Fashion Week shrank to invisible proportions as the horrific ongoings of September 11th reared their ugly heads smack dab in the middle of the spring 2002 collections. From the most sardonic vantage point, one can conclude that now may be time to take a closer look at an industry so heavily padded in non-reality and try to take it to some greater depths. One strong, fashionable force rose from the ashes as it rallied the efforts of twenty seven designers, sixty models and countless industry veterans, raising money and morale to aid victims and survivors of the WTC attack. Fashion Stands Tall was pulled together in record time, a mere week after the devastation, by the tireless and single minded vision of one lone make-up artist, as Jason Hayes of Brooklyn, New York set out to do some good. Armed with nothing but a strong will, a telephone and enough cash for liability insurance, Jason orchestrated everything from the music and staging help from Parson's - to the casting which paid homage to all ages (ranging from 16-50) as he contagiously attracted an unexpected turn-out of press and support. Negative initial responses from unwilling patrons ("Just what do we get out of this?") soon snowballed into "Just tell us what to do", with only two designers representing no-shows at curtain time. As participating designer Fiona Walker eloquently put it, "We certainly separated the sheep from the goats, darling". Aimed at lifting spirits as well as cash by allowing the industry to give to the cause (Jason was among those whose help had been turned away on the 12th at Ground Zero), house lights came up as Whitney Houston's acapella notes hit "the dawn's early light " and the show went on. Pro-unification tunes like John Cougar Mellencamp's "Ain't That America" and Neil Diamond's "Coming to America" were perfect backdrops to the well received evening of unity.

Fashion Stood Tall September 21, 2001 Photos by Jayme Thornton

In separating those sheep, we wonder why more of the fashion contingency didn't rise to the occasion. On the morning of the 11th, DKNY show coordinators acted fast, converting audience chair cushions into makeshift beds, as they turned the Armory venue into a National Guard hospital. The crew later morphed the space again into a missing persons headquarters. At the same time, in a neighboring village, designer Marc Jacobs was spotted eating pizza on Prince Street and buying a toothbrush afterwards. To each his own. Hats off to the likes of Dr. Dre and Jim Carey who each contributed a million dollars to the cause and a thump on the head to little Ms. J Lo whose reported $25,000 drop in bucket donation made us pale, when her Valentino wedding gown reportedly cost twice as much. People from all walks of life are doing what they can including music industry newcomer Marcus - who has already spearheaded and participated in two music benefits for the cause.

At this particular moment in time, we should all be pondering whether or not "fashion" really matters at all anymore. The fact remains that fashion was once an enjoyable means of self-expression and refusing to ever think about clothes again - won't do anybody any good. Enjoying ourselves, our lives and the things that matter most is the most au courant lifestyle to lead. In view of recent events, it is the perfect time to dig out your I heart NY tee and prop it up with last season's camouflage as often as possible. Keywords for dressing in the now are real, honest, strong and centered.