In 2014, Sophie de Rosee, then the Telegraph's fashion features editor, was on her way out of the Oscar de la Renta show at New York Fashion Week when her lift broke down, stranding her with ten other people. One of them was Andre Leon Talley, the larger-than-life American Vogue editor. To mark the publication of The Chiffon Trenches, Talley's new memoir, we're republishing de Rosee's account. Enjoy.
Making a sharp exit after a fashion show is key when you're crazy storeys up in a high-rise building. The queues for the lift take what feels like a lifetime when you're rushing to the next show across town. So getting into the very first lift down after the Oscar de la Renta show on the 25th floor of 11 West 42nd Street was a massive score.
Ten smug fashion editors - the notoriously outspoken former editor-at-large of American Vogue Andre Leon Talley, WSJ's Meenal Mistry and Paula Knight, Le Figaro's Godfrey Deeny, editorialist.com's Davidson Hudson, the Telegraph Magazine's Daniela Agnelli and me (and three more I have yet to identify), plus Jim the elevator man - were on their way. Or not, as became evident when the lift jerked to a standstill around the second floor.
2 minutes in: Jim gets on the radio and explains the situation to the chief lift operator Ernie, our sole point of contact who over the course of the next 47 minutes turns out to be less than communicative. Attempts to restart the lift manually, pulling out red buttons, alarms ringing out, fail.
4m 56 We debate climbing out. Someone begins to recount how they were once stuck in a lift, but stops. Not the right moment.
6m Temperatures - and tempers - are rising and winter coats removed.
8m 47s "Can't you call some emergency people to come help you?" asks Andre Leon Talley (aka ALT) to Jim. No. Nobody can call anyone because no one has mobile phone reception. We're stuck in an elevator with no phones, and only Ernie to help us.
"Can't you email someone?" Talley continues. No. There's no reception.
"Maybe you could text someone?"
9m 31 Ernie radios in. He's called the fire service. What? He didn't do that already?
9m 26s ALT: "This is not good."
10m 18s ALT: "Can't you text anyone?" Still, no.
10m 42s This is exactly the time when you realise the capabilities of the New York City Fire Department, who are nowhere to be seen.
10m 58s Does Oscar know we're stuck in here? We decide yes.
11m 45s Jim calls for an update. Gets berated by ALT for not sounding urgent enough.
12m 28s The lights go out. Gasps.
The lights come back on. Relief.
13m 56s The alarm bell is pushed. It's the only way to illicit a response from Ernie. ALT to Ernie: "We are really about to panic in here sir."
Ernie: "Please stay calm. We are right now speaking with the fire department. Help is on its way."
ALT: "Well how far away is it? How many minutes?"
Ernie: "They didn't tell us that."
ALT: "Can you call Mr de la Renta's press office and tell them that his guests are stuck in an elevator?"
Ernie: "I'm calling them right now."
Oscar's people will speed things up for sure.
Ernie: "How many people are in there?" Q: How long does it take for 11 fashion editors to count themselves in a lift? A: An embarrassingly long time: 13 seconds to be precise, because everyone starts counting and confusing each other.
Finally, Jim: "We're 11."
15m 42s Jim to Ernie: "I think I can open the doors from the inside. Am I clear to do that? We need air."
Ernie: "Let me call Oscar de la Renta upstairs."
WHAT? He hasn't called them yet?
And what about more air?
16m 2s Jim wrenches open the doors with his keys. Can we get out? No. There's a concrete wall the other side of the doors. We're stuck 6ft under the second floor. Six feet under? Don't say that.
So what exactly will the fire department do when they get here? Winch the whole lift up? Cut us out? This is insane.
16m 34s Has Ernie spoken to them yet? No. He says he's already talking to the fire department and the mechanic at the same time. He'll call them "right now".
17m And we all thought we were making the fastest exit from the show.
ALT: "This is really bad. I feel like there's no one helping."
Panic begins to set in. The air is hot and close.
Ernie over the radio: "Just push the button and talk."
18m 23s Girl's voice: "Hi. This is somebody from Oscar de la Renta…"
ALT (loudly): "You know we are stuck, 11 people. This is Andre. There are 11 people in this elevator."
