Style icon Zelda Kaplan dies at Joanna Mastroianni New York Fashion Week runway show

RIP Zelda, I'm sure in heaven you look marvelous!

New York Fashion Week has closed…well, there are a few more shows today and then it’s done! What A Week!  While I’ll share fashions and trends that are not only fashionable and can transfer to bridal, today I wanted to share a story about Zelda Kaplan the true fashion icon who died at the Joanna Mastroianni show right before my eyes.

The “Studio” is one of the smaller runways under the tent (there are 3) and it was extremely warm. The tents even in its 3rd season, still has trouble regulating the temperature – it’s either too hot or too cold.  The show was filling in and all the ‘celebrities’ were filling in the front row. Zelda who has always been beloved by those who know true icons took her seat.  I was in the second row across from her.  Just as the show began, I noticed that her eyes began to close and she slumped forward.  The woman behind her caught her and I reached into my bag for a bottle of water thinking that the heat overcame her.

At this point models began to parade and the cameras were getting their shots.  I looked at the girl holding her and screamed, “Here’s water” and tossed it across the aisle to her.  She put the cool bottle on her neck and someone near her with a head-set began to call for help.  The intern at the Joanna Mastroianni show asked if she should call paramedics and I said yes, but ran out of the show myself to get help. I found security and yelled to him that there was a woman sick and we needed help NOW.  As I turned to go back into the tent, there were 3 men carrying her out and immediately placed her on the floor, some one else began to put up curtains and paramedics arrived.

I went back into the show – missing half of it – and completely shaken.

As the show filed out, you could see the normal exit was completely blocked off by curtains and people standing guard.  An hour later, having attended NYFW for over 17 seasons, I asked one of the security guards how she was.  He looked at me, said “Thanks for what you did, but she didn’t make it.”

This has been a week – from beautiful fashions, to another model collapsing in my arms overcome with heat (she said that she had food poising the night before yet felt better the morning of the show, but once got there felt horrible, but “The show must go on”), to the crazy “I-want-to-be photographed-so-I’m-going-to-wear-the-most-outrageous-thing-I can-find- and-stand-around”, to some celebrities that were truly lovely like Elettra Wiedemann, Veronica Webb, Kathy Wakile (who I met last year and she remembered ME!),  Cindy Adams (a hoot!), and Matt Damian (met briefly backstage of Naeem Khan show with his lovely wife).  Then there was Zelda.

Zelda always wore fancy hats and large sunglasses; I’m told was a club fixture right up to her death. Some said that she could outlast Paris Hilton and on occasion did. This is a woman who traveled to Africa to work on human rights and worked harder to raise awareness on female genital mutilation. I’d seen her throughout the seasons and she always wore something truly fabulous and usually in African-print.  Again, the ‘newbies’ paid no attention to a true icon in their midst, they rather fight for an empty seat and pretend they are important…even if only for the 5 minute length of a runway show.

I’m not claiming that Zelda and I were friends, nor that she knew me, but I did respect her eye for fashion and the way even as she walked into the tent yesterday with grace and class. This was a woman who was comfortable in her own skin.  While it was so sad to have her pass away, she was doing what she loved.  Wearing something fabulous and loving fashion.  Rest in peace Zelda.


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