about a girl: olivia bee's fashion week photo diary of grace hartzel

A personal, intimate look at the life of New York model Grace Hartzel as she drinks champagne with her real friends, hops on the subway to fittings, and makes magical music in her downtime.

by Olivia Bee
23 September 2016, 8:50pm

The first time I met Grace was in my living room. I came home from a long day at my studio to my roommates on the couch and a beautiful girl I had never met spinning around dancing beneath psychedelic patterns from the projector… telling me that I MUST. HEAR. THIS. SONG. "It's so good and like it's a girl group but they're a rock and roll group, but not enough people know about them, you know? Why is that?" She put on "Hey Lover" by The Daughters of Eve and it was magic to all of our ears. We laid on the floor melting to the loving honey of Grace's new favorite song.

Grace is a beautiful and chic space-cadet with the kindest heart. Her eyes are the brightest towards the people and things she loves and all of the places and feelings she wants to explore. She prances through life with an open heart, and wants the best for all of those around her, even the very few she tells me are sour. "They're like mean girls… you know, the 'can't sit with us' type, but they look so amazing, and are so good at their jobs, and I want them to do really well. They will. They do."

I follow Grace around during New York Fashion Week to get a glimpse into her world. The fashion industry can be difficult to navigate; there are many unfair (and imaginary) standards and there are a lot of no's and sometimes not enough yes's. But Grace transcends that by being ever so human. She realizes the problems in fashion but plays the game and excels. She is always late but always happy to arrive.

We are both attending the same disco party the first few nights of fashion week -- five of our mutual friends are hosting. I ask her if I could start shooting our project at the party but she says she wants to focus on having fun. I tell her "I promise, you will barely notice me." She thinks for a moment. "Come over at eight and I'll do Bekah's makeup and yours too if you want." She spends an hour creating sparkling blue and black half-moons above her eyes and making sure Rebekah's eyes are as fierce as her outfit (all red). Grace wears an iridescent space dress unzipped to her bellybutton, and adheres blue flowers to silver gogo boots. We dance on the roof with rosé.

We make our way through the night, heading uptown first. I get kicked out of a party because I don't have an invitation. Our friend Sasha falls and all of the ladies in beautiful gowns watch her blood swim to the pavement, glassy with Indian summer rain. Grace wants to party with everyone, so we ditch the Plaza and head to Bed-Stuy.

The disco is over-commercialized, over-promised garbage. But a crew can always defeat the space. We push in front of grinding Swedish bros and confuse them by picking up the trash on the dance floor with a broom and dustpan. We glide through hallways of red mirrors. Confetti flies. "Bohemian Rhapsody" is disgusting but we vibe. We make a note to steal all of the disco balls when we finally get kicked out.

I meet Grace next before the Altuzurra show. She asks me to meet her down the block, where she takes a minute to decompress before the show. "I don't think I'm ready to go in there yet." We sit and chat and then a strong wave of eagerness comes over her and we walk into the building. We go to the catering table and she eats approximately 100 cornichons. She is ushered to the dressing area, pickle in hand, to put on her look; a snakeskin-printed bra peeking out from a checkered blue and white dress tied on the side. Her earrings look like big romantic blue pasta. She meditates in the sunshine before the blinds go down. She is flawless on the catwalk.

Grace leaves the show, throwing her red, white, and blue pantsuit back on her body, washing her hair out in the bathroom sink, schlepping her bags, and running to her next fitting.

There is a lot of downtime backstage and a lot of waiting at fashion shows. Grace likes to maximize this time. While waiting at Coach, she works on her music. It is glittering and electronic and her voice effortlessly floats over it. Coach gives Grace a shirt with Elvis's face on it and an epic belt with her name on it.

Everyone is excited for Marc Jacobs. Grace finds out she is booked the night before. I walk in and she holds my hand while six hairdressers tend to her new rainbow dreads for hours ("I'm sorry I'm being quiet Olivia, I'm just in pain"). When they finish she thanks everyone for their time and makes sure everyone knew how much she loves them.

Her shoes are 6 inches high as well as too big as well as missing and she needs to walk fast. She isn't dressed. She needs to see the catwalk. She needs to practice the catwalk in her shoes. While everyone scrambles to find her green Mary Janes, and after they graciously decline her offer to help, she FaceTimes her boyfriend on his birthday. He answers immediately. She shows off her hair. "I'm a mermaid." They giggle at each other across the Atlantic.

Upon seeing the runway lit with beautiful orbs falling from the sky like our very own city stars, she is lost in awe. I like to think she is maybe reminded about what is so exciting about fashion; when you are blessed and able to get lost in a beautiful world.

The shoes are found, the walk is practiced, Grace gets dressed, extra green paint is precisely smeared onto her lids, and she joins the line of beautiful girls in cotton candy dreads and sparkling 7-inch combat Mary Janes.

After the show, she sheds her layers and hugs Kiki and Lili and Rebekah. Champagne is served and we take it with us on the subway. We sprint through a parking garage on 55th away from the street style photographers to get there. Grace curls up in Lili's lap.

I come home with Grace that evening to help her pack for the three weeks ahead (London, Milan, Paris) and to take some photographs at home. She sings in the shower and dances with a red ribbon over her nipples. She plays her synthesizer and her guitar before going to sleep, and then lets me sleep next to her so I can see how messy her hair can get in the morning. We talk about boys and love. She tells me she thinks she has a lot to figure out. I tell her I feel the same. We assure each other of our existences.

In the morning I help her carry her suitcases down the five flights to the street. She is late to her ride to the shoot before the flight to London, but morning sunlight streams through her beautiful messy mullet and she greets her driver with love and kindness and no one is angry. She waves goodbye to me from the window, blue eyes bright as ever.


Photography and text Olivia Bee | ICONOCLAST IMAGE

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