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The bi-annual Manolo Blahnik sale at the Warwick Hotel always seems like high tea with the queen compared with your average sweaty, frantic Garment District blowout, but don't be fooled by the posh surroundings: It's still out-and-out stiletto war when the doors finally open. The ingrained sale hierarchy—VIPs get in at 9am, everyone else at 11am—just makes everyone crazier than they already would be. Fawnia Soo Hoo reports live from the scene below.
7:57am: Good morning! I just arrived and it's a bit different this time around. First of all, we're all crammed (I use that term loosely since we're in a cushy meeting room with seats and ice water again) into just one room. There is no check-in table and staffers are walking around the crowd checking names. This is causing minor confusion as it's hard to tell who arrived earlier than who. A lady already got all punch with me and another girl who made the mistake of standing near her.
7:58am: Also, everyone is catching on because it's pretty much standing room only. I tried to see if I could make my way into the press preview, but they're pretty strict with names. As always, they're organizing us into groups by letter, and I have an H! I'm going to be here until 3pm!
8:03am: Like I mentioned, it's standing room only, so I'd estimate that there are at least 100 people (all women) here. I see some familiar faces from last time, including Mizhattan who is an E. Damn it! One more update: André Leon Talley won't be joining us today, so we'll have to shop sans his styling expertise and enthusiastic bon mots.
8:13am: People are starting to sit on the floor since all the seats are taken. I just realized my ticket is actually an I, not an H. Mizhattan arrived ten minutes before I did, so peak arrival time must have been between 7:45am and 7:55am. Last time I came I was a B!
8:20am: So I noticed they changed up the tickets this time around, too. Maybe they read the lineblog from last spring when a lady threatened to go make her own ticket at Office Depot rather than going through this process.
8:30am: They're moving all the red—oh, excuse me, PINK—VIP ticket-holders to another room, and now it's clearing out in here. First off: They let the VIP guests mingle with the commoners? Also, if there are about 50 Kelly green ticket holders left, I'm assuming a bunch of people came in to pick up their ticket and then took off (to put in an appearance at the office maybe?) and will come back at 11am.
The room circa 8:31am. Note all the empty chairs now that the VIPs have left.
8:35am: I'm reminiscing with Mizhattan and we're talking about how as members of group B last time, we entered the sale at 10am. Hopefully they start early again this time, but I'm not holding my breath. It's kind of quiet in here.
8:38am: Spotted the first male at the sale—with a female spouse/partner/friend. Sucker!
8:45am: Second man spotted. He looked a bit apprehensive walking in; his eyes were darting back and forth. ZOMG! Breaking!! They're bringing in coffee!!
8:56am: I see another man here, but he's embracing his inner alpha male. He's with a group of women and he's chatting gregariously with them. Hey, this would be a great place for a single man. You have a captive audience.
9:02am: I just walked by the sale room. They've opened the borders and the VIP guests are making their way in. I overheard a staffer instructing an underling to let the green ticket-holders in at 11am. Damn. [Ed note: All VIP tickets are pink, and all non-VIP tickets—regardless of letter—are green.]
9:10am: If I may be so bold as to suggest that the Warwick Hotel and the sale organizers provide free wifi access for future sales (this is a major time commitment, after all), it would be much appreciated. Thank you. Hey, and where's the usual '80s music? Slacking, Warwick!
9:21am: People have settled in for the long haul. One girl is watching movies on her iPhone; another has traded up from a New York Post to a New York Times. I notice a third has been reading her US Weekly for the past hour. Guess that Kardashian cover story is riveting.
9:36am: Two girls just rolled in all fresh-faced to meet a friend and former sorority sister (yeah, I'm eavesdropping) who has been here since the beginning of time. One is clearly a newbie because she exclaimed, "This is hilarious" upon entering. She then stated that the staffers better let her in because she has a 10:30am meeting. Not gonna happen, lady, but I'm excited to watch you try.
9:40am: She just gave up. Amateur.
9:51am: For anyone frustrated with the slow-ass 3G in the waiting room, the service is less clogged in the lobby.
9:52am: Oh wait. The head staffer just kicked me and an entire crowd out of the lobby.
9:57am: Finally, I see people exiting with their purchases. It almost seemed like people were going in but never coming out.
The crowd continues to wait. Note people huddled around the door, which is the only place in the room with AT&T service.
10:05am: Aha! First baby spotted. He just rolled in, stroller-style. Not sure how that's going to work. Wait, actually, the mom clearly had the same thought because she just rolled him out again.
10:17am: I'm watching a satisfied shopper smugly walk out with two massive paper shopping bags stuffed with shoes. People are cleaning up. I'm not too hopeful about what will be left come "I" time.
10:22am: Alert: The usually nice Warwick ladies' restroom is starting to resemble the bathrooms at Penn Station and desperately needs a TP refill. Also, the water station has changed from glassware to Styrofoam.
10:29am: A visibly pregnant lady just came in with a toddler-sized child and no one got up to give her a seat. The family was about to sit on the floor when they spotted an empty chair across the room. It's like some sort of high-end refugee camp in here. (Is that totally awful?) People are starting to look forlorn and desperate, both for designer shoes and working cell service.
10:38am: The VIP group is still shopping. Grr...last year, I was already inside for 20 minutes or so by this time. Hopefully they'll start the public sale on time, especially because they've exhausted all the letters in the alphabet and are now on numbers. I did hear that they're letting people in ten at a time, so the situation isn't as dire as I thought it would be. Everyone is crowding around the archway of the lobby door because that's the only spot in the room with a sliver of AT&T service.
10:45am: It's really annoying because now there's only service in a small area outside the deteriorating ladies' room, but a staffer keeps shooing desperate wireless-service–deprived shoppers back into the holding area. I'm clandestinely typing this text in the bathroom as we speak.
10:47am: Yes! The staffer just instructed the green As to line up now. The line looks to be about ten deep.
10:48am: They just went in. Hope they shop efficiently, but fat chance really. Eight more rounds until me—yikes. I could really use that '80s music right about now.
10:50am: I think they unleashed the beast. A crush of people have crowded around the doorway and I bet you a pair of Manolos that none of them are group B. You can just taste the desperation in the air. One is even talking about what she's going to wear with her yet-to-be-purchased shoes.
11:06am: They're calling C now, so if they let people in at ten-minute intervals, I should be in by...12:10pm or so. Ugh.
10:59am: Oh yay, they're calling in Bs. This is way more efficient that I thought it would be. Hope they don't hit a bottleneck at E.
11:16am: Yes! We're on Es now. Four more groups. I could make it in there before noon! The Fs are already crowding around the door.
11:18am: They just called F and a girl almost steamrolled me on her way to the front.
11:24am: A staffer just called G and said, "See? This is totally better than last time." I beg to differ. I also just overheard a guy and his girlfriend conspiring to trade their W for a better letter. How is that going to work?
11:35am The staffer just called out, "H, as in Prince Harry." I'm next and am staking out the door.
11:40am: Figures there's a bottleneck at I. Still waiting.
11:46am: It's go time!
Fawnia's liveblog from inside the sale is right this way, complete with photos and pricing.