarded by press and well-wishers. So don't walk away without heading backstage—believe me, they'll remember if you don't say anything.
Dear Waris, To tweet or not to tweet? That is the question. Where do you stand on social media?
My views on social media may be slightly outdated. But take note, I'm far from a Luddite. I fly on planes, use computers, sext, even take pictures. Earlier this year, I gave in and set up Twitter and Facebook for the company (follow us!? @house_of_waris). But I don't have a personal Twitter account, Instagram, or even Facebook. How people find time in their day to keep up with all of this plus blogs, Pinterest, news, YouTube videos is a mystery to me. Does anyone work anymore?
The idea of keeping something to yourself and in a way keeping some things sacred has completely vanished. "Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate." I suspect Thoreau and I are in the minority. I know, I'm living in the past. Let me enjoy it.
Dear Waris, A friend has invited me to a fashion week party he's hosting, but I've also been invited to two better parties that night and can't possible make it to all three. Given that he'll see the photos on Style.com the next morning and notice I've been making the rounds, what excuse can I give him for being a no-show?
You and I are clearly cut from a different cloth. My friends always come first—they last way longer and will be around when the parties end and the flashbulbs fade.
Fortunately, I can trust my personal assistant Enzo to get me through my evening schedule so I never have to choose. But this is about you. First, let's qualify the friendship—is this person a real friend or a fashion friend? If it's the former, then no amount of excuses could cover up the betrayal. If the latter, I'm less concerned—crosstown traffic is always a good standby.
Dear Waris, I was invited to a runway show at 3 p.m. What time should I show up? If I get there early, I end up pretending to be busy on my BlackBerry like everyone else. But if I get there late, I'm terrified the show will have started relatively on time for once and I'll have missed it.
I've never been early to anything in my life, and I'd like to take this moment to apologize to everyone for my tardiness—past and future. Many moons ago, I remember being in a car with Mickey Boardman running late to Benjamin Cho. We were lucky that they held the show for us. You, my dear, may not be so fortunate. Take a page from Vogue and show up early to everything. I've never had an appointment with anyone from Vogue where they show up on time—rather, they show up early.
On the other hand, while I'm by no means trying to encourage lateness, I can't help but think of E. V. Lucas' observation, "I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them."
Dear Waris, I have a friend who I'm always introducing to other friends of mine. Next thing I know, he makes plans to see them behind my back. I didn't mind the first couple of times it happened, but he seems to be working his way systematically through my circle of acquaintances. Are my contacts fair game or should I tell him to back off?
Dear Feeling Used,
I wouldn't go as far as to say I'm a control freak, but I do like to have some sway over my environment. I have learned over the years that one thing you can't control is friends. You can, however, talk to them. Your friend's behavior would annoy me as well, but telling him to back off is a bit aggressive. Let him know you'd like to be included in his next plans with your friends. Simple. If it continues, you have two roads you can take; yes, those roads, the high road or the low road:
1. Don't introduce your friend to your Rolodex (ancient device used to store contact information).
2. Just share the love. It's natural that your mutual friends should get along; after all, they have you in common.
Now, if he starts dressing like you, acting like you, and gets the same haircut, I would be alarmed.
Dear Waris, I'm desperate to go to the Proenza Schouler party, but my invite was lost in the mail. Any tips on talking my way in?
Dear Not Invited,
I have been tasked to be honest with my readers, and, on occasion, it may come off as a little harsh. I can smell your desperation from here and it is not pleasant. To be clear, I want to make sure you understand that your invite was not lost in the mail—you were just not invited. Why must you go somewhere you have not been invited? No one party is the be-all and end-all. As my friend Cynthia Rowley says, it's all cumulative. Life will go on. Plan for next season and be invited—work hard, pay your dues, and sleep with the right publicists/designers/editors.