No one would ever equate New York’s Fashion Week to your average schlub with a hairy back, but when organizers of the semiannual runway shows in Bryant Park took a long look at themselves through a different lens, thanks to a new title sponsor, they suddenly discovered some problem areas. So they called in the professionals — or just one of them, anyway.
Interior designer Thom Filicia, a.k.a. the home styling representative of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” was given the honorary title of Olympus design director and charged with making over the inside of the Bryant Park tents, much as he would any hapless victim on his Bravo program. His mission was to spruce up the place —?which hasn’t seen a real update since the Dinkins administration —?to reflect the corporate spirit of Olympus, 7th on Sixth’s new title sponsor, and also to put more focus on the photographers.
Along with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Kenneth Cole, Olympus executives and Fern Mallis, executive director of 7th on Sixth, Filicia unveiled his work at a Friday morning ribbon-cutting ceremony. And the look is really something — maybe not fierce, but he sure did Olympus proud. The biggest change in Bryant Park is that the tents’ interiors are mostly black, giving them a sepulchral pallor, an effect that was heightened by a rainy winter’s morn. The tents are dark enough to develop film inside, if it weren’t for the fact that everybody shoots digitally these days. At least Filicia wore a bright blue suit, the cheeriest pop of color in the place.
“I wanted to create a space with comfort in mind for the people who are here a lot,” said Filicia, sitting on gray flannel modular furniture, along with a sparse supply of tiny paillette-covered pillows embroidered with rhinestone Ws (as in the hotel chain, another sponsor). “I wanted to give it a hint of a residential feel with lighting and rugs. It’s an essence of the luxury of being at home, without being literal.”
All around the main tent, just as in most people’s homes, are alcoves celebrating things such as MAC cosmetics, Song Airlines and Dunkin’ Donuts — whose marketing executives looking to chic up the cruller must have had a group coronary when Kenneth Cole laid out trays of Krispy Kremes for his guests. Smack dab in the middle of it all, where it’s been since 1912, is the Josephine Shaw Lowell fountain designed by Charles Adams Platt, which Filicia has chosen as his coup de grass, filling its cement basin with some random topiary and a dozen white mannequins modeling the latest Olympus offerings — and nothing else.“It seemed to me to be a good idea to bring the park into the space,” Filicia said. “The fountain is the real key to the park, and I brought in the mannequins, which are nude to give the idea that they are putting everything else behind them, because all they really want to wear is their Olympus cameras. I felt the fountain had been neglected in the past.”
Frankly, it now looks abused. Wouldn’t any of the 100-some designers involved in Fashion Week please lend this poor man some clothes?
Nevertheless, Filicia — and Olympus — have scored big points with the 600 registered Fashion Week photographers, who now have on-site repair services at hand, iMac stations to download their images, extra cameras to borrow and their own lounge, covered in pleasant geometric print area rugs. Mayor Bloomberg applauded the photographers as well, stepping into a makeshift photo pit for the event and offering a few comments on the fashion industry’s importance to New York City, representing $35 billion in economic activity and 155,000 jobs — or 5 percent of the city’s private employment.
“You’re going to see some wonderful clothes modeled by the most beautiful people, but these are the ones I want you to look at — the audience,” Bloomberg said. “New Yorkers are some of the best-looking people in the world.”
There are a few fashion designers who might have a problem with that directive, preferring that attention be on their clothes. Come to think of it, they’d probably have their own suggestions for how to spruce up the week. So let’s turn to another makeshift mélange of stylish personalities for their advice. Here, the Fab Five meets the Fashion Five.
When asked the other day, Oscar de la Renta, the master of manners, said all Fashion Week needs to look better is simple: “Start on time,” he said. Perry Ellis designer Patrick Robinson, looking outside his window, was similarly succinct: “Move it to Miami.” Cynthia Rowley suggested a helpful hint in “hiring male and female models to sprint around the park in sunglasses to give it a more glamorous effect,” while Alice Roi is a proponent of simplifying her schedule: “I’d spread it out and make it a fashion month,” she said.“I would close the city to traffic, except for fashion people,” added Michael Kors. “At least Mayor Bloomberg could do that for us.”
While he was at it, Kors — is it Kyan? — had a few other suggestions: “I would also remind everyone involved — the models, hairdressers, music people, editors, stylists and press — that what we do for a living is still a very pleasurable way to make money. People complain a lot, but we could be doing something a lot more difficult. We could be at war. We could be in the medical practice. I’m so tired of people whining that ‘I’m wiped.’ Another thing, make the tents in such a way that everyone could have a front row seat in an incredibly comfortable chair.
“And maybe everyone could TiVo the shows and if it gets boring, we could fast forward them,” he continued. “That way, people could go to 10 shows in two hours.”
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