Thursday, September 2, 2010

At Lincoln Center, Fashion Week Will Rock

The Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week New York Spring 2011 banners, above, hang outside David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. Below in descending order, under construction, now but the entrance to the tents, as well as two views of the tents from 62nd street between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues will be complete by 9 Sept. for the start of fashion week. Photos by Yours Truly.

FOR the last few months there has been a fair amount of anxiety and trepidation about Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week moving to Lincoln Center after more than 15 years at Bryant Park. It’s a reality in the making, and Godwilling and no more union troubles, the New York Spring 2011 shows jump off next Thursday. They shutter on 16 Sept.

The most commonly cited concern has been that old chestnut, “it just won’t be the same.” Naturally, there are going to be differences for the obvious reason that the shows are moving location. Another big concern is that Lincoln Center is not as accessible as Bryant Park. Others have a more nostalgic and socially conscious reason for their concern: fashion week is moving out of the Garment District. Regardless of their genesis, all of these expressions are borne of the dread of change. It is human nature to dread change - even it’s for the better. Change also brings with it the unknown - as good a reason for dread if there ever was.

Sure, this is a first, just as it was when the action moved out of the designer showrooms into Bryant Park in the early 1990s. Man, the hue and cry! Fashion survived it - and I’m not suggesting it did for the better, because some things that won’t be named at this time, are not - and fashion will survive this.

To put any of my own low-grade anxieties to shame, I journeyed cross town early this morning to take a look-see. The tents are going up as you can see from the pictures. Never do I cease to be amazed by the appearance of things as close as one week before showtime and how it always comes together. Depend on it, all will be ready for Nicholas K to open at 9 a.m. in the Studio tent. Construction has been ongoing 24 hours a day since it started approximately two weeks ago.

By the way, the tents are located between west 62nd and 63rd streets on the north and south, and Columbus and Amsterdam avenues on the east and west. The entrance is on the mall at Lincoln Center behind the David H. Koch Theater. It is next door to The Metropolitan Opera and across the mall from Avery Fisher Hall.

They are just as accessible as Bryant Park. The nearest subway is the very busy 59th Street Station at Columbus Circle, and there are any number of buses coming through from all four points. Certainly travelers from Harlem and other neighborhoods in Upper Manhattan will find it a closer, slightly more convenient commute. Ditto for many coming down from Westchester County and Connecticut. Upper East Siders, too. The 96th street Crosstown bus and 96th street No. 1 line conveyed me to Lincoln Center in approximately the same amount of time as one bus and two trains had delivered me to Bryant Park. But, there were fewer stops, fewer people and less hassle.

I won’t argue that Lincoln Center is nicer than Bryant Park because I am a park lover. Across the street, however, is the charming Dante Park. Also, greenery will be present in the lobby of the entrance tent, as well as in the annex of one of the show tents. And while the tents are supported by a concrete foundation instead of God’s brown earth, they are a backdrop for some lovely man-made structures

Just a few ways that things will be better: There are more shows because there is more space. Whereas Bryant Park had three show tents, Lincoln Center has four that pay homage to their surroundings. In addition to the Studio, there are Stage, Box and Theatre. Visitors will sit/stand/mill in a more spacious lobby where they can see and be seen. An assortment of healthier food choices is in easy walking distance. For instance, there are the eateries at Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle, including Whole Foods. Those with the dough and a taste for good Mexican can dine at Rosa Mexicana. A few blocks north is a Food Emporium. A little farther north is Trader Joe’s, which will be open for future iterations of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week if not for this one. Further, there is farmer’s market around 65th street between Columbus and Broadway on Thursdays. It will be doing business on both the opening and closing Thursdays of the week.

All in all, it’s a nice set-up. My prediction is that this is going to be one of the best Mercedes-Benz Fashion Weeks in some time - if for no other reason than it is a novelty. And Lincoln Center is happy to have the fashion industry.

“The Lincoln Center people have been good to us,” a source who requests anonymity gives me to know. “They’re good people.”

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week hasn’t moved down or up in the world; it’s made a very good lateral move.

Mix Right Ingredients/Call It a Strong Debut

The Degenhardt, above, from Aldo's Call It Spring line is a keeper. Below, in descending order: Guests at the Call It Spring store opening spending down their gift card, while DJ Reach provides some suggestive shopping tunes. A black loafer w/a white sole may have gone home with someone I know, but what will be the fate of the open-toe trellis boot on that rather long leg? Photos of Degenhardt and DJ Reach by John Simon. All others by Yours Truly.

CALL It Spring knows how to open strong.

