There are nine models in Room 304 at the Ace Hotel and one of them needs some duct tape. Like, now.
“My nipples are going to show.”
“Do you need a Band Aid? You put it across them like this.”
“I want to wear a bra, but I think it’s gonna show.”
“Oh yeah, a bra will show.”
“I probably should have worn a bra.”
“I have a nude bra.”
“Bras are overrated.”
“I don’t need to wear a bra. I mean, look. I don’t, ya know?”
“Time check someone!” designer Bradford Mumpower calls out.
“Seventhirtythree,” the models respond in unison.
“Great. You can get dressed now,” he says, knee deep in commercial grade carpeting, wielding a pair of orange handled scissors along hot pink fringe that hangs from one of his dresses. He’s cutting at an angle, strings falling like spaghetti across the model’s feet.
Bottles of water, iPhones, one half of a deli sandwich, and bags of Snyder’s pretzels—100 Calories!—cover a nearby table as the models get up from the bed, where they've been sprawled out. Waiting. Texting and taking selfies and waiting. The hair and makeup people are making their exit, and the show starts in 27 minutes.
“What if we gotta go potty?” a model asks, eyes wide under false eyelashes. “I mean, restroom. I’m an adult.”
Eighteen looks. Eighteen girls. His first solo runway show, an idea conceived a few weeks ago when he thought, to hell with it, fell in love with a new series of African Wax Prints, and began sewing together his 2018 Spring/Summer Collection, most of which was done while live on Facebook. Sewing. Chatting. Sewing. Chatting.
I cannot wait either… things are almost all finished.
Almost all the seats are filled downstairs in the gymnasium. People have been waiting for this. But right now, he’s got to go upstairs to get dressed.
In Room 508, nine more models are primping, giggling, pushing up, pulling down, checking teeth, taking selfies, in the middle of an alteration.
“This was a last-minute costume change,” he says, grabbing a silver safety pin as the model doesn't move. “It wasn’t fitted for her and so I’m pulling it in so she feels more covered. Time check please!”
“Sevenfortynine,” they reply in unison.
“We have four minutes to get to the second floor,” he announces, adding the final pin before kicking off a pair of black New Balance tennis shoes. “And I’m not dressed. Who’s in the bathroom? Okay, then I’m changing out here. No one look. If my drag queen doesn’t show up I’m going to go insane.”
“Should I have worn a nude bra?” a model wonders aloud.
By 7:56, all 18 of the models are gathered on the second floor; a sea of bright purples and lime greens, corals and oranges and sunny yellows, when the drag queen arrives. Auburn bouffant, black and white shift dress, matching pumps.
“My name is Georgia as in the state, Bea as in Arthur, Cummings as in all over your face,” she says, eyebrows arched and sharp. “So, I’ll just welcome everyone and do my thing, right?”
"Yeah," Brad says. "Do your thing."
Which she does. Then the doors open, and one by one, the models come in.
Hands on hips.
The first solo show for Bradord Mumpower.
Twenty minutes long.
Eleven years in the making.
The "Our Stories" series is an ongoing writing project by Kate Benz.
Capturing a moment in time in our everyday lives.
Raw. Real. Honest.