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Quinta Brunson Is Crushing Her First Fashion Week

Quinta Brunson Is Crushing Her First Fashion Week

“Part of me feels like I have a civic duty now to show up for the small girls at the things I get invited to,” she tells.

Quinta Brunson is trying to tell me about a new era in her personal style when we’re interrupted by a Kate Spade model in pursuit of a photo with the Abbott Elementary showrunner and star. This is approximately eight minutes after the start of our conversation was itself delayed by a cluster of fashion people-slash-Abbott fans, intercepting Brunson with heaps of praise for her Emmy-winning show. Before our time speaking at Kate Spade’s fall 2023 presentation is up, two more admirers stop by to say hello. She graciously accepts their compliments and takes pictures with everyone who asks, a faux-fur trimmed coat with Old Hollywood glamour draped over her shoulders.

Big stars attending their first New York Fashion Week tend to generate some buzz. But Brunson’s presence seems to have unleashed a higher level of excitement. As all those bubbly fans show, her endearing portrayal of a Philadelphia public school teacher on Abbott resonates. “Have you been stopped absolutely everywhere?” I ask after snapping a few photos of the model and Brunson on the model’s phone. “Well … yeah,” Brunson laughs. “But it’s very nice. One thing I love about New York is I feel a very genuine love here that is really, really special. There’s something special about New Yorkers. You can’t buy that, and you can’t fake it either.”

Quinta Brunson, second from right, at the Kate Spade fall 2023 presentation with Lana Condor, Emma Roberts, Ziwe Fumudoh, and Haley Lu Richardson.

Brunson’s excitement about attending her first New York Fashion Week is also something that can’t be faked. The night before we met at Kate Spade, she sat front row with Julia Stiles and Lindsay Lohan in a sleek, low-cut black gown at Christian Siriano. Later on Friday, she planned to attend Rodarte’s triumphant return to the New York calendar, look details TBD.

Like the Abbott fans who meet her, Brunson is just as energized seeing fellow Kate Spade guests Lana Condor (whom she has always wanted to meet) and Ziwe (whom she knows, but hadn’t seen in a while). Then there is the “doll” and “sweetie pie” of a front-row companion from the day before, Lindsay Lohan. “She and Julia were such a joy to sit next to, especially for my first fashion show,” Brunson says.

Brunson at the Christian Siriano Fall/Winter 2023 show. ” I was really excited to wear that black dress because I wanted to portray a simple glam, something that I want to show I’m able to do,” she said. 
Brunson seated front row with Julia Stiles and Lindsay Lohan at the Christian Siriano Fall/Winter 2023 show.

Fashion Week is about more than just meeting people though. She sees sitting front row and appearing at presentations as a chance to represent a body type that’s not so common on the runway. “I think most people know I’m a very short girl, [I’m] 4-foot-11, and as a short girl you rule yourself out of things like Fashion Week, or fashion in general,” she says. “So it’s really cool to be invited and part of me feels like I have a civic duty now to show up for the small girls at the things I get invited to.”

Lana Condor and Quinta Brunson meet at Kate Spade’s fall 2023 presentation. “It was so good meeting Lana today,” Brunson says, “and we both had that moment of like, oh, finally!”

So far, with the help of stylist Bryon Javar, Brunson has worn looks that, she says, lean a little more streamlined and glamorous. For the Siriano show, her strapless gown was accentuated with a jaunty little hat, teeny-tiny sunglasses, and power stilettos. Under the aforementioned coat at Kate Spade, she is wearing a white button-down shirt and a black-and-white zebra printed skirt, both trimmed with heaps of feathers that sway while she talks. (It is all very, “Call my assistant, darling”—but I have a feeling Brunson would never say that herself.) And while our conversation is just before 10 a.m., she carries a little Kate Spade bag embellished with a resin martini glass, because she, one, loves martinis and, two, “I just felt like I needed something a little extra to push it all over the edge.”

Brunson elaborates, “We’re in a new period. I don’t know how, but I just decided that in my mind. I have been expressing to Bryon that I kind of want to reel it in a little bit, get a little serious, get a little classic.”

“It’s a staple of the game, a classic Kate Spade bag, and I think that’s a big part of what I’d like to reflect in my career,” Brunson says. “I’m not going anywhere for a long time—I’ll be here for a while.”

The character that won Brunson so many Fashion Week admirers is also making some changes to how she dresses on television—but not quite in the same direction, aesthetically speaking. Faux-fur coats and martini bags can’t be part of the Janine Teagues fashion equation: She’s a second-grade teacher and practicality reigns supreme. Her look is more about kooky printed dresses and scarves to counter the school AC, which has led to some semi-uncharitable Twitter commentary from viewers (and shade from other teachers on the show).

“While the kids love it, it’s corny to everyone else, but it’s also a part of who she is right now,” Brunson says of Janine’s style. “As we see her grow and become a person that is focused on making herself happy more than others, I think we’re going to see her style change. She’s wearing geometrical shapes more, instead of nuts patterns. And in the last episode of this season, there’s more solid colors, because this is now a person that’s learning to become a bit more solid. She’s not gonna lose that fun, but she’s starting to get it together more.”

In a roundabout sense, Brunson and the character she plays are evolving in parallel. “I think about my own fashion journey that way, What am I feeling now? Who am I? I’m not getting dressed today the way I was 10 years ago,” she reflects. “But there’s not necessarily anything wrong with how I dressed 10 years ago.”

For the new look Brunson is trying off-screen, there are a lot more people who will take notice. She’s ready for the cameras.