8:56 » We're slightly behind schedule; everyone picks up the pace. The Liberty's house photographer is leaning over cube walls to check on the action while eating an apple and talking in non-sequiturs. "My dog loves to sleep in my laundry," he says. "Her name is Mel and she speaks Portuguese." I decide I like him.
9:14 » I admire a lithe brunette getting fitted in a loose Grecian dress. It's really pretty. A model almost trips over my outstretched feet, and I realize I'm kind of in the way. "I have a clear handbag," says the photographer, in response to a conversation about nude lipsticks.
9:34 » All the models are ready, and all look amazing. We still have 25 minutes until the show, and Taylor Swift is showing everyone a pair of wickedly sexy knee-high boots.
9:35 » The model in the Grecian dress gives her approval, adding that it's hard to find boots to fit legs as thin as theirs. Everyone nods sympathetically; I glower into my notebook.
10:01 » Dolly Parton is on the radio, and we're all grooving. The makeup artist puts last-minute lip-gloss touches on the girls.
10:10 » "Game faces, ladies," says VIRA co-owner Radhika Rana as the models line up by the door.
10:13 » Show time! The DJ drops a beat, and the first model steps out into a pool of light on the catwalk above the lobby. The models make their way through tables of people who look up from glasses of champagne and plates of charcuterie to admire them.
10:23 » Now the models are poised by the escalator, ready to ascend into the crowded lobby. There's a surplus of single men circling the bar; I'm pretty sure they're going to be into this.
10:26 » One or two of said men are leering creepily, but most are watching respectfully. I take a moment to admire the clothes — lots of flowing dresses in pastels. Hotel guards help the models onto makeshift stages (the concierge desk, for one).
10:40 » While the models are backstage for a wardrobe change, a leery-type bro sidles up and asks me where they'll appear next. I gesture vaguely towards the escalator and try to look busy with my notebook. He doesn't know that I just wrote the words "leery-type bro."
10:43 » Writing industriously hasn't deterred him. He tells me his buddy's girlfriend was in "one of the things once." "Hmm," I say, wondering when the models will be back.
10:46 » They're back! This time they're clad in glamorous, mostly black designs. Their return has captured my companion's attention, and I escape back to the second floor to watch from above.
11:02 » I join the models backstage for the final wardrobe stage. All has gone without a hitch. We are professionals.
11:05 » "Here we go!" says Rana, and the models are off again. I'm very tired and wonder how they walk with such poise in heels so high. For energy, I eat some truffled potato chips I ordered during a lull in the action. They're delicious.
11:18 » The models are on their last circuit, and everyone in the Liberty claps along with them, because we've just seen a genuine fashion show — for free, a price that's always in style.
11:26 » The models have posed for photos, taken off their heels, hugged Rana, and departed into the night and their boyfriend's BMW. I'm collapsed in a swivel chair, licking truffle salt from my lips and thinking about another beer. Fashion is fun, but it's exhausting.