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Lincoln Center Gets an ‘A’

Carolina Herrera, Isaac Mizrahi and Prabal Gurung gave New York Fashion Week's new venue high points.

New York Fashion Week’s move to Lincoln Center earned generally favorable marks from designers and retailers, although the packed schedule and its hither-and-yon schedule drew complaints from many buyers.

“Lincoln Center was a triumph,” said Carolina Herrera. “The way it was constructed, the entrance, and the outside gardens, it was all fantastic.”

Mark Badgley said, “It just felt like New York. It was good for fashion, good for designers and good for the city. I know the first time is always a novelty but all the people we invited — socialites, celebrities and industry — they were really into it.”

Isaac Mizrahi was another fan of the uptown digs. “There was something elegant about it and I think it was a little more organized than Bryant Park. Also, somehow it felt less anxiety-provoking by not being in the center of town.”

Pleased as he was, the designer is not committing to a second consecutive season just yet. “I may show there again next season, but I can’t be sure because I like to change things a little from time to time,” he said. “I would definitely show there again in the future.”

Lela Rose was also at ease with how everything worked out for her Sept. 12 show and to have fashion showcased in a hub for the arts. However, she did hear “a few grumblings about the GPS system for seating, but I suspect all kinks will be worked out by next season.”

Prabal Gurung was also high on the location’s cultural significance. “The magnitude of the place itself, the buildings, what it represents historically…you don’t feel it until you go there,” Gurung said. “It’s a perfect home for fashion. There was this incredible energy. It was easy to navigate and to find, traveling back and forth was easier also. There weren’t any crazy traffic jams. I think it worked out perfectly.”

While the new check-in system for guests was lauded by many, some thought the check-in desks, screens to direct people to the right venue, and little white printouts with seating information were reminiscent of airport terminals — environments usually lesser known for high-fashion statements.

“It’s like being on Jet Blue,” Marjorie Gubelmann said. “I love it.”

Robert Burke said he started the show season feeling “very skeptical,” but thought the set-up was “well organized,” especially the check-in system. In addition, the layout resulted in “less riffraff looking on than usual,” he said.

Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus, pointed to the mall’s outdoor plaza as a welcome extra. “There is some room to maneuver and breathe, and gather yourself and your team,” he said. “Now, if we could only get the schedule to be less uptown, downtown…it would be very helpful if there is an attempt to schedule blocks of shows in one part of the town. Think of how much more ecologically correct we would be.”

It was a common complaint about store buyers, who felt they spent a large part of the week in taxis or Town Cars shuttling from one end of Manhattan to the other. “I thought Lincoln Center worked,” said Nicole Fischelis, group vice president and fashion director of Macy’s Inc. “What didn’t work is that there are still too many collections all over the city.”

Barbara Atkins, vice president and creative director of Holt Renfrew, was even more vocal. “The venue felt very spacious, but it wasn’t very convenient for buyers. We’re all over the city, running to see showrooms in between shows. It seems that fewer designers were showing at Lincoln Center. Most were downtown. The travel was very difficult. It felt like a trade show.”

Overall, though, buyers were pleased with the new locale, as summed up by Bergdorf Goodman’s Linda Fargo, who gave it a two thumbs-up. “If I had four, five or six hands, the thumbs would all go up,” she said. “It’s efficient. We underestimate how when things are well organized, it relieves stress. Fashion week is stressful enough.”