GUERRILLA MARKETING: Ever wondered about the craze on Sixth Avenue right before and just after a show? While bystanders may blame the frenzied fashion crowd, many see it as the result of guerrilla marketing tactics that have taken over Bryant Park this season.
Case in point: When editors and buyers exit shows, a brown paper bag filled with a smoothie, an apple and a protein bar is shoved into their hands — courtesy of low-cost airline Song, which has its booth centrally located within reach of the three show venues.
But the madness continues outside the tents. Like a second-rate department store cosmetics area, product is being spritzed at editors and buyers from every angle. Some of it smells like a good idea, and some is just plain stinky.
On Tuesday, the scene reached fever pitch: dozens of scantily dressed women aggressively offered the fashion week dailies and Gap reps handed out woolen chevron sweaters. Marketers, scattered across the area, accosted editors with advertising fliers for The Brini Maxwell Show (who?) on the Style Network, 50-cent coupons for Endulge Atkins ice cream and even maps promoting shopping in Las Vegas. Damrak gin had three well-groomed white poodles wearing a promotional sweater to flog the booze. “We love fashion, the dogs are fashionable, and everybody likes to have a good drink,” said a Damrak spokesman.
Meanwhile, Kate Spade, who’s designing uniforms for the Song airline, got into the act by giving each attendee at her press preview Tuesday morning a round-trip coach class to any Song destination, good for the next year, courtesy of the new carrier. The retro-chic Spade-designed uniforms also made their official debut at the press breakfast, and are set to hit the air around Valentine’s Day.
BIELLA DU JOUR:It looks like Damiano Biella, the former creative director for Carolina Herrera, has landed on his feet. A Valentino spokesman confirmed that Biella is about to start work at Valentino as studio director, a new design post. An announcement with more details is expected shortly. Valentino will stay on as chief designer and creative director for couture and ready-to-wear.
Biella resigned from Herrera in February after four-and-a-half years with the New York-based firm and was succeeded by design director Hervé Pierre Braillard and Carolina’s youngest daughter, Patricia Lansing, as designer.
MELTING AT MARC: The sweltering temperature at Marc Jacobs’ show at the Lexington Armory Monday night clearly divided the hot and bothered from the cool and comfortable. Vanessa Carlton arrived wearing a one-shoulder Stella McCartney sweater with boyfriend, Third Eye Blind’s Stephan Jenkins, in tow. “I’m really hot and sweating,” Carlton complained. “And I forgot to wear deodorant.” Hilary Swank, on the other hand, had on a halter top and a mini. “I knew it was going to be hot so I didn’t wear cashmere,” Swank explained. “I had inside information.”
Gabriel Byrne arrived solo; his 11-year-old daughter decided to stay at home. “She welshed out and went to bed,” said Byrne, who hadn’t been to a fashion show since Gianni Versace’s last one in Milan in 1997. “She got second thoughts. She had more of an idea of what this was going to be like than I did,” he added, surveying the chaotic traffic jam of photographers, hangers-on and celebrities, including Paris Hilton, The Strokes and Amanda Peet.
Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon was there — not surprisingly, since she and her family are featured in the new set of Jacobs’ magazine advertisements. “People haven’t really noticed them — just a few friends,” Gordon admitted. “I’m not really that well known, anyway, so most people probably are just wondering, ‘Who is that?’”
At the after party at the Maritime Hotel, Sissy Spacek munched on sushi with her daughters, Schuyler and Madison Fisk, while Gina Gershon mixed with Anna Sui, Gisele Bündchen and Sofia Coppola. Swank bopped back and forth between the VIP party, at Matsuri and the hotel’s ballroom, which was so packed with people it resembled the rave scene in “The Matrix: Reloaded.” She pitched in for a few minutes to sell T-shirts and other memorabilia to benefit the Harvey Milk School. “A woman came over and bought a T-shirt and I said, ‘And?’ So she bought another one. And then I said, ‘And?’ And she bought another one. I sold her like 10 shirts,” Swank enthused. “I told everyone else they couldn’t take a picture of me unless they bought a T-shirt.”
