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New York — Move over, Big Apple Circus: The fashion circus is coming to Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park. And not everyone is excited about the move.
This story first appeared in the February 4, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg made the official announcement on Tuesday, confirming reports that IMG Fashion and Lincoln Center Inc. had reached a five-year agreement to move Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week to the site. The new venue will make its debut at the September 2010 shows.
“One of the city’s trademark events, fashion week, has a new home, practically custom-tailored, if you pardon the pun, to its needs,” Bloomberg said at a press conference arranged by IMG Fashion and the Council of Fashion Designers of America at the Grand Hyatt hotel on Tuesday.
But the move received a mixed reception from designers and retailers, while magazine editors generally applauded it. The first two camps contended the location is inconvenient for logistics and is a bit out of the way, while the magazine set said it was time to move on from Bryant Park.
“I hate the idea,” said Anna Sui, a stalwart of the Bryant Park tents. “One of the things that works with Bryant Park is that we can walk the clothes over there, and finish the clothes as we’re setting up. That’s the only way you can have everything finished. All of a sudden, a zipper broke, a button didn’t come in, and all the last minute details are still doable. Somebody can walk in with the last dress before the first exit. I don’t think we will have that luxury at Lincoln Center.”
Nicole Miller said she imagines she will probably be on the Lincoln Center roster, but added, “It’s not as easy to get there. We can’t walk there.” She feels there might be some designers who will opt for presentations in their showrooms instead.
Others looked on the bright side. “I’m so excited for my collections to be shown in the same place as some of the world’s greatest theater, ballet and opera,” Zac Posen said.
Tommy Hilfiger, who showed at Lincoln Center the last two seasons but is returning to the Tents this month, said, “The space is very adaptable, and with the variety of space options, Lincoln Center should accommodate everyone beautifully. In showing at Lincoln Center, you inherently incorporate its culture and history into your show.”
Nanette Lepore plans to show at Lincoln Center. “It’s not really that much of an inconvenience for us. And as you can see from the factual data, we need more space. Sometime you need to change,” she said.
Tibi designer Amy Smilovic is also onboard with the new location. “IMG will make it great. It may even add to the theatrical element since Lincoln Center is such an iconic venue,” she said. “[Bryant Park] is like this little camp-out tent and then you go inside and it’s this great big place. Imagine what they will do with Lincoln Center.”
Retailers also gave the selection mixed reviews.
“I don’t think Lincoln Center is as good. It’s not as accessible,” said Stephanie Solomon, vice president and women’s fashion director, Bloomingdale’s. “You have to realize a lot of shows are scattered all over. Generally, my week is all about running from Bryant Park to Chelsea and SoHo and even down to the lower East Side.”
However, Nicole Fischelis, vice president and fashion director for Macy’s, said, “I think Lincoln Center would be terrific, as long as designers are together on this. The complex is quite amazing, in terms of energy, synergy and inspiration, and it’s very easy to access.”
Linda Fargo, senior vice president, fashion office and store presentation for Bergdorf Goodman, added, “Lincoln Center may actually prove to be easier to traverse between shows, as Chelsea and the West Side are on the same axis.”
As for editors, they pointed out that there was little alternative but to move from the park, which had made it clear it wanted fashion out. “We had obviously worn out our welcome at Bryant Park, so it’s very exciting to be going to someplace where they want us,” said Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour.
“Lincoln Center would be a brilliant place for the shows, given its stature, architectural history and current redesign,” said Linda Wells, editor in chief of Allure. “True, Lincoln Center is not a block from the office the way Bryant Park is; but I don’t mind facing a little more traffic if it means going to Lincoln Center. Maybe we could even catch a ballet between fashion shows.”
Glenda Bailey, editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar, added, “How great that fashion is going to take center stage at Lincoln Center. It is where art meets culture…meets cabs.”
Ariel Foxman, managing editor, In Style, said, “You have to love that fashion week is moving to the site that’s already home to the Big Apple Circus. Plus, I’m hoping the rumored additional 25 percent increase in square footage will yield some shoulder wiggle room between seats.”
Considering the revenues that New York Fashion Week brings the city, it’s no wonder the mayor was keen to keep the event in a centralized location. New York’s fashion week generated $446 million in direct visitor spending last year, and had an overall economic impact on the city of $773 million, according to a statement from The City of New York.
At Damrosch Park, the layout will feature 87,000 square feet of space, in contrast to Bryant Park’s 70,000 square feet. According to the City statement, Lincoln Center’s indoor locations could also be used for special events. The arrival of fashion week is expected to coincide with enhancements being made at Damrosch Park as part of the overhaul of Lincoln Center. That includes a large underground parking garage and several drop-off locations.
The tents attract almost 70 designers, and last year had a total attendance of 232,000. But the majority of New York designers continue to show in venues other than the official tents, especially such major names as Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta and Ralph Lauren.
Bloomberg said there had been a sharp drop in retail sales nationally and locally, which is impacting the entire fashion industry. “Providing fashion week with a new, larger, more suitable and more visually striking home sends the message that New York City is strongly committed to the health and growth of our fashion industry,” Bloomberg said.
At the press conference, CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg said a centralized venue has been very helpful to the industry.
“It has not been easy to find a place for us, a place that was big enough, centralized enough, that was right enough,” von Furstenberg said. “When Lincoln Center was mentioned, I immediately liked the idea because it is a cultural center, and I love the idea of fashion being tied with culture. Since we are starting fresh, we will try to make it better than the previous one, and we will try to give all the improvements we need to do.”
Fern Mallis, senior vice president of IMG Fashion, said the new location will most likely offer room for a fourth venue dedicated to presentations. She said it was too early to determine how the new location will impact the revenue model for IMG and the sponsorships that will be raised to support the shows.
Von Furstenberg and other industry executives have long expressed interest in a permanent venue for shows that doesn’t require the construction of tents, and on Tuesday, von Furstenberg said this was still something to explore over the next five to 10 years.
“The city is always building and developing new areas,” Bloomberg said. “The next big gold coast of New York City will be Manhattan’s far west side. Ten years from now, you will see enormous buildings there. There is possibility for everything.”