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NYFW: The Uptown, Downtown, Crosstown Challenge

During the upcoming New York Fashion Week, the fashion faithful will get a Cook’s tour of New York City.

NEW YORK — Make your town car reservations — or, if you’re further down the food chain, make sure you load up your MetroCard.

During the upcoming New York Fashion Week, the fashion faithful will get a Cook’s tour of New York City, traveling to the Upper West Side, Chelsea, TriBeCa, SoHo, the Meatpacking District, the Garment Center, the Upper East Side, Murray Hill, Wall Street and even Brooklyn to see shows. In fact, it’s possible over the next two weeks of shows that an intrepid fashion reporter, blogger or retailer could hit nearly every section of town — in one day.

Long gone are the days when most of the shows were situated in the Bryant Park tents, and a few designers staged their shows elsewhere around town. As part of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, some 67 shows will be held at Lincoln Center, 10 presentations will be at the Hub (Hudson Hotel) and 16 will show off-site as part of District Associates. There are another 200 or more shows at venues spread throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, including 28 shows at Made Fashion Week at Milk Studios at 450 West 15th Street.

Among those showing around town are Zac Posen, who will show at 13-17 Laight Street; Donna Karan’s 30th anniversary show will be held at 23 Wall Street; Vera Wang will show at the Dia Center at 535 West 22nd Street, and Alexander Wang’s show will be at the Duggal Greenhouse in Brooklyn. Spring Studios, a new event space at 50 Varick Street near the Holland Tunnel (a 24-minute subway ride from Lincoln Center, provided there are no delays), will host such shows as Diane von Furstenberg, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Theory and Altuzarra.

“It’s really tragic, although that’s an overused word, that those of us who come from outside of America, we don’t just come to see the shows. We come to see New York, what’s happening…everything. I actually don’t want to spend my time on the West Side Highway. That’s never been a good experience of mine, sitting in a taxi, having hysterics on the West Side Highway. I just don’t get it,” said Suzy Menkes, style editor of The International New York Times.

Fern Mallis, the originator of New York Fashion Week and an industry consultant, said the jury is out about this upcoming week. She called this year “a transitional” one. As reported, IMG Worldwide was sold to William Morris Endeavor and Silver Lake, and the deal is expected to close in the spring.

“I think it will be a very frustrating week for a lot of people. It’s clear to me that centralization is totally a concept that works when it works. It made a huge difference in this country and launched the careers of tons of designers and really put America and New York on the map. It just grew to a point where the focus shifted on what the purpose and essence was of organized venues. People will miss a lot of the convenience when they’re going to be running all over the town,” she said.

Mallis believes that sometimes designers forget who their audience is.

“Everybody’s experimenting a little bit this year — trying to see what they can all get away with and what works. People should be praying that the weather is good. Some of these locations are impossible to get to trafficwise, and if the weather’s bad, forget it. I think designers forget who the shows are for sometimes. That’s what centralization was all about. Bryant Park was for the convenience,” said Mallis.

Robbie Myers, editor in chief of Elle, agreed the schedule is much more spread out this season, and the staff is going to have to split up in order to see all the shows they want to see.

“We definitely have to go further and further to see the same amount of shows, especially when you have shows back to back,” she said. A similar situation occurs in Paris and Milan. “But at the end of the day, we get to see fashion shows, and it’s a nice thing to do for a living,” she said.

Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue, said, “I feel that it’s no crazier than New York typically is.…There will be a lot of running around this season, as there always is.” She said Manhattan is a very “compact island” compared with London, where it can take a good 45 minutes to get from the East End to the West End. However, in London they lay out their schedule and things rarely run late because they take into account the travel time and add a 15-minute cushion.

Sherin pointed out that a majority of the New York shows appear to be on the West Side, which makes things a little easier. “The fact that there’s this movement towards showing in West Chelsea and Milk Studios, as well as Lincoln Center, has been an improvement from years past. It’s all along the West Side, so you can zip up and down more quickly. When you’re going crosstown, it gets more challenging,” she said.

She doesn’t even seem to mind Wang showing in Brooklyn, calling it “genius” because of the neighborhood’s cultural scene.

