ONE 2 • Mean City to Big Apple II: An Update

A lot has happened since my first article for the first ONE…over three months since my arrival on American shores and what an adventure it is!

On Food: I think the most obvious everyday difference I have found is in the social eating habits of my fellow students on my campus. I never know what on earth I’ll be eating next. Cola, the number one drink in America, seems to be the only beverage that keeps America hydrated. On average, my fellow students drink about four caffeinated soft drinks and two coffees per day—which makes for some very jumpy undergrads. A scan across a classroom here reveals half a student body literally shaking from their caffeine high and the other half are dribbling and snoozing in their little wooden chairs as they come down from the buzz.

At Home: After 3 weeks of family visits, I decided I needed a break from travelling into Manhattan. Public transport gets very tedious, and despite how efficient and quick the subways are, you can still manage to spend a good 30% of your day below ground. So, I took a week off—the Big Apple and I were on a break. During this time, I didn’t venture out of the same 40 square meters. To class and back; cafeteria and back; and not leaving my apartment for more than 4 hours at a time—you really can get stuck in a rut around here, a stark contrast to all the sex, drugs and rock and roll occurring a short 20 minute train ride away.

At Work. Sort of: After my week off I went to 35th Street to start an internship I am doing with a designer on the avenue they’ve named “Fashion”. The tall buildings, the bustling people, and brisk air were once again refreshing and reminded me of all the reasons I want to live in the city. Manhattan truly is spectacular.

So, I began my first fashion internship in October, and was very excited to discover what working Ugly Betty style, in a real New York fashion office would be like. Upon arrival, I found a group of people crowded around a table investigating stitch patterns and button styles —I immediately learned that attention to detail is what counts and that button options were infinite: square ones, brown ones, glass ones, soft ones. When my new mentor had finished labouring over the decision he turned his attention to me and my tasks. My big fashion dreams were about to begin with my first set of instructions which included ‘Remember to push in all the chairs. Oh and if you see any dead leaves on the plants pull them off’. Hooray, my internship. Giving credit where it’s due, however, I’ve begun meeting good contacts and networking with people, and, I can now sew buttons beautifully!

Sticking Out. Or In: I’ve also learned not to expect a “Wow you’re from Scotland?!??” because the population here is so diverse. Almost everybody is from somewhere else. In one of my classes alone only two out of fifteen are American, the rest come from every continent but Antarctica and Australia. Amazing! Immigration has certainly changed in America over the past hundred or so years. It’s no longer the land of opportunity. New York seems over-populated and its people over-stimulated. Which makes life difficult for us quirky creative Scottish types.

Around the World: I have now launched DiscoDolly, as a force to be reckoned with in the apparel market. My online profile website is up and running and I am taking orders for vintage inspired pieces…the only problem is there are a hundred other people trying to do the same thing. Small fashion shows are popping up all over the city.

What I need is inspiration and a point of difference. In September, I visited the renowned Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show. This is where all the professional vintage traders and collectors show their goods to the public in a prostitution of old, expensive threads like never before. Gianni Versace fuchsia gowns at $3000, Chanel twin sets at $1500 and any Hermes bag you can think of…but not under $5000. I had a great time rummaging through the inspirational goodies alongside other eager pimps.

Happy Holiday: To help me in my quest for global success, I began a night class at the Fashion Institute of Technology on sourcing goods. Not only did this turn out to be a great informational session, I also got to network with some really interesting business people. Another discovery I’ve made is that everyone in New York seems to want something from you. So, every time you meet someone new, they want to talk about their career, in a similar way to how we Brits like to talk about the weather. But with the coming holiday, I have noticed a change in the air—with Thanksgiving approaching the infamous New York attitude seems to have cooled. The focus appears less on career, and there are more smiles on friendly faces wrapped in warm winter scarves, congregating in front of beautifully decorated shop windows in Midtown. It is a nice change to be served by shop attendants who’ve become chattier and show a wee grin. In addition there seems to be less of a general moan on the streets. Tis’ the season! Tomorrow is my first American Thanksgiving and I am going for dinner with some friends to celebrate the harmony between the Puritans and Native Americans. I am thankful for this opportunity.