College to Couture: How I Ended Up on a NYFW Runway


Student Anna McFillin walks her first runway for designer Minan Wong at New York Fashion Week. Designer: Minan Wong. PHOTO COURTESY/BlazeJ Sendzielski

It started off as a normal day on the Manhattan-bound E train. A child was hanging from the subway bars, a man was eating Cocoa Puffs off of the subway car floor and a woman was knitting a blanket.

I was amongst the diverse crowd in my all-black outfit, headed to Canal Street to begin the busiest yet most fun week of my life: New York Fashion Week. I began working at NYFW my freshman year as a volunteer at The Journey Fashion Festival. It was there that I learned to be a quick model-dresser, a runway coordinator and a guest greeter. Volunteering gave me the opportunity to be a Lead Venue Assistant at Spring Studios, home to NYFW: The Shows. Being one of the youngest Leads at Fashion Week, my job entailed keeping the Venue Assistants motivated, ensuring the hair and makeup teams’ needs were met and essentially, helping bring the designers’ visions to life by transforming empty rooms into a fashion oasis. Of all the faces and places of NYFW, I never would have thought that there would be a day I was the one getting changed and timed on the runway.

I began my day at The Journey by steaming gowns and writing name cards. About an hour into my morning, I received some news. One of the models had gotten sick the night before and could not make it to the show. It was crucial to have all of the models at the show so that designers could showcase multiple pieces. I was asked to do my best model walk and after that quick strut down the runway, I was thrown into rehearsals, fittings, hair and makeup.

I spent the rest of the afternoon synchronizing walks with the models that I had assisted in years prior and changing in and out of pantsuits, gowns and skirts to see which outfit worked best for the designer’s visions. After securing the perfect look, I quickly found myself in the break room with the rest of the volunteers scarfing down two slices of pizza. Taking a moment to breathe, I went back out to hair and makeup.

Minutes before the show, I finally cracked to the 6-foot tall model in front of me. “I am terrified,” I said to her. “Why would you be scared?” she said, a little confused. I explained to her that this was my first time ever walking in a show. She said to me, “Not many people get an opportunity like this. Make most of your seconds on stage.” Taking her advice, I completely embraced the moment.

Fashion has been a big part of my life for a long time, and I have been fortunate enough to experience all aspects of it. It is no easy task to model, to dress the models, or to coordinate a NYFW show. The most important thing to do during Fashion Week is to embrace the craziness , and never lose sight of where you started.

And just like that, I was back on the E-train with my curled hair, glitter everywhere heels in hand and Converse on my feet. Until next time, NYFW.