The success of the Forrester sisters’ On the Runway TV show lands them a hot ticket to Fashion Week in New York City. Paige is determined to garner the attention of New York’s top designers, but her newfound fame threatens to go to her head. Erin wants to help promote the work of some eco-minded designers, but struggles to be taken seriously. Can Paige keep her prima donna behavior in check? Will Erin’s involvement hurt the people she’s really trying to help? Success in the big city comes with even bigger challenges, and as the pressure grows, so does the drama.
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CatwalkOn the Runway
By Melody Carlson
ZondervanCopyright © 2010 Melody Carlson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneNow, this is what I'm talking about!" I point to the building as Paige and I get out of her car. The entire front of this three-story boxlike structure is covered in a massive collage (made with recycled soda cans) depicting what I think must be a rhinoceros, standing beneath some palm trees and a colorful rainbow. "Seriously," I squint up at the shiny image. "How cool is that?"
"Right ... and if that's considered art, I can only imagine what the inside will look like." Paige shakes her head as we approach the old building. "I cannot believe Helen put this one on the list."
Unlike my sister, I know exactly why this design studio's on the list. And I'm glad for it. I've had it up to my eyeballs with all the slick uptown studios, those overly serious designers and their stick-thin models. I cannot wait to meet this particular designer. Because Granada Ruez is a real person-and she designs for real women. I've been a fan of her environmentally conscious clothing for several years now.
Last week, when Granada won an international design award for humanitarian efforts in third world countries, I brought it to our producer's attention. Paige may not know it, but I'm the reason we're here today. I'm the one who convinced Helen Hudson that On the Runway needed to feature Granada Greenwear on our local designers episode.
"This feels like a mistake," Paige says as she opens the door.
"Granada Greenwear may not be considered high fashion," I tell my sister as we enter the showroom, "but we need to give her a chance." I'm trying to contain my enthusiasm because I know it will only aggravate Paige. She's already dragging her heels.
As if to emphasize the fact that she's not into recycled clothing, Paige dressed to the nines this morning-and she's wearing a designer who recently made fashion headlines for his blatant disregard of certain environmental issues. "But his style is superb and his clothes are perfectly timeless," Paige told me after I pointed out her faux pas. She is so out of touch.
"We're here to see Granada Ruez," I tell the salesgirl inside. "I'm Erin Forrester and-"
"I'm Paige Forrester from On the Runway." Paige holds out her business card, taking over as if being here was all her idea in the first place.
"Oh, right." the girl peers curiously at us. "Hey, didn't I see you two on Malibu Beach-the breakup episode?"
"Yes, but that's not our show." Paige points to the card. "we're On the Runway. Have you seen it?"
"Well, maybe you'll want to tune in ... in case we decide to include today's interview." Paige's smile fades from bright to tolerant now. And I give her a look that says just be nice!
"In that case, I'll be sure to watch it," the girl says.
"Our director and production crew should be here shortly," Paige informs her. "In the meantime, do you mind if we look around your shop and put together some kind of attack plan?"
I frown at my sister, worried that she means that literally. hopefully she doesn't plan to attack Granada Ruez.
"Sure. I'll tell Granada you're here. By the way, I'm Lucinda." she then points to me. "And you're wearing a Granada Green jacket. One of the earlier designs."
"I got it a couple of years ago and I still love it. It's so comfortable."
"Cool." Lucinda smiles as she heads for a door in back.
"Right ... cool." Paige rolls her eyes at me. "You know how much I hate that jacket, Erin."
"Be quiet," I warn.
"It's frumpy and not the least bit flattering."
"Are you going to keep this up?" I glance to the back of the showroom to be sure no one is listening.
She shrugs. "Hey, don't forget this is my show and it's supposed to be about fashion and style." She pulls a recycled denim dress from a rack, holding it out at arm's length as if she's afraid it might bite her. "And this does not even come close to being fashionable or stylish. Good grief, no one-not even Kate Moss-could make this rag look good."
"Paige!" I hiss at her.
"Sorry, but you know how this gets to me, Erin."
"Just try to be polite, please."
"Fine, I'll be politely honest." She puts the dress back and sighs. "But I can't promise you that Granada Greenwear will get a spot on the show. Unless I use it in my fashion don'ts segment."
"Why can't you think positively?" I ask. "What about protecting the environment or fair treatment of overseas workers? Both are issues that Granada respects and fights for. Doesn't that mean anything to you?"