SHOW FOLK: If the weekend was all about pop stars, then shows on Monday and Tuesday were all about Broadway. Nestled into the front row at DKNY was the songwriter, Carol Bayer Sager, whose credits include the theme song from “Arthur,” “When I Need You,” and, with Burt Bacharach, “That’s What Friends Are For.” Her latest work includes songs in “The Boy from Oz,” which she planned to preview Monday and Tuesday nights, so she decided to catch a show from her Hamptons friend, Donna Karan, during the day, possibly looking for some creative inspiration.“Why not?” she said. “You never know what’s going to inspire you.”Matthew Morrison from “Hairspray” used his night off to go to Marc Jacobs, and at the Bill Blass show on Tuesday were Bob Mackie, who’s no stranger to Broadway as a costume designer, and actor Joel Grey, who said he’s busy preparing for another Emerald City production — the controversial musical, “Wicked,” that explores the early lives of the witches of Oz, based on the novel by Gregory Maguire. Grey plays the wizard. “You’re supposed to be wise to be a wizard,” he said, also looking for fashion inspiration, although by the look of his Dries Van Noten suit, it appeared that Grey has remained up to date. “Any art is inspiring, and fashion is art when at it’s best. It’s like going to a museum.”
CEO SUMMIT: As far as tasty fashion week sightings go, when you’re the co-chairmen of a designer’s competitor, you’re bound to get noticed sitting in the competitor’s front row. So when Lawrence Stroll and Silas Chou, whose Sportswear Holdings Ltd. acquired Michael Kors this year, turned up at Marc Jacobs, lots of interesting ideas came to mind. Apart from the lower-priced Michael collection they’re launching for Kors, could they be angling for a piece of a possible better line from Marc? Looking to invest in more brands? “Oh, no,” said the ever-social Stroll. “We’re just here for the show.”Besides, they weren’t the only apparel tycoons in the house. Keeping a lower profile was Dan Shamdasani, chief executive officer of Public Clothing Co., owner of Generra and French Cuff and licensee of Perry Ellis women’s sportswear.
THEIRA COPA: It’s been a nasty little secret of the front-row trade for years, but revelations this week of celebrity guests for hire have left a lot of tongues wagging, and even more fingers pointing. Such is the case of reports of Lara Flynn Boyle’s request for $25,000 to come to shows. While no one’s denying it happened, her Los Angeles-based publicist said she would have never encouraged such graft, and the calls must have come from Boyle’s modeling reps in New York. “It was not a representative from my company, nor would I ever do that,” said Karynne Tencer, principal of Tencer & Associates, on Tuesday.
RUZOW ALERT: No big surprise that Kellwood Co.’s Stephen L. Ruzow, president of women’s wear, was spotted at Oscar de la Renta’s show, considering the ongoing talks between de la Renta, Kellwood and J.C. Penney about developing a new collection for the chain, but he also happened to check out Jill Stuart’s show the day before. Kellwood’s made no secret of its interest in acquiring brands, and Jill Stuart — with its hefty sales in Asia —?could be an attractive option for the company. And those close to Ron Curtis, president of the brand, said he wouldn’t be adverse to feeling out some offers.
FAMILY TIES: Patty Hearst-Shaw was having a laugh at the Badgley Mischka show because she’d been seated in her daughter, Gillian’s seat. Her friend, Kimberly Rockefeller, occupied Amanda Hearst’s. “People are probably thinking, ‘Oh, Amanda and Gillian look like crap today,’” Hearst-Shaw said. “‘They must have had a rough night last night.’”“Yeah, Amanda and Gillian sure look chubby this morning,” Rockefeller added, laughing.Hearst-Shaw said it would be her only fashion week appearance; Gillian, who just graduated from Georgetown, has been making the rounds. She was front row at DVF but left her second-row seat at the Marc Jacobs show before it started because it was “too hot.” She starts work at the Creative Coalition in October.
HARVARD FANS: While the tents drew the fashion flock and society oohed and aahed around Central Park, a solid chunk of Manhattan’s literary set were celebrating Norman Mailer’s 80th birthday downtown. Alums of the Harvard Advocate — the school’s literary magazine, natch — threw a party at agent-editor David Kuhn’s apartment and populated it with a cross-section of the media industrial complex: Harvey Weinstein, Cynthia Nixon, Amy Fine Collins, Conan O’Brien, Michael Wolff, Peter Kaplan and, of course, the guest of honor. Mailer was introduced by Gay Talese, whose classic piece of reporting, “Frank Sinatra Has A Cold,” was just chosen by Esquire as one of the best stories it’s ever published. That happened almost 40 years ago and, apparently, things have gone downhill since. Talese said he thought the last story he wrote seven years ago, “Ali in Havana,” was just as good (and just as long), but 10 magazines took a pass. “The New York Times Magazine said Fidel Castro didn’t sound like himself,” Talese exclaimed. “Jayson Blair is telling me about accuracy!…Now I’m sounding bitter.” Not at all. And Esquire eventually published that one, too.