See that car?
It's a new Mercedes coupe. Pretty sweet, right? It's in the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week tents at Lincoln Center where we went this morning for a couple of runway shows.
It was the best thing we saw there.
Many runway seasons ago, when The Shophound first went to Fashion Week as a blogger, we saw a ton of shows.
It was easy. We were invited to some, and once we were inside the tent at Bryant Park with credentials, many PR reps were happy to let us inside others if there was room —and more often than not, there was. There were plenty of designers we hadn't heard of, but they all had something worthwhile to offer, even if was only a good model lineup. That was even before Mercedes had signed on as the title sponsor for Fashion Week, and now it is their last season. In the intervening years, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week has declined in prestige so much that the fact that a city lawsuit has forced it to find a new home seems almost like a relief.
It's too bad, back in the 90's when the CFDA and 7th on Sixth first erected the tents in Bryant Park, it was a sign of status to show a collection there, and nearly every major New York designer, Calvin, Ralph and Donna included, showed there. Even Prada staged shows there. One season it was the main label, the next it was Miu Miu. By the time when we stared blogging, it still seemed clear that a designer needed to be vetted somehow in order to show at the tents. They weren't just handing out runways and time slots to anybody with a label. There were standards. DVF, Michael Kors, Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Rucci, Isaac Mizrahi, Bill Blass, Jason Wu, Tuleh, J.Mendel, and others kept the prestige up. European labels like Malo and Neil Barrett debuted collections there. While there were always a few oddballs and a couple of duds in the mix, by and large it was a respectable lineup even when it included little known designers from overseas looking to make a splash with the press. We saw a few of them from Korea, Australia, India and even Serbia. Even if they failed to make the impact they had hoped, they still had something to offer creatively.
Cut to this morning, when The Shophound made our first visit to the tents this season to see Mongol by Bayarmaa Bayarkhuu in the big Theater tent at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Described as a combination of traditional Mongolian costumes combined with urban casual as well as entrepreneur lifestyle, it was kind of a mess, and certainly not ready for what is supposed to be one of the most coveted runway venues in New York. Taking into consideration the amount of hard work it takes to get anything on a runway in a major city, we can only say that it looked like on of those dusty downtown Mongolian import stores got cross pollinated with a night at the Limelight sometime around 1992. Theoretically, that could be amusing, but it wasn't. It just wasn't up to snuff, and we had to wonder why anyone thought that this would be a good designer to showcase in what still touts itself as the central hub of New York Fashion Week. Then we just figured that nobody at MBFW cares anymore. They had a runway time that needed to be filled and here was someone who would pay the fee.
That instinct was confirmed by the end of our next show, Mark And Estel, another label we were unfamiliar with. We didn't think things could get much worse, but we were wrong. Apparently the duo is not only a fashion label but a music act, too, which means that once the show was finally over, we had to hear them sing.
We thought the whole thing was a put-on for a minute, but that was the grand finale. The clothes were OK in a tawdry sort of L.A. Rock and Roll way, but they looked a lot cheaper than they actually are. Note to designers: Sheer stretchy dress with visible black bra and panties underneath may be salable club wear, but it is not something that people need to venture forth on a 9˚ winter morning to go see trotting down a runway. The musical performance was just preposterous. If ever the thought "Oh, God, please don't sing" runs through your head at a runway show, then you know you are at the wrong one. Again, we found ourselves wondering how this act got accepted to show at what is actually a desirable 11 AM time slot on what is supposed to be the stage for America's greatest fashion? The answer could only be that it was the best they could get. Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week has long since lost its marquee designers, and now its name sponsor and its location, and it kind of looks like they have just given up until they can figure out what form it is going to take in the future. All we could imagine as Mark and Estel bellowed "We are Rock Stars!" into microphones on their runway was Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy from "30 Rock" marching in and shouting, "Shut it down! Shut it down!" because it was just too awful to continue. On the plus side, the pair managed to pull together a decent gift bag including some nice Paul Mitchell products and a Mark And Estel commemorative T-shirt. it reminded us of the pre-2008 days at Bryant park when we would end the day with armfuls of swag, but, of course it was only placed on the seats for the first two rows. No matter, the attendance was so poor that it was a cinch to score a seat with a bag. The other pleasant surprise was the free Yoplait yogurt being offered after the show which is the first free snack I have seen at the tents in years that was something I actually wanted to eat.
There are still plenty of respectable designers like Todd Snyder, Carolina Herrera, Anna Sui and Monique Lhuillier still on the MBFW schedule, and at their shows, things generally seem just the way they ought to be, but they are fewer and further between at Lincoln Center. Rather than scrambling to find a replacement site for next season, maybe it is time for the Fashion Week tent concept to take a few seasons off and really figure out a way to rebuild its prestige before it turns into a venue to avoid on principle for both designers and guests.
Have a look at some magic moments below