"Of course." Paige nods. "you know I'm totally for that. But it's too bad Granada's focusing her efforts in the fashion industry." Paige pulls out a baggy-looking pair of drawstring pants and frowns. "She might be better off making home décor products. Like this fabric would be nice for, say, a couch slipcover." She chuckles. "And these pants are almost big enough."
"Those pants look comfortable to me." I take them from her and feel the fabric. "See how soft this is." I read the label. "Bamboo fibers," I tell her. "A renewable resource with very little negative impact on the planet."
"The negative impact comes when someone walks down the street wearing those hippo pants." She laughs. "Hey, I think I'll use that line on the show."
"Maybe we should just forget the whole thing." I put the pants back on the rack. "If you're going to make fun of Granada Ruez, I refuse to be involved."
"So you want to leave then? Just make some excuse and get out of here?"
I just shrug, feeling totally deflated.
Now Paige almost looks contrite. "Hey, I'm sorry, Erin," she says quietly. "I got carried away. I didn't mean to rain on your parade."
"Yeah ... well ... not everyone is into your brand of haute couture style. Some of us are quite happy to be comfortable and environmentally aware. Why can't On the Runway cater to those types too? I just read that there's going to be an earth-friendly design show during Fashion week in New York. They seem to get the importance of it, and i, for one, plan to be there for it."
"I've got it!" Paige exclaims.
"You can do the Granada Greenwear interview yourself. and you can be our On the Runway conservation expert. That way I won't sound like a complete hypocrite by giving my thumbs-up to bad style."
"But I'm supposed to be behind the camera, remember?"
"It's your choice, Erin. If you want to pursue this idea of green fashion, you'll have to do it in front of the camera." she holds up a patchwork shirt and just shakes her head. "Because I simply cannot force myself to pretend that I like this granola wear."
We hear laughter from behind us and I turn to see Granada and Lucinda standing nearby. "Did you just hear all that?" I ask lamely.
Granada nods. "And don't worry, it's not the first time I've experienced that reaction. I'm fully aware that Granada Greenwear is not for everyone. We don't even want to be." Granada is Demi Moore meets Whoopi Goldberg-or maybe I'm thinking of the old film Ghost. But she has delicate features, expressive eyes, and these wild-looking brown dreadlocks that reach halfway down her back. And, although she's a lot more bohemian than I could ever be, she's very stylish.
"I love your clothes," I say in all earnestness.
"But your sister does not." Granada frowns as she takes in Paige's outfit. "And unfortunately you appear to love designers who don't love our planet. Why is that?" She comes closer and looks into Paige's eyes. "Do you like the idea of small children working ten hours or more a day, seven days a week, in disgusting conditions, just so you can wear those fancy clothes? Or perhaps you don't mind that toxic fabric dyes and chemicals-the ones used to make your pretty little outfit-contribute to the harmful runoff that pollutes waterways and wildlife? Some of the very water sources that the poor need just to survive? is that the price you think should be paid just so someone like you can look chic?"
Paige, for once in her life, is speechless.
"I told her not to wear that outfit," I say to Granada.
Granada just smiles. "I'm sure she only wore it to get my hackles up. And it's worked."
"I wish I had my camera on while you were talking," I tell Granada. "Paige is usually the one dishing out the criticism!"
She waves her hand. "I say things like that all the time-especially when I'm talking to the skeptics."
"I don't mind protecting the planet," Paige finally says. "I just won't call something unattractive stylish."
"But don't you think style, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder?" Granada gives Paige a quick head-to-toe glance.
"Yes, I suppose you're right." Paige stands a bit straighter. "But On the Runway is my show, so I guess that makes me the beholder. And, I'm sorry, but I wouldn't be caught dead in these clothes."
Fortunately Granada just laughs again.
"But what if someone died making your clothes?" I challenge my sister.
Her brow creases. "Well, that would make me sad. But I don't think that's really the-"
"Don't be so sure," Granada tells her. "In fact, why don't you check out my website to see for yourself? I have a number of articles there about pollution and inhumane practices in foreign countries. You might be surprised at what goes on ... all in the name of fashion."
I turn to Paige. "I think I'll take you up on your offer. I would like to interview Granada myself."
"I can't promise you that it'll air," Paige tells me. She nods to the front door where Fran, our director, and the rest of our crew are just coming in. "But you can give it your best shot and see what Helen says when she sees it."
And that is exactly what I do. For the next hour I interview Granada about her design work as well as her concern for the planet. Paige even helps me to rephrase some questions so they come out better. And then we actually film a conversation between Granada and Paige, very similar to the one they had earlier. My sister cooperates, playing the shallow fashionista (complete with her witty pokes at bad style and her ignorance about green issues) as Granada educates her about some atrocities going on in other countries.
