NEW YORK – Driver, thank God you’re here. Take me to ... where again?
New York Fashion Week descended upon the city Thursday, and with it, the vexing promise of a weekend of snow and slush. That should make the question of location even more pressing to every editor, retailer, model and hanger-on in town. Gone are the days when most fashion shows huddled together under tents at Bryant Park, a nearly one-stop shop for every Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors and Carolina Herrera.
(Gone, too, are the days when Fashion Week was an actual week. “It’s really like there’s no traffic cop anymore,” said Michael Bastian, who moved his show to Tuesday, two full days before the “official” start of Fashion Week.)
Lincoln Center plays the part that Bryant Park once did. But this main site now faces competition from an insurgent downtown hub, and independent shows held everywhere from Chelsea to Wall Street to (cue gasps) Brooklyn.
Things fall apart. The Lincoln Center cannot hold.
The complex has weathered complaints about overcrowding and too much commercialization, but it remains the largest single artery for Fashion Week. This season, 69 shows and nonrunway presentations will take place there. Jarrad Clark, vice president and global creative director of IMG Fashion, which owns and produces the event, said that certain spaces had been reconceived, the capacity for some reduced and interiors refurbished to address criticisms. An additional 10 presentations will be held at what organizers call the Hub at the Hudson Hotel five blocks away.
But the field is widening. The organizers of MADE Fashion Week, which caters primarily to up-and-coming designers, have created their own satellite constellation in the meatpacking district, split between Milk Studios on 15th Street and the Standard Hotel. Then there are designers who select still other locations. Several of them, including Joseph Altuzarra, Olivier Theyskens of Theory and high-profile Lincoln Center defectors like Michael Kors and Diane von Furstenberg, have moved to Spring Studios.
“Even I feel like four, five years ago, showing that far downtown was not that much of an option,” Altuzarra said. “The breadth of where shows are now occurring is sort of interesting.”
He has reason to be interested. Altuzarra is participating in a one-season-only swap of time slots with his friend Alexander Wang to help ease scheduling tension caused by Wang’s out-of-the-way choice of location: the Duggal Greenhouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He professed no irritation: “I think going across the river and showing in Brooklyn is an interesting experiment and one that I think probably will happen more and more.”
(Would he ever choose Brooklyn? “I think the Altuzarra woman is a very Manhattan person,” he said.)
Wang’s move to the other side of the East River has been much discussed. “We found this incredible space, and it corresponds very well to this season’s creative concept,” was his explanation, sent via email. Besides, the one he often uses, Pier 94 on 55th Street, is booked for the Westminster Kennel Club’s Masters Agility Championship.
Whatever the reason, the move has caused consternation among the editorial classes. Brooklyn, despite its rising profile, is simply not done. An exception to this rule is Rachel Comey, who will return to the Red Hook site she pioneered last season.
“I think that people are definitely at a point where they are eager to experience something new,” Comey said. What did the experience teach her? “That I could have done it sooner,” she said. “I feel like we could have done it five years ago. Maybe not five. But maybe three.”
Nevertheless, the terrain is new to many. “I have never seen a show in Brooklyn, no,” said Laura Brown, executive editor at Harper’s Bazaar, who will attend Wang’s this season. But she was sanguine about the possibility, having started her career in London, where jaunting far and wide for shows was the norm.
“I was used to sitting in an abandoned train station with drips on your head and foil warmers,” she said. “Or going to Victoria Station to see McQueen shows, then going all the way east to see something else. I think people in New York have had it kind of easy for a while, I guess.”
She added: “When you go see a show, you’ve got to establish the character of the person that you’re seeing, and if people feel they have to go somewhere else to do that, I’m all for it. Also, if they could send a teleporter, I’d be thrilled.”
That raises a key question: How is anyone to get there?
Wang’s invitation arrived with a printed map, directions and a discount code for Uber transportation there and back. (“All over the city, drivers will be made aware of the location and time,” Jeremy Lermitte, Uber’s New York community manager, promised.) In addition, Wang is chartering a New York Water Taxi to take guests to the show; and a further two, plus three buses, to ferry attendees back free, on a first-come, first-served basis. (Lest anyone accuse Wang of fiddling while Rome sits in traffic, let it be known that his after-party will be in Manhattan; he will not be spared the cross-river commute.)
Of course, this presupposes that Manhattan is the final destination for showgoers. In large part, that may be. But Comey, who also provides transportation for her guests, found that the pickups for her show last season were all in Manhattan. “It was just a different story on the way home,” she said. “Most of them were going to Brooklyn stops.”
She lives in SoHo.