Fashion week party guests fall into two categories: The elite that were actually invited, and the party crashers who against all odds, schmoozed, lied, or simply snuck their way in. Wanting to get the inside track on how to crash a fashion week party we sought out the advice of Justin Ross Lee. The New York Times in a profile of Lee last year recounted that he has been banned from New York City restaurant Pastis for using someone else’s reservation to secure a table. The New York Post has referred to him as “The Ego That Attacked NYC.” Besides being an expert and renowned party crasher (a skill unto itself as far as we are concerned) Lee owns Pretentious Pocket, a line of pocket squares that have names like “Bull Market” and “The Madoff.”
Here, Lee shares his expert tips and tricks with us. If you have one takeaway from him it should be: “Believe in yourself once in a while and you’ve got this.” And with that, we’ll see you at the Marc Jacobs after-party next week, sans invite.
The Vivant: What’s been your biggest party crashing feat?
Justin Ross Lee: My first crash was back in 2006. A birthday party for billionaire Ron Perelman. I ate my weight in beluga and drowned myself in vintage Dom. Did shtick for Michael Dell. When people asked me who I was I answered differently every time. For one inquiring guest I pretended to be James Cameron’s nephew on his sister’s side. James Cameron has no sister, but this crash became a movie that I was directing. You are the role you play. Write that down.
What are the hardest parties to crash and what are the easiest?
The “hardest” parties actually have the easiest doors to penetrate because they’re not expecting or prepared for any unauthorized or ballsy attempts. Hard—Pauly Shore’s 40th birthday. Easy—The White House Correspondents Dinner.
I actually hate being on lists. My accessory line, Pretentious Pocket was recently a featured product in the Grammy Awards nomination gift bag and I scored myself a ticket to the star-studded gala. When I arrived, I almost felt uncomfortable getting in the proper way. I really wanted to use someone else’s name despite having mine on the list—just for the thrill of it because I knew I could pull it off.
Fashion week shows are easy because the “industry” changes so quickly that no one knows who anyone is. Be a boss. Attitude is conviction. Remember that the tail doesn’t wag the dog: Believe in yourself once in a while and you’ve got this.
What are your party crashing tips for us novices?
Crashing a party is like casing a bank for a heist. First order of business is to find the easiest mark: The weakest teller. In this case you’re looking to check-in with youngest intern holding an iPad. Work on your timing like it’s prom night. If you’re almost up in cue to check in with the wrong mark pull out your phone and pretend to text.
Call ahead on behalf of your own publicist who doesn’t exist (or even use one who does). This works 80 percent of the time.
Become media for the day. Vistaprint.com your way in with $10 worth of business cards. Cheap, effective, and recyclable. Based on my credentials I presently work for Fox News, The Huffington Post, and Al Jazeera.
Prop up. A clear coil wire over your ear is standard operating equipment. They’re $20 on eBay. Put your prop inside an imaginary glass box in your pocket. Never rely on it, but in case of emergency “break open glass.”
Carry your own clipboard. Place a Mercedes-Benz logo sticker you purchased from eBay on the back. I like to print out my grocery list just for fun and place it underneath a white page collective of former presidents and Hollywood starlets, half of whom you’ve crossed off with a blue Sharpie.
Remember it’s a numbers game. Rejection is part of your learning curve. You will never pull off 100 percent of your heists. Rejection is more important than acceptance as it allows you to learn from the situation and build on your skills for future crashes.
Never thank anyone after they cross off your name, it’s bad luck and places you in a patronizing position of weakness.
And do your research. Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook are yours friends. It is beyond easy to find out enough information to create a storyline of credibility.
Any suggestions for what to do if you get caught?
Be fearless. The worst case scenario only lands you back in the same position that you’re presently in: Not inside. What’s the worst that happens? You don’t pass go and collect $200. You’re not going to go to jail. Also, humility. I’ve actually succeeded in a foiled [party crashing] attempt by charming the gatekeeper with humor. She was impressed with my detailed admission and subsequently let me in out of respect for chutzpa. Your mileage may vary.
Besides being an expert party crasher what else are you up to?
I’m currently in the first trimester of my “JewJetting World Tour” where I’ll be appearing in 20 incredible cities around the globe, flying 35,000 miles over a two month period. Follow my progress on Facebook. I’ve also recently landed a book contract to share my many chronicles. The working title is, “First Class Ass.” Think “The Four Hour Work Week” meets “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.” In addition, I’ve been busy creating a network of country-specific distribution channels for my brand, Pretentious Pocket. We’ve begun with Sweden, and it’s going great. I love my Swedish fans. They have a great fashion sense.
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