I went back to school on Vaquera’s Spring/Summer 2019 runway

Document US fashion editor Shawn Lakin describes her moment as a model for Vaquera's high school-themed Spring/Summer 2019 show.

Fashion is like high school in a way, but what label would have the courage to bring editors, critics, and fashion influencers to a school and seat them in groups of pre-schooler seats and start their show to the Harry Potter soundtrack? Vaquera, the five-year-old brand helmed by Claire Sully, Bryn Taubensee and Patric DiCaprio.

Since Vaquera’s inception in 2013, they have stuck with their strategy of narrative collections with a cast of colorful characters with the help of Midland Agency. This season was no different, and they invited me to walk in the show for the second time. I sat in my makeup chair and as the other models wandered in, you could hear people enquiring, “Is she popular, or no?” The sound of the mere sentence sent shock waves through my body as it transported me instantly to my worst nightmare of finding a place to sit during an assembly. But, I discovered, the answers weren’t plagued with the stereotypical responses.

Vaquera took the standard high school cast of characters and added their own twists that are entirely 2018. A long-haired blonde boy with glasses appeared wearing a micro Catholic school girl uniform with little white kitten heels and a mini polo shirt that boasted the phrase “high standards.” There was material from an ’80s prom dress fitted in a large pouf on a male model, an entire corset embellished with a plethora of whistles, and a full-on ghost, which was fitting. We learned backstage that there is a haunted hallway in P.S. 042 Benjamin Altman—the Lower East Side high school that served as the show’s setting—that even the students avoid. Stylist Akeem Smith walked the runway wearing a t-shirt depicting the characters played by four teen heartthrobs: Robert Pattinson’s Edward Cullen from Twilight,  Gossip Girl’s Chace Crawford’s Nate Archibald, Orlando Bloom’s Legolas from Lord of the Rings, and Tom Felton’s Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter. Even The New York Times’s Matthew Schneier walked the runway in a crop top with garlic on it to ward off the vampires from Twilight who we all knew and loved in our youth.

It’s my second time walking for Vaquera, so this time around, I felt a bit fearless. I stood there in line in show order, ready to ham it up when the boys were pulled out of line and dosed with Axe Body Spray—the perfect finishing touch for the over-the-top, visceral experience we were about to have. I worked with the show’s stylist, Emma Wyman, for a number of years starting as a spritely teen myself, and lived next door to one of the designers, Claire Sully, in our School of the Art Institute of Chicago dorms. Under the green dotted image of my casting Polaroid was a note that read, “SHAWN (slow, sexy popular girl walk),” and once I donned my look of Barbie-pink glitter jeans with drop crotch and a fitted white cropped tank, it made all the sense in the world. My final character transformation was complete when mixed with my incredible hair, completely natural but with a waterfall partial updo on the tip-top of my head that conjured up images of a very sassy Shih Tzu. My makeup was all too familiar, a giant cloud of blue powder on each of my eyelids—an experiment everyone should try alone in their bathrooms as a teenager. The experience allowed me to get a break from the crazy daze of fashion week for a brief moment, and join in on the fun, adrenaline-filled Vaquera high school.