Fashion thrives on change and this New York Fashion Week which starts on Thursday, February 8 and runs until Wednesday, February 14, will see newness regardless of what designers reveal on the runway: A fresh new residence. And it has been as divisive as any other major shift in fashion. The upcoming shows will be held for the first time in RXR's Starrett-Lehigh building in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, a 19-storey structure occupying an entire city block located all the way over on the west side where the wind from the river blows bitterest during these winter days.
But New York Fashion Week has never stayed in one place for long. In 1943, the tradition of designers showing their latest collections in public was started by Eleanor Lambert when she established “Press Week,” a post-war showcase designed to emphasize hometown talent over French design in an event held at the Plaza Hotel. It soon outgrew itself and, in the following decades, designers began branching off to show their collections in art galleries, nightclubs, department stores, outdoor locations, and even in traveling trunk shows.
The modern iteration of NYFW can be traced back to 1993 when it became known as Seventh on Sixth under the leadership of the CFDA and the executive directorship of Fern Mallis. It was installed at Bryant Park, its longest home, from 1993 to 2009 in “the tents,” the temporary white structures erected for the biannual event which contained three runways. The setting was immortalized in many movie and television cameos, in particular, Sex & The City, when the character of Samantha got doused in paint by PETA as she climbed the entrance steps wearing fur. During this period NYFW not only attracted Hollywood but corporate attention and advertising dollars, and became known as Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in 2007. Members of the industry’s old guard still remember the tents with fondness, like blank canvases waiting to be graced with each designer’s vision, but also because they were easy to get to, often within walking distance of designers studios and editors offices. Ever since, fashion week has become increasingly decentralized.
NYFW moved to Lincoln Center in 2010 where it enjoyed more space than at Bryant Park and remained for five years before losing its license, and its Mercedes-Benz sponsorship. It transferred to two sister locations, Skylight Clarkson Square downtown, and forty blocks north of that, Skylight Moynihan Station. Since 2018, New York Fashion Week had called the Tribeca venue of Spring Studios home. This is where it also hosted NYFW: The Talks, IMG’s series of conversations and panels featuring industry thought leaders. Also the home of Tribeca Film Festival, Spring Studios boasted five studio spaces, a mezzanine, an open rooftop and a restaurant, with plenty of natural light. However it had its problems: bottle necks tended to form at the elevator banks which ferried guests to the upper floors where the runways were located and poor air conditioning plagued the September event.
New York Fashion Week debuts at Starrett-Lehigh
The decision on the part of IMG, the sports, events, and talent management company responsible for NYFW, to leave Spring Studios was announced in December. While Starrett-Lehigh will be NYFW’s official headquarters, IMG will also host the NYFW: The Showrooms at High Line Nine, and the consumer-focused NYFW Backstage at 21 Greene, an immersive pop-up experience designed by Ethan Tobman, the mastermind behind Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, which allows attendees a glimpse behind the curtain of how the shows are produced.
Built in 1931, the 2.3 million-square-foot fashion hub has soaring ceilings, panoramic views of the city skyline and Hudson River, and an outdoor patio. One of the largest buildings in the city it is no stranger to fashion having already hosted runway events by Christian Cowan and Altuzarra, and been the location of bridal fair, One Fine Day. Big brands and indie names alike will also choose to livestream their shows for a virtual audience and continue to explore post-pandemic alternatives to shows in order to best communicate their vision to a modern audience. But whether the official NYFW HQ is downtown, uptown or midtown, and despite time slots being scheduled back to back, designers will not be penned in to one address. Case in point, Marc Jacobs, now a member of the old guard himself, who presented his 40th anniversary runway show at the Park Avenue Armory six days ahead of the the official schedule this past Friday.
According to the CFDA, designers gearing up to present their fall 2024 collections at Starett-Lehigh include Prabal Gurung, Area and buzzy Parisian arrival, Ludovic de Saint Sernin, while off-site shows include Jason Wu, Ulla Johnson and Proenza Schouler.