New York Fashion Week attracts A-list stars and spring style

NEW YORK CITY -- The calendar says it's September, but the clothes on the runway shout spring as New York Fashion Week previews looks that could trickle down to retail in 2014.

The eight-day series of shows kicked off Thursday across the city, most under the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week label in mammoth tents at Lincoln Center on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Other hubs of activity include the Empire Hotel just across the street, Milk Studios in the Meatpacking District, the nearby Metropolitan Pavilion and piers dotting the Hudson River.

It was one of the first times in recent seasons that severe weather didn't dampen the fashionable fanfare. (Who could forget the snow-vs.-stilettos showdown last February? Previous seasons have seen tornado alerts and heavy rains.)

Backstage at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week with Pittsburgh hairstylist Philip Pelusi

Bloomfield native Philip Pelusi, joined by others from Pittsburgh, styled models' hair for the Venexiana runway show at Lincoln Center. (Video by Sara Bauknecht; 9/9/2013)

Pittsburgh entrepreneur showcases beauty invention at New York Fashion Week

Nicole Manns is the creator of Nikki's Magic Wand, a tool that helps people get makeup out of hard-to-reach corners that other cosmetics applicators typically miss. (Video by Sara Bauknecht; 9/9/2013)

For the first time since 2009, the September shows commenced without Fashion's Night Out, the one-night-only event that Vogue editor Anna Wintour founded to promote all things fashion and boost the economy. Organizers announced earlier this year that the short-lived tradition would go on hiatus so designers and retailers could focus on long-term goals rather than a one-day party. Nevertheless, spinoffs surfaced, such as an event dubbed "The New FNO." Plus there were several A-list parties across the city, including one to mark the upcoming launch of designer Phillip Lim's capsule collection for Target.

On the eve of Fashion Week, the 10th annual Style Awards honored Zac Posen as designer of the year and Kate Upton as top model. The public can watch the gala at 7 p.m. Saturday on CNN. Fashion publication The Daily Front Row also held the first Fashion Media Awards as an appetizer to the week's activities.

Here's a sampling of other topics that have been the talk of the tents:

Demanding diversity: Efforts to encourage designers to use a more diverse group of models in their runway shows has continued to attract attention. At the start of Fashion Week, several media outlets reported that former model Bethann Hardison sent letters to the Council of Fashion Designers of America, as well as to governing bodies for Fashion Weeks in London, Paris and Milan, calling out runway shows that do not incorporate models of color as racist, "no matter the intention" of the designer. She also listed fashion houses she claimed to be the biggest offenders, including Calvin Klein, Chanel, Donna Karan and Prada.

Council CEO Steven Kolb told media that he discussed Ms. Hardison's letter with president Diane von Furstenberg and that the group has sent out emails about the issue to industry members.

Designers get digital: The fashion world is continuing to recognize the magnitude of social media, with more and more designers printing up programs with custom hashtags and Twitter handles on them in hopes that audience members will share photos and critiques of shows in real time.

Tommy Hilfiger made headlines with the debut of the "social concierge," an undertaking that invited guests to email photo requests and questions on the morning of the show or while on site so the designer's team could get runway shots and details to people as soon as possible.

The stars align: It wouldn't be Fashion Week without celebrities. Martha Stewart, former "America's Next Top Model" personalities Jay Alexander and Jay Manuel, renowned New York Times street-style photographer Bill Cunningham, and Kelly Osbourne and Giuliana Rancic of "Fashion Police" on E! are among those who have been traipsing about the tents. Paris and Nicky Hilton also stopped by Lincoln Center, and Rihanna and Justin Bieber were spotted at shows in other parts of the city. Ms. von Furstenberg's show Sunday showcased a star-studded cast of models, with veteran Naomi Campbell closing the spectacle.

A public relations palooza: Fashion Week organizers -- particularly those at Lincoln Center -- sure know how to take advantage of the fact that attendees a) are typically on site for several hours dashing from show to show; b) don't have time to eat; and c) desperately need to recharge electronics.

The lobby inside the tents is a funhouse of stations to keep the media and others moving. There's the Sweet N Low martini bar, free chocolate samples from Pure Madness Chocolate and a two-tiered Samsung Galaxy press lounge for recharging batteries (and scoring a cappuccino while you wait). Kmart also created the "fashion concierge," an interactive menu of items ranging from lip balm to Band-Aids. If journalists tweet their needs, Kmart will have someone deliver the item to them.

Pittsburghers in the Big Apple: The Steel City has been represented at several events throughout the week. Entrepreneur Nicole Manns of Penn Hills appeared at the GBK Productions celebrity suites at the Empire Hotel to show off Nikki's Magic Wand, which helps scoop makeup out of containers' hard-to-reach corners. On Saturday, Bloomfield native Philip Pelusi and other stylists from Pittsburgh styled models' hair for the Venexiana runway show at Lincoln Center. The Pittsburgh-based fashion-focused public relations firm Pretty Living PR made its New York Fashion Week debut over the weekend as client Tidal Cool Creations showed its collection at Small Boutique Fashion Week at Metropolitan Pavilion. That venue also is where Rebecca Strong of Lawrenceville will serve as backstage manager for Nolcha Fashion Week, a three-day affair for rising independent designers that begins today.


Sara Bauknecht: or Twitter @SaraB_PG. First Published September 10, 2013 4:00 AM


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