It's never too soon to start salivating over styles for next spring and summer. Or at least that's the philosophy behind Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, which from Thursday through Sept. 13 will preview looks for next year at Lincoln Center on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Hotel suites, piers, rooftop terraces and galleries across the city will be made into makeshift showrooms for other New York Fashion Week festivities.
But there's no need to be a fashion industry insider -- or even in New York City -- to sample a taste of it, thanks to the Internet, behind-the-scenes documentaries and local Fashion Week-themed get-togethers. Here are a few ways to experience the fashion fever, no matter who or where you are:
Since 2009, New York Fashion Week's September shows have commenced with Fashion's Night Out, a global salute to all-things stylish through store activities and specials, celebrity appearances and pop-up shops. Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour founded the event with the hope of stimulating spending in response to the slumping economy.
In Manhattan, streets will swell this Thursday with shoppers searching for a bargain or a peek at their favorite pop stars, designers and actors out on the town for the occasion. But the festivities will span beyond the Big Apple.
In Pittsburgh, several stores at Ross Park Mall (Ann Taylor, Bare Escentuals, BCBG, bebe, Juicy Couture and Coldwater Creek are a few) will be celebrating. The Mall at Robinson will offer mini-makeovers and manicures, as well as crown the winners of its Project Style contest, in which finalists will compete for a chance at $1,000 and a trip to Fashion Week in February 2013. Fashion students from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Downtown, will showcase designs inspired by local restaurants at Ross Park Mall's gathering, and one look will be selected by a panel of judges to be displayed in a future edition of Table Magazine. Retailers throughout the mall also will hold special attractions. Find more details on all official Fashion's Night Out events in Pittsburgh, and around the world, at fashionsnightout.com.
At Century III Mall, Philip Pelusi Salons, Pittsburgh Fashion Week, Steel City Live and All Shades of Beauty will team up to present a runway show every 30 minutes featuring selections from Macy's, Body Central, Eve's Boutique and Project Prom. Makeovers, live music, vendors and a complimentary gift for the first 200 guests also will color the event, which will run from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday. Afterward, attendees 21 and older are invited to party until midnight at SAVOY Lounge in the Strip District. After-party tickets are $10 at http://www.eventbrite.com/s/ahJo.
Not on designers' guest lists? No worries. Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week will broadcast on the Web much of its lineup, along with backstage interviews, trend reports and beauty tips. Find the "Live from the Runway" channel at www.youtube.com/user/LiveRunway.
Wear the Fashion Week spirit year-round with apparel and totes from the Fashion's Night Out collection. The generously sized carry-alls are $50 and patterned in bold "FNO" letters. Short- and long-sleeved tees baring oversized "FNO" logos come in color combos of black and gray or white with black, blue or red lettering for $25 and $30, respectively. Forty percent of the money raised from sales will benefit the New York City AIDS Fund in the New York Community Trust. Visit www.fashionsnightout.com/collection for a full list of stores and online retailers that sell the line.
For those with "attending New York Fashion Week" on their bucket list, it's possible to cross it off without aspiring to the ranks of fashion magazine editor, stylist, designer or model. American Express, a sponsor of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, invites card members to purchase a pass to watch a show from its Skybox, a swanky and sophisticated lounge overlooking the runway at Lincoln Center. This year's card members-only show spotlights the fashions of Rachel Zoe at 6:30 p.m. next Thursday.
In addition to a birds-eye view of the catwalk, Skybox guests are treated to food and cocktails and talks by some of the fashion community's elite. Packages are available at www.AmericanExpress.com/entertainment.
Learn what it's like inside the tents, an artery of Fashion Week action, from designers such as Betsey Johnson, Zac Posen, Tommy Hilfiger and others who've been there season after season in "The Tents," a documentary by director James Belzer. Through backstage footage and interviews with fashion notables, the film walks viewers through the history of the biannual event and its milestone move uptown from Bryant Park. It will air 8 p.m. Saturday on the Documentary Channel.
Sara Bauknecht: email@example.com. Post-Gazette fashion writer Sara Bauknecht will report from the runways of New York Fashion Week. Look for her coverage in next Tuesday's Magazine section, online at www.post-gazette.com and on Twitter at @entertainmentPG.