She believes that London, Milan and Paris have a stronger vetting system in place to decide whether a designer should show. “In New York, it’s been much more all-encompassing in wanting to give everybody a chance, which is a great thing, but on the flip side, it makes it difficult to cover it all.” She said she’s a big fan of presentations, especially for the contemporary brands. “I don’t think that everybody should have a fashion show. I think there are more designers who should be encouraged to hold a presentation,” she said. She called the group presentation at Milk Studios on Saturday from 7 to 8 p.m. “a great way to see these young designers, and you just go from studio to studio and see their collection. It’s efficient and it’s one-stop shopping and I would encourage more of that.”

Steven Kolb, chief executive officer of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, defended the current situation and doesn’t think it will be a hassle traveling all over the city. “I don’t think this season will be that much different. It’s New York City. You have to get in a subway, taxi or on a bicycle. You have to move around in the city, sometimes you’ll have traffic. You might get stuck a little, but it’s not different than any other city. It’s the same as Paris, Milan and London.

“It’s an overblown issue. It’s a week in February and September,” said Kolb.

He said that a centralized venue works for a lot of reasons, but it doesn’t work for some designers. Every designer does not want to be part of a centralized show, said Kolb.

To make traveling easier, IMG has hired shuttle busses that leave the tents and go to the MBFW off-site shows. Lexus, a sponsor of Made, will be providing a dispatch number to schedule hybrid sedans and SUVs to editors attending Made Fashion Week.

Kolb noted that the CFDA has gotten more involved in the scheduling of the Fashion Calendar. To make things more manageable, the CFDA has launched a database app for the industry that will sort every show by such criteria as location, event type (show or presentation) and design category. Kolb also worked with 25 editors and buyers to come up with a list of the “Top 25” shows in New York City.

Still, the question remains: Should New York Fashion Week be a commercial event or a business event? And more importantly, should the number of shows be pared down?

“It’s different for different people. Why one designer does a show is different than another designer who does a show. A smaller designer wants to get press and marketing. Some people use it solely for that. Some try to do sales.…It’s still a trade event,” said Kolb.

But there’s no question the CFDA looks to have more control over New York Fashion Week. “IMG is a spoke in the wheel of fashion week. They do 65 shows at Lincoln Center. We’ve stepped in to bring some tools into it, to make it better. CFDA is stepping in and taking control. We’re always in conversation with Made and IMG. What the experience will be in Lincoln Center, I’m really optimistic,” said Kolb.

IMG’s contract with Lincoln Center runs through February 2015, and then IMG will need to find a temporary space. Kolb said the Culture Shed at Hudson Yards, which is expected to become the future home of New York Fashion Week beginning in 2017, won’t be big enough to have majority participation. Some people will still want to do their own thing.

IMG is moving to raise its game this season after numerous complaints last September.

Jarrad Clark, vice president, global creative director of IMG Fashion Events and Properties, said that guests at MBFW will see both cosmetic and operational improvements at the upcoming shows at Lincoln Center. He said once one steps inside the tents, they’ll see a newly designed lobby and check-in area, as well as more lounge areas to discuss business or for the media to plug and play. They’ve also created a more full-service bistro on-site, working with Restaurant Associates.

Clark said they’ve upgraded and redesigned the venues to suit different show needs. The Pavilion is more contemporary, the Salon is more elegant and The Theatre is the venue for a large capacity and for those designers who want to do big build-outs and make it their own. Clark said they’ve also upgraded the backstage facilities, relocating the bathrooms and making larger hair and makeup facilities.

Lynn Tesoro, whose public relations firm HL Group handles front of the house for 15 to 18 shows per season, said it’s not easy figuring out where each of the designers should show, and she’ll look at who’s showing beforehand and afterward to try and make it convenient for the attendees.

“Our job is to get the right people in those seats,” she said. “It’s not an easy puzzle,” she said, especially with three shows at every single time slot.

Tesoro believes that IMG has taken steps in the right direction, after a difficult show week last September. “My understanding is you will register a change,” said Tesoro, referring to the redesign of some of the venues and the lobby area. “I give them a lot of credit. They were swift [in making the changes],” she said.

The real question remains whether fashion week is a business or a consumer event. “That’s a huge question. At the end of the day, it is about selling. We’re at a time where things will either blow up or people might see it as better. It’s not MBFW, it’s New York City Fashion Week,” said Tesoro.