When I'm done with the interview two things surprise me: First, I pulled this interview off, being comfortable in front of the camera instead of hiding behind it. Second, Fran seems to think that me as Runway's conservation expert could be a good segment.
"I have an invitation for you," Granada tells me as we're packing up to go.
"Come be in my fashion show next week."
"Me?" Okay, this woman must be really desperate for models. "Uh, did you notice my height?"
She laughs. "My models are from all walks of life, Erin. You are a beautiful girl and you would fit in perfectly. Trust me."
Paige lets out a giggle and it's not hard to guess what she's thinking.
"Fine," I say in aggravation. "I'll be in your fashion show. And I'll ask our producer if we can film some of it for our show."
"That'd be great." Granada hands me a brochure. "As you can see we have some well-known models participating too. Everyone's time is being donated because the proceeds are going to FIFTI."
"Fifty what?" Paige asks in interest.
"F-I-F-T-I," Granada explains. "Fashion in Fair trade industries. We used to have fifty members, but thankfully we've gotten even bigger."
"Oh?" Paige points to a name on the brochure I'm holding. "Is Sunera really going to be in your show?"
"Of course." Granada nods.
"Who's that?" I ask.
"One of the top models in the industry," Paige informs me. "She was born in Nigeria. Totally gorgeous. Internationally famous. Just about the hottest thing in fashion."
"She's flying in from Paris just for this event," Granada says.
Paige is still studying the brochure. "You have quite a lineup here."
"All women who care about fair trade and preserving the planet."
"Some of them are a bit past their prime," Paige says, "but impressive all the same." She hands me back the brochure now. "You are in good company, Erin."
Suddenly all my insecurities kick in. "I don't know," I say to Granada. "Maybe it's not such a good idea for me to model for your show. I mean, I've never done anything like that before and I'm totally inex-"
"Nonsense," she tells me. "You'll be great."
I glance at Paige, wishing she'd save me from myself. "You'll be fine, Erin," she says in a congenial way. "In fact, it'll be good for you."
"Hey, why don't you do it too?" I suggest hopefully. "It could be Paige Forrester from On the Runway actually on the runway."
Paige laughs. "I seriously doubt that Granada would want me for her-"
"Don't be so sure." Granada holds a finger in the air. "In fact, I am getting an idea ... or perhaps it's more of a challenge."
"What?" Paige almost looks interested.
"You seem convinced that green fashion equals bad fashion, right?"
Paige shrugs with a coy expression, like, duh, the answer is obvious.
"So how about if I put together an outfit that I think you'd actually want to wear-I mean out in public. And if you like it well enough, you must agree to model it in my fashion show."
"Do you think that's even possible?" Paige frowns. "I've looked around your shop and I'm sure your clothes appeal to some people. But I'm not exactly an earth muffin, you know."
"I know." Granada seems to be thinking. "But I'd like to prove that green fashion can be high fashion."
"Just keep in mind that I've got a reputation to maintain," Paige says. "I'm known for being bluntly honest when it comes to style. And I refuse to act like I love some eco-fashion outfit when I really don't."
"Are you wiling to give it a try?"
Paige seems to be considering it. "Sure. Why not?"
So they shake hands and it's like the green gauntlet's been thrown. And while i like that Paige is giving this a fair shot, I'm worried for Granada's sake. I know my sister's influence is growing. What if Paige humiliates Granada on our show? and, if she does, will it be my fault? Will I be to blame if green fashion goes backward in the minds of some of our viewers?
Chapter TwoI agree with you, Erin," Blake tells me as he drives us to our college fellowship group at church, "but I can see Paige's side too. She's all about style and if she compromises herself, well, it might weaken the show."
"But there are all kinds of styles," I argue.
"Absolutely. But your show-On the Runway-sets the fashion bar high, which your viewers now expect. And you have to hand it to Paige-she knows how to deliver."
"Man, you sound just like Helen Hudson now."
"Hey, thanks, I'll take that as a compliment."
I don't admit that it was meant as a slam. "Maybe you should be a producer too," I say teasingly.
I enjoy talking with Blake like this, but I'm still not sure that I'm doing the right thing by giving Blake another chance. I keep telling myself that if he breaks my heart again, I will walk away and never look back. I just hope I'm not fooling myself.
Excerpted from Catwalk by Melody Carlson Copyright © 2010 by Melody Carlson. Excerpted by permission.
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