VENUES: THE GOLDILOCKS SYNDROME
Byline: Eric Wilson
NEW YORK — Getting from one show to another will present the fashion flock with some transportation challenges next week.
Visitors will find themselves racing from the West Side Highway, en route from 7th on Sixth’s new home at the Chelsea Piers, to venues strung from the Upper West Side to Gramercy Park to Wall Street.
The concept of creating a centralized showplace for New York’s fashion week historically has been controversial, trying to balance designers’ needs for individuality with their audience’s need for convenience and order. When the Council of Fashion Designers of America opened 7th on Sixth in Bryant Park in 1994, designers immediately reacted favorably to the site: charming, varieties of scale, close to Seventh Avenue. For seven seasons, the tent shows drew major designers and global media.
However, 7th on Sixth dropped a bombshell in July with the announcement that it would move to the Chelsea Piers. It was forced out of the park by the loss of several adjacent venues, compounded by designer sentiment that a change was in order.
The new venue was a tough sell from the start, though; while most designers thought the spaces were beautiful, they developed a case of Goldilocks and the Three Piers.
One room was too big; one too small; another looked like a parking garage. Still, the designers watched each other nervously to see who would be the first to say the space was just right. That never happened.
By mid-September, only 15 designers had booked spaces at the piers. The largest venue, at Pier 60, was dropped. And of the 15, four companies — Badgley Mischka, Mary McFadden, Bob Mackie and BCBG Max Azria — made it no secret they were actively exploring other options.
Meanwhile, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren would not dock their clout on the Hudson.
Sensing anxiety, other venues and promoters began courting designers to show in their spaces. Suddenly, the The New-York Historical Society, The New York Public Library and Chelsea nightclubs and art galleries were all in play.
Finally, three major venues for the week have emerged:
The New-York Historical Society lured Oscar de la Renta and Bill Blass to 77th Street and Central Park West, where they will show at the Dexter Gallery, a 123-by-26 1/2-foot space with 27-foot ceilings that will seat up to 600. The designers both said they reluctantly decided to present their collections away from the piers, after showing with 7th on Sixth for several seasons, because the Chelsea venues did not meet their needs.
Kevin Krier & Associates, a fashion event production and public relations firm, brokered a space at 525 West 24th Street, the future site of the Andrea Rosen and Luhring Augustine art gallery. The 10,000-square-foot space, which seats up to 700, was selected because it was convenient to the piers and offered Krier’s clients more options for presenting their designs. Carolina Herrera and Todd Oldham were the first to commit to the site, followed by Linda Allard for Ellen Tracy, Pamela Dennis and Halston Signature by Randolph Duke.
7th on Sixth still managed to book 29 firms at the piers; 43 designers showed last season in Bryant Park. Badgley Mischka, McFadden and BCBG later committed to showing on Pier 59, despite their initial reservations, and Mackie eventually took a space at the Equitable Building, at 787 Seventh Avenue, which is more convenient to the historical society, where Blass and de la Renta are showing before and after him.
Among the other designers showing at the piers are Isabel Toledo, Yeohlee, John Bartlett, Betsey Johnson, Michael Kors, Anna Sui, Vivienne Tam and Donald Deal. There are also newcomers, among them Xuly-Bet, Mario Valentino by Josephine Sedita and Evgenia Godetskaya.
Calvin Klein was the only CFDA executive board member who sat in on 7th on Sixth’s initial discussions with Chelsea Piers management, sparking speculation that he would show there and draw other designers back to the central venue. Instead, he is showing at 450 West 15th Street, the same raw, concrete space he used for his July men’s runway show and his recent CK Calvin Klein spring presentation. It accommodates 600.
Lauren will show at his headquarters at 650 Madison Avenue, while Karan will show her signature collection and D by Donna Karan at her 550 Seventh Avenue offices.
Among the other spaces in Chelsea where designers are showing, Nicole Miller will present her line at the Roxy, at 515 West 18th Street, and Cesar Galindo will show at Twilo, at 542 West 27th Street. In Gramercy, Richard Tyler will show at his Gramercy Park South townhouse, and Marc Jacobs and Rifat Ozbek will show at the New York State Armory, Lexington Avenue at 26th Street.
Seventh on Sixth is coordinating several of the off-site shows through its associate membership programs. The designers showing at Krier’s gallery space, those at the historical society, and Mackie, Miller, Tyler, Lauren, Klein, Karan, Mizrahi and Ozbek are included. Diane Von Furstenberg, Norma Kamali, Searle and Elizabeth Fillmore are also associate members.
Express shuttle buses will leave every 15 minutes, on the quarter hour, from the Fashion Business Improvement District button kiosk at Seventh Avenue and 39th Street and from the Chelsea Piers, from 8:30 a.m. until the last show of the day. Seventh on Sixth also has created a drop-off zone on the northbound and southbound right lanes of the West Side Highway at 18th Street.
The 7th on Sixth command center this year will be on the second floor of Pier 59, with a cafe catered by D’Orazi, a restaurant on the pier.