It’s showtime in Bryant Park and around Manhattan, and the media and buyers, like the designers they come to see, are ready for a change of pace.
Organizers of 7th on Sixth have taken that to heart, sprucing up the tents and environs. Designers showing beyond the greens of the park are trying to be more innovative with their site selections.
Donna Karan will channel Dorothy Parker at the Algonquin Hotel, where her DKNY show will be held Monday. Guests received classic books as invitations to the fabled hotel, the Vicious Circle’s favorite haunt. Another departee, Yeohlee, persuaded a bunch of photographers and friends to model her collection Monday at the International Center of Photography. Roxanne Lowitt, Miranda Lichtenstein, Anne Collier, Lia Chang and Julie Dennis Brothers are some of Yeohlee’s recruits.
Jack McCollough and Lorenzo Hernandez are also going the gallery route. Their Proenza Schouler collection will be unwrapped Monday at Milk Gallery. Newcomer Thakoon shows at Drive-In Studios Sunday afternoon.
Yigal Azrouel will unfurl Sunday at the Harold Pratt House, once the Upper East Side home of the Standard Oil magnate for whom it is named. Alvin Valley will unveil his fall collection Monday at the Altman Building in Chelsea. Marc Bouwer introduces his fall line Wednesday at the new Cipiriani 23rd Street.
But the main event remains behind the New York Public Library. There are 67 shows under the tents in Bryant Park this season. It started with Kenneth Cole Friday morning at 9 and concludes with the first runway show for Jennifer Lopez at 8 p.m. Friday. From start to finish, there will be scores of celebrity logjams, harried editors, weary models, curious pedestrians and no-nonsense security guards.
Knowing this is an appearance-conscious crowd, Fern Mallis, executive director of 7th on Sixth, said “the space has been tweaked” to give this season a fresh look. She said the lobby space is enlarged and enhanced, and each of the three venues — The Tent, Plaza and Atelier — are slightly larger, mostly with better backstages and enhanced seating capacity.
Bathrooms have even been spiffed up, now that Kohler is a sponsor, and the Olympus lounge has been enlarged. The Cafe area will feature materials for NYC 2012, the city’s bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics, and this year’s logo is in saffron orange in support of the Central Park Gates Project by the husband-and-wife artist collaborators Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
Mallis noted that while some designers choose to have their presentations outside of Bryant Park, 7th on Sixth still attracts many of the big names. This week, for example, big draws like Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Narciso Rodriguez, Michael Kors, Cynthia Rowley, Vera Wang and Zac Posen are all showing under the tents.
Fashion fanatics who miss those shows will have a chance to replay them — as well as other 7th on Sixth presentations — at the Olympus “listening wall.” The title sponsor is providing an area equipped with its latest gadget, the MRobe, a digital camera and MP3 player.
From Tuesday through Thursday, Converse will set up an off-site lounge for editors at Loft Eleven at 336 West 37th Street. There they can “grab a bite to eat, have a cocktail or just take a load off” and check out the brand’s fall merchandise, a company spokeswoman said.
For some of those who journey off the Bryant Park campus to stage their shows, the move is as much about lauding New York as it is their collections.
Imitation of Christ designer Tara Subkoff will set up camp Sunday, typically a quiet day, at the hopping Marc Newson-designed Lever House.
“It’s one of the most beyond-believable buildings in New York,” Subkoff said. “It feels like a celebration of New York to be in it.”
DKNY isn’t the only company touting New York’s literary past at the Algonquin. Hollywould founder and creative director Holly Dunlap chose the hotel for her first full-fledged fashion show, which was held there Friday as a Russian tea party. Unable to compete with designers throwing $300,000 fashion shows, Dunlap decided on a more intimate setting for her Leo Tolstoy-inspired collection. She also said she wanted to emulate the early couture shows of her friend Alexander McQueen, as well as those done by her one-time roommate John Galliano.
“What we’re doing is totally untraditional,” Dunlap said. “But we don’t have live animals and belly dancers — not yet, but hopefully down the road.”
Pierrot was also feeling bookish, staging its show at the Bar Association of New York, next door to the Royalton.
Gen Art also went the Midtown hotel route, showing at The Roosevelt Hotel. Fashion director Mary Gehlhar was mindful about finding a place near the tents. “People don’t necessarily want to go to the Lower East Side in between two tent shows,” she said, adding that the hotel’s decor was a plus. “I liked the backdrop it adds. It adds a little bit of intrigue and color. It’s dull to go back to the same place every season.”
Alice Roi’s show at The Meetinghouse in the East Village Wednesday will be a homecoming, considering that for 15 years she attended school there at the Friends Seminary.
“I wanted the space to reflect the movement I’ve made with my collection toward quality and the attention to details,” Roi said.
— With contributions from Arthur Friedman