PR: "Andre, the fire department is on its way."
ALT: "What does that MEAN?"
PR: "They will be here as soon as possible."
ALT: "AS SOON AS POSSIBLE? You need to tell Mr de la Renta we are stuck in this elevator. Is this Erica? Who is talking to me?"
PR: "The fire department have all their equipment and they are crossing the street now."
ALT presses the alarm bell for a really long time in protest.
Thank god Andre is here. If anyone can get us out of this lift, he can.
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ALT: "We can't breathe in here. There's no air."
21m We get the giggles. How many firemen are there? Are they hot? Are they single? Does Erica know we're in here? Does Oscar know? Let's push the alarm bell some more. They need to know we're panicking.
22m Sshhh. It's the firemen shouting down to us. Can't hear them. Then Ernie on the radio: "We're getting the equipment to open the 2nd floor doors, Jim."
Shouting fireman: "We'll be right there. We're going to get you right out."
Half the elevator say, 'Yay'. The other half roll their eyes.
Ernie: "There are 10 firemen here working to get you out." 10? Oscar must have made a call.
24m 2s Jim isn't sure whether to keep the elevator doors open or not. We decide it's helping with the air circulation. Jim's being brilliant. Shame about Ernie.
This is far too long to be stuck in an elevator.
25m 59s We discuss how long those people were stuck in a freight elevator last season at Theory. 20 minutes? No, 40. Here? No, somewhere in west Chelsea. There were like 100 people in a 40 person elevator. And a couple of them were pregnant. That's worse than this. Isn't it?
Ernie: "Jimmy, stand by. They are going to cut the power"
ALT (panicking): "The lights are going to go off, right?"
The power stays on.
Ernie: "They're getting a ladder. Stand by."
We all look up and notice lines in the ageing ceiling that could be the edges of a hatch. That's how we're getting out.
ALT: "This is just awful" More alarm bells. "I would like to speak to an official from Oscar de la Renta please." Go Andre!
29m 38s Cinnamon gum is shared around. Anti-anxiety pills are also offered. We're not quite that bad yet. Maybe later.
The doors are closed for safety. The elevator heats up.
Ernie: "There are eight people in there, right?"
Ernie: "Jim, I've got the NYFD here and the paramedics."
We all laugh.
ALT to Jim: "You're there in that hot jacket. You see I took off my clothes. I'm going to be stripping in a minute."
It's getting hotter. Can we open the doors again? We switch places so others can get near to the air by the door.
35m 4s We discover Andre is wearing Uggs, which he says he's been wearing for three years, but no one noticed.
How long have we been stuck in here? About 30 minutes we decide.
ALT: "Who's writing this? Is someone taking notes? Describe the panic. By yours truly."
We all laugh. We love Andre.
Shouting fireman: "We'll get you out, as soon as we pop this door. In one minute."
Please. Hurry up.
37m 08s Did you just hear one of the firemen say axe? Yes we heard axe. That can't be good. It's a bit Jack Nicholson in The Shining. I'll huff and I'll puff and i'll….
ALT: "I don't think I'm coming back to his show ever in this building. Never am I coming back to this building. I am NOT coming back to this building. Eleven West 42 is not happening."
More coats come off.
ALT to Jim: "I want a full report on why this happened. Not from you, but from the building."
38m 39s: Can we get another update?
There's something about the lobby. Not relevant.
40m 49s: Where is the person from Oscar de la Renta?
Ernie: "Come in Jim? They are still trying to open the doors on the second floor."
Panic is real now. Tempers are high.
Ernie: "The Oscar girl is walking down from the 19th floor." The elevators have stopped in the whole building.
Water is offered around. No takers.
ALT: " I don't understand why this isn't working. They need to call more people from the fire department. They need to get more help."
This is not an easy crowd to get stuck in an elevator with.
44m 24s Whatever happened to 'we'll get you out in one minute'? Remember that?
46m 4s There's a big bang. This is like one of those disaster movies. The elevator shakes. Someones on the roof.Everybody mind out - don't stand under the hatch.
More shouting. More shuddering.
47:25 Dust falls down, and the hatch is opened.
A fireman passes down a ladder and tells us to climb out one by one. Ladies first.