NEW YORK — Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is being “Made” over in more ways than one.
Come September, not only will the semiannual fashion shows move from Lincoln Center to a new undisclosed “downtown” location, but the name of the entity, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, will change to New York Fashion Week, following the departure of Mercedes-Benz as the title sponsor after the upcoming February shows.
In addition, WME-IMG, which owns Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, is in final negotiations to acquire Made Fashion Week, a rival entity that is owned by partners Mazdack Rassi, cofounder and creative director of Milk Studios; Jenné Lombardo, founder of The Terminal Presents, and Keith Baptista, partner and managing director at Prodject and partner at OBO Paris. The deal is expected to be in effect for the September shows, and the partners will continue as consultants.
IMG’s exit from Lincoln Center — where shows have been held since 2010 — was a long time coming. WWD reported in December 2013 that IMG would vacate the tents there when its contract expired after the February 2015 shows. The departure was spurred by a lawsuit filed by community activists over whether the MBFW tents in Damrosch Park were a violation of the public-trust doctrine. Based on a settlement last month, the City of New York, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and Lincoln Center agreed not to renew their contract with IMG — a moot point since IMG already agreed not to stay.
Mercedes-Benz took over title sponsorship in New York from General Motors for the spring 2002 collections and held that role until February 2004, when Olympus assumed it. Mercedes-Benz resumed the role in February 2007. IMG confirmed that Mercedes-Benz would end its sponsorship after the February shows and said it doesn’t plan to work with one traditional title sponsor going forward.
A spokeswoman for Mercedes-Benz in the U.S. confirmed the company won’t be sponsoring New York Fashion Week after February.
“Our relationship with fashion is not ending, and we do support fashion globally,” she said, citing sponsorship of fashion weeks in Sydney, Istanbul and Berlin, among others. “We maintain a top-tier portfolio of events. We routinely review those events for return on investment and general engagement. In general, it’s important to note that fashion and design are key pillars for Mercedes-Benz, and we will support fashion well into the future. Globally, Mercedes-Benz supports more than 50 fashion engagements in 30 countries.” She said some are with WME-IMG, and some are with other entities.
In addition, American Express, which was a sponsor of MBFW from September 2007 to September 2014, has pulled out of the February shows. It continues to be a sponsor of Made New York.
While all the sponsors for the February shows at Lincoln Center haven’t been confirmed, they will include Mercedes, Maybelline, TRESemmé and DHL.
In past seasons, complaints mounted that a circus-like aura pervaded the shows at Lincoln Center, and designers such as Vera Wang, Michael Kors and Diane von Furstenberg moved out of the tents and opted for different locations around town. Spring Studios (at 7 Saint Johns Lane) became a popular location this past September, with designers such as Kors, von Furstenberg, Calvin Klein and Jason Wu showing there. Still, showgoers have found themselves traipsing all over town to see fashion shows, from the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side to Chelsea, TriBeCa, SoHo, the Meatpacking District, the Garment Center, Murray Hill, Wall Street and even Brooklyn.
As for the future location of New York Fashion Week, WME-IMG said it is negotiating for a new “downtown” location but said it’s too early to disclose where. Sources said the September shows could be held in several different locations to give designers various options. Ultimately, it is expected that the shows will move into the Culture Shed, the arts center at Hudson Yards, once that venue is completed in 2017. It’s still up in the air as to which entity would run the centralized shows, either the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which now owns the Fashion Calendar, or IMG, which doesn’t have a contract with the Culture Shed.
The Culture Shed, a $300 million project, will be an exhibition and event space on West 30th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues, alongside the High Line. It is being created with four runways, studios, exhibition space and a dramatic 140-foot-high canopy that slides along tracks to create indoor and outdoor spaces. The Culture Shed is being privately funded, with board members including von Furstenberg, who spearheaded the drive to raise the money to build it.
The acquisition of Made Fashion Week will give IMG several additional options for showcasing fashion.
Made, which started as an alternative venue in September 2009, has featured about 32 runway shows and presentations of emerging designers at Milk Studios, at 450 West 15th Street; the Standard Hotel, at 848 Washington Street; and Highline Stages, at 440 West 15th Street. Last September, the participating designers included Costello Tagliapietra, Jeremy Scott, Peter Som, Timo Weiland, Ohne Titel, Cushnie et Ochs, Public School, Zana Bayne, Baja East, Sophie Theallet and Tim Coppens. In previous years, participants have included Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang and Altuzarra.
The combination of IMG and Made is an interesting turn of events for the two former show rivals, which have vied for designers and sponsors in the past.
Made Fashion Week, which began as MAC & Milk, started during the recession as an alternative for designers who couldn’t afford to show at traditional venues. Made allowed them to show for free and paid all the costs of the fashion show. It also developed a digital presence at MilkMade.com. American Express is Made’s biggest sponsor, along with companies such as Maybelline, The Wall Street Journal, SmartWater, Lexus and Macy's. Made was working with Creative Artists Agency for representation but is no longer working with the agency.
Sources said details of how the two operations will work together are still being ironed out, since IMG charges designers to show and Made doesn’t.
In an interview with Rassi, Lombardo and Baptista in 2011, Rassi told WWD, “One of the things people don’t realize is, there’s no cost for the space.” Generally, a fashion show could cost a designer anywhere from $75,000 to $500,000 and upward, Baptista said. At Made, the space, as well as the makeup, seating, lighting and sound, are provided for free. The only expenses for the designer are for a music person, models, a hair person and collection-related expenses. “Still, a lot of people don’t know that this program is an incredible launch pad to help those designers,” Rassi said. “There’s this whole idea out there that, perhaps, there’s a competition between uptown and downtown. There is none. We don’t compete with each other. We’re a completely different idea.” At the time, when asked whether Made Fashion Week makes money, Rassi said all the money from sponsorships is poured back into the designers and the program. “We’ve never been a for-profit model,” he said. IMG, on the other hand, is a money-making venture.
In a separate operation, last fall the Made partners launched MADE Music, joining forces with American Express to offer rising musicians strategic brand partners, business mentorship, studio space and a network of photographers, filmmakers and creative directors. They enlisted music industry veterans to act as advisers, including longtime label executive Lyor Cohen.
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)
The @cfda has shifted the dates of #NYFW, with Men’s showing on February 5 through February 7, and Women’s will directly follow, running from February 8 through 14. The preliminary schedule will be released on the CFDA’s web site in the next few days, but Mark Beckham, VP of marketing for the CFDA, revealed that @rafsimons will be back to close the men’s-specific part of the week with a show on February 7 #wwdfashion (📷: Kelly Taub)
@ferragamo is introducing a new space dedicated to the development of women’s and men’s leather good samples. The laboratory, which is created eco-friendly materials and designed to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes, will allow the company to expand its accessories offering through traditional artisanal approaches. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
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“There is no formula. There is no guideline. I can watch Ted Talks all day, but there is no one who can advise me on exactly what it is I should be doing,” said @ronniefieg, CEO of @kith, in an interview with WWD’s @ariahughes at the brand’s new SoHo office in Manhattan. Head to WWD.com to see how Fieg went from hanging out in shoe stockrooms at 13 to building his own business. #wwdfashion (📷: @weston.wells)
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion