There’s nothing New Yorkers love more than an event they can’t get into, and Fashion Week is the most exclusive of the exclusive. The sole domain of well-heeled, well-coifed fashionistas (and their close friends, financial backers and random celebrity followers), the week centers around a carnival-esque gathering of tents erected in Bryant Park and shows that run 9am-9pm, often on top of each other. Betsey Johnson turns cartwheels, celebrities cause shows to run late, underdogs rise to the top… it’s a festival of fashion!
Here’s a critical detail that first-timers don’t always grasp right away: I know it’s the cusp of fall and the magazines are hurtling all manner of autumnal descriptors your way like “crisp” and “tweed,” but guess what? The collections you’ll be seeing this week are for next spring. Like, as in 2009. The good news: It’s kind of warm enough that you can at least feel like you’re dressing to match. The bad news: If you fall in love with something coming down the runway, you have to wait six months to buy it. Also, these runway presentations are not feature films. Hell, they’re barely shorts. Expect to spend about 45 minutes in line (though the scene, believe me, is entertainment enough), and then a whopping eight or so minutes (less if you’re watching an up-and-comer) actually gawking at the models and clothes flying down the runway.
Oh! I almost forgot. You can’t go to the shows. Well, that’s not entirely true. If you’re invited, you can go, but most people (ahem!) don’t get invited to everything, if anything. Even though American Express is apparently offering some kind of package deal, you can’t even buy your way in. Your best bet is to do a bit of research (glasses and pencils ready!) to figure out what PR company is putting on each show and talk your way into a ticket. Suggested topics for conversation include: How much press you’ll be able to give the designer, how many pieces you intend to buy for your store, and the like. This doesn’t really work, however, for the big namers, who’d probably only have their feathers ruffled if, say, Victoria Beckham backed out of her front-row seat. And even then, meh. Like high school girls, they’re really only dressing up for each other.
The Heavy Hitters
Unless you are, or are an acquaintance of, Anna Wintour, there’s no way you’re getting into these shows. You’ll know them by their impressive-sounding venues, ranging from the larger arenas within the Bryant Park tents to the Park Avenue Armory. The old-school baddies like Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan now have enough momentum to exert their own gravitational force on the week, but increasingly it’s the next wave of overachievers who’ve brought celebrities into rinky-dink folding chairs in a darkened room. Marc Jacobs is really the fulcrum of fashion week, followed by editorial darlings like Phillip Lim, Proenza Schouler, Peter Som and Zac Posen. On the fresh-but-stilltough-as-nails-to-get-into front, we find Alexander Wang, Thakoon and Reyes.
Ones to Watch
Any editor worth his or her salt will tell you that everything at fashion week is hit-or-miss. Even Marc Jacobs can make a misstep, so in many ways the rising stars are the most exciting presentations to watch. The scene at something like Rachel Comey, Vena Cava or Karen Walker might not be as star-studded as Michael Kors, but it’s reliably hip. Make new friends! Resident local Chris Benz seems poised to make a Phillip Lim-esque catapult depending on the strength of his showing, and Preen and Staerk have been catching the eye of trendmakers downtown. These upstarts are found packing models into the smaller spaces in the tents or hijacking creative Chelsea gallery spaces and sample sale venues. If you’re feeling really frisky, I’d even take a look at Christian “Hot Mess” Siriano’s presentation on Thursday.
Other than the after-parties for the big shows (don’t try to make a reservation at Cipriani for the next week or so) and cheesy product launches, there are some pretty big special events surrounding the week. Fashion Rocks (Friday at Radio City) is a bombastic, over-the-top melding of two worlds that have always been conjoined by their own preening and self-promotion: music and fashion. Watch out for Kanye West and, no doubt, the cast members of Gossip Girl. Over the weekend, two major designers will be celebrating big anniversaries: DKNY will be hitting its 20-year mark, and Calvin Klein will reach 40 years with a gigantic blowout at the High Line on Sunday. Closing out the week is, of course, the finalists for Project Runway, which should be a sight indeed considering the show’s move to Lifetime (bah!) and Nina Garcia’s sudden severing of ties with Elle (scandal!).
If you get lost, don’t panic. The more you wriggle and worry, the more the week will drag you under. These are great, ridiculously-updated resources to help you find your way: WWD.com (Women’s Wear Daily online), FashionWeekDaily.com, Fashioncalendar.net