Lessons Learned From New York Fashion Week at Lincoln Center

It’s been a full season now since Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week wound down from its new digs. The ice-breaker most often heard for the inaugural Lincoln Center fashion week was “How did you like the new venue?”

I attended the very first fashion week ever held at Bryant Park as a design student at Parsons School of Design. It had just been cleaned out of its drug dealers. A few XXX peep-show theaters still lined 42nd street.

So with a new venue officially christened, and a new season around the corner, how did it stack up to Bryant Park and what did I learn from the first time at Lincoln Center?

Dig out your invitations, New York Fashion Week won't let a little snow stop the show

Print everything last minute

Most of the shows used Fashion GPS. This was a sanity saver. You scanned your e-mail confirmation and little receipts came popping out. Unfortunately, like all technology, there were glitches. You couldn’t check in until 30 minutes before the scheduled start time.

This saved a lot of the chaos associated with Bryant Park tents as it cut down on the lineup. It also made it more difficult for stalkers and show-crashers. That doesn’t mean they didn’t try, and occasionally succeed, of course.

For many shows, seating assignments were not given until several hours before the show. If you had your original e-mail, the scan code may not have been current that day.

There was only one laptop set up to print. If you had an emergency, your best bet was to use the business centers of the nearby Empire Hotel or Kinko’s at Central Park South.

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn until the last day that those with media credentials could scan at a different counter. It would spit out your entire day’s worth of show receipts.

Patience is a virtue

It did not matter if you had a front-row seat. All seated guests were wrangled in a pen. Standing-room only guests were wrangled in a separate pen. Don’t panic. You will not miss your show. Average starting time was about 29 minutes after the show time listed on the invitation.

Supermodel Veronica Webb was asked to wait in the seated guest’s line outside of the Christian Siriano show. She was polite and did so graciously before being ushered into the venue by staff. Ms. Webb gave a new standard to “model” behavior.

On the flip side, please don’t scream and throw a tantrum at exhausted security personnel. They don’t care who you are. They don’t care about fashion. The really don’t care about the fact that you are best friends the designer’s intern. Throwing a diva fit while doing a poor imitation of the “Jersey Shore” cast will only get you thrown out. I personally witnessed this outside of the Richie Rich show.

Which brings me to:

Behave With Class

In the 1990’s, Fashion Week was about being “fierce”. Attitude or bravado got you everywhere.

The Upper West Side location of Lincoln Center however, brought new expectations on decorum. Nothing gave away a newbie than the rabid swag-snatcher. The adult woman dressed in a prom dress, carrying three DHL bags, five copies of Daily Front Row and a Mercedes-Benz catalog will not be invited backstage.

While Fashion GPS made it a little more difficult for gate-crashers, it did not mean you didn’t have a chance to make the show. The new civility of PR teams dictated that they would accommodate a few people for standing room when possible. If you waited politely for the other guests to be seated, designer’s reps would likely assign you a last-minute entry. If there were a LOT of people competing for a few standing spots, who do you think the rep would choose? The rude, self-entitled lout or the smiling, appreciative guest?

Know Your Venues

The biggest venue was “The Theater”, then “The Stage”, next the “Studio” and last, “The Box”. Knowing that “The Studio” can only hold a limited amount of standing-room guests might save you some time if you are choosing which show to wait around for.

Almost all shows in “The Box” were presentations where models posed exhibition style. All patrons were listed as “standing”. This meant that this show was not worth your energy to insist to the PR rep that you were promised front row. This also meant that arriving towards the end of the presentation would mean significantly less wait time than those who arrived early.

Bring Survival Gear

That’s right; you will be standing a LOT. There was limited seating and lots of waiting. While wearing comfortable shoes is a contradiction to the Fashion Week dress code, I could not have made it through the week without my City Slips. They are foldable ballet slippers that pack into a tiny pouch. When it was time to switch the shoes, the pouch unfolded into a tote for my Louboutins.

It was COLD. Wherever I sat, wherever I stood, I was under a vent. The absence of a hot coffee vendor (anyone else miss McCafe?) did not help. Bring a scarf! It’s also an easy fashion statement when the rest of your ensemble is practical. Gift bags at the Temperley London show included their Aztec print scarf. That may be the best swag I have ever received in my life. With the current temperatures and predicted continuance of winter weather, I can only hope other designers are keeping the weather in mind as well.

Bring business cards. All the huddled wait time gave you ample opportunities to network. It was time to bring the social to social media. I saw the same people at other shows. Giving attitude to them at one show only to be smashed into them the next is just awkward. Make friends. If you are an avid fashion reader, you would find that you were familiar with many people’s work already.

You need a good camera. If you don’t have the budget for the professional models, at least have a good digital that takes successive photos… Trust me.

Have an Escape Route

Shows from 9 am to 10 pm? That’s exhausting. If you don’t have the luxury of minions to divvy up shows with, you need to take a break. The Performing Arts library is a sanctuary in contrast to the thumping base of the tents.

Stroll down to the Hudson River for fresh air. The Empire Hotel won’t get you too much privacy, but the sexy lighting gives you a change of scenery. The same goes for Hudson Hotel. The most serene café options in the vicinity would be Le Pain Quotidien and Argo Tea.

Overall, I loved the new location. I have fond memories of Bryant Park, but have grown to embrace the new.  Bearing in mind lessons learned from last season’s shows, I’m ready for Fall 2011. Are you?

Mariana Leung is founder and editor of MsFabulous

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