Here’s the recipe:
1 hip city and location
1 whopper of a gift card
1 jamming deejay
2 signature cocktails
Several foods that complement cocktails
Any number of shoes and a few handbags
1 nifty gift bag
Yield: A ton of fun

Yours Truly should be ashamed to call herself a fashion journalist if she must confess that she was wholly ignorant of the Manhattan Mall in Herald Square until yestidy (1 Sept.) when she presented herself at said location for a special occasion. So that’s where JCPenney is? Who knew?, indeed!

Here I am at the opening of the Call It Spring shoe store, which is supposed to be a shop-within-a-shop – that shop being JCPenney. Only it’s outside the shop on the first floor of the mall. Straightaway, I am handed a gift card. The pr maven-in-the-making gives me to know that it is valued at $150.

“What’s the average price of your shoes,” I inquire, eyebrows raised, skepticism on red alert and ears well-trained to hear $300, which means I won’t be availing myself of said card.

She smiles winningly. “No, they’re around $50. You may be able to buy three pair of shoes,” which is no doubt what uber dealmaker JCPenney had in mind when it threw in with Aldo to offer the latter’s less expensive line. Call It Spring is geared toward young people – now defined as those persons between 15 and 30. No doubt, anyone at its 200 stores in Asia, Canada, the Middle East and the United States who plops down the equivalent of $30 to $70 for shoes or $25 to $30 for a purse will be given leave.

“Really," I ask. “I can buy shoes today?”

She fixes a smile on me to put the sun to shame. "Yes!"

In I stroll into a joint that is jumpin.’ Toute le monde seems to be under the influence of the gift card and DJ Reach who combines both Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson et al. in a supreme mix, among other musical feats, during his set. The white sangria and that vodka drink, too, may be bringing their influence to bear. On one side of the longish, narrow space are the women’s shoes. The men’s shoes take up the other. Naturally, there are more shoes for the girls. Purses hold it down in the back.

I strut down the women’s side populated by sandals galore, boots (high and low) and a few nerdy-hip pumps. ISO that one shoe that will speak to me, much like those Manolo Blahniks did to Carrie Bradshaw during an ancient episode of “Sex in the City.” Don’t yet hear anything, but here comes a server with a tray of drinks. I pluck a white sangria from the bunch and continue my stroll up and down the aisle, stopping here and there to see who’s trying on what and to chat up acquaintances/colleagues. Right now, I am allowing a black-bean quesadilla to flirt with my palate. And I discover that I can resist neither the miniature chicken burrito or a square (of beef) tending toward medium-rare, just as I like it.

Who goes there? At the exact second that I am about to take another turn down the aisle to have a second look at that red pump with a fat heel, because I thought it whispered something. Just as … I hear a voice. It’s calling my name. I turn and walk in the direction of the voice. It’s beckoning me. My caller is a forest green, leather/suede ankle boot with wedge heel. It has granny-boot laces in front and zips on the side. A built-in ankle warmer enclosed in its suede cuff ensure warm feet. The turned-down leather shell with stitching and silver hardware add another layer of coolness. Degenhardt looks like a million bucks instead of $60-something – which, of course, is what JCPenney/Aldo intend. Check out that urban swagger. Put D with shorts or a short skirt/dress – and watch out world! With some over-the-knee socks and mini anything, and hurt will be done. It is the embodiment of the Call It Spring mandate: young, hip, citified and affordable without looking cheap.

In the middle of our tête-à-tête, a sales associate literally almost takes it out of my hand. Apparently, it has been talking to someone else, too – hmmm, a player. I step aside. If it’s meant to be …

It’s a man’s world and it is populated by a diversity of combat-like books with various levels of true grit and utter stylishness. I peep out a fair number of Beta loafers/slippers. Involved in a serious conversation with a pair of black loafers with a white sole and white cording on heel is a colleague and sometimes adviser. He informs me that he’s
confident that he has just the right escort for his new tuxedo. He makes introductions, but I forget the name of the prospect. About this Alpha male is the air of a man pleased with himself, and it only increases after the trial period with the loafer. I excuse myself, as they are about to embark on serious negotiations for what I am sure is to be a beautiful relationship.

Meanwhile, it turns out that my forest green admirer is a little too small. It won’t work. I need my personal space. I can’t be crowded. To my delight, however, I learn that such a size-appropriate one can be located for me and shipped to my door free of charge. No strings attached.

It’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Now, I will take my leave and the gift, bag, too, containing a tie and small pocketbook with a little (Call It) Spring in my step.


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