Event Coverage

FASHION WEEK: A Tour of Front of House and Backstage at MBFW

Maggie Mulhern | September 10, 2013 | 8:17 PM
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Entrance to the "Theater" and Paparazzi "corral" behind MBFW tent
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The back of the giant tent, 62nd Street behind Lincoln Center.
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The communal area of the "tents"...the view from the Press area.
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A full house for Alon Livine at MBFW
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Maggie Mulhern front row at Alon Livine during MBFW
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Modern spends a lot of time covering New York Fashion Week, and most of that time is spent in the Mercedes Benz tents. There are several venues for shows during NYFW, but Mercedes Benz Fashion Week (MBFW) is the most exclusive and elite. This season 80 designers offered their collections under the MBFW umbrella.

Admittance is by invitation only, and these invites are to industry professionals including buyers, fashion jounalists, stylists and other fashion insiders. There is one way to "buy" a ticket (through American Express), but these are limited and offered for just a handful of shows. Designers pay a hefty fee to participate at the tents, but that fee is normally picked up or softened by the sponsors (hair, nail, make up and skin care manufacturers among others) that sometimes pay the designers to be part of the show. The sponsors, in turn, get bragging rights and mentions in the credits.

The "tents" is actually just one giant temporary structure in the Lincoln Center area of NYC on the Upper West Side (entrance at Columbus and 65th). It is comprised of one large central or communal area (information, check in, press lounge, exhibitors) with three offshoots: the "theater", the largest of the venues (holding up to 1100 fashionistas); the "studio", the second largest (holding 800); and the "Box", the smallest venue used mostly for presentations (capacity several hundred). While classic fashion shows are the most exciting, "presentations" (models standing on a platform for 1 - 2 hours while guests mill around) are cost effective and becoming more popular. A handful of official MBFW shows are held offsite, but these designers prefer to keep their shows noted as MBFW for the exposure and cache. (Other popular venues include Milk Studios on 15th Street and Style 360 on 18th Street, each hosting dozens of designers.)

New York Fashion Week lasts more than 7 days, with some shows held days before and after the official "week". There are hundreds of shows throughout the city, including a few in the outer boroughs. There are events including beauty lounges and gifting suites that are held during NYFW that make it never a dull moment. Modern covers at least 12 shows (front, back or both) and events each day. Our fashion/beauty teams zig zag the city to vie for space and time with hair, nail and make up "leads" who must direct their teams while chatting with the press. This season Modern had to deal with the sad of stubbed toes and bumped cameras, as well as the wonderful of front row seats and exclusive interviews. Swollen feet are the order of the day. One editor ditched her heels on day three, switched to "comfy" flats and wore through her gel polish! Fashion Week is exhausting, stimulating, inspiring, fun and FABULOUS.

Some notes:

-The "season" is all about forecasting and presenting for the buyers and the press. In other words, these shows that just took place in September 2013 are for the spring/summer 2014 months.

-The beauty teams normally show up three hours before showtime.

-The backstage area is quite cramped.

-Shows, on average, begin 30 - 45 minutes late.

-The show typically lasts 10 - 12 minutes.

-Celebrities sit front row, center.

-Celebrities are sometimes paid to attend a fashion show (for the buzz generated).

-Most celebrities arrive via the backstage area. The paparazzi camp out at the corner of Amsterdam and 62rd where the cars or cabs pull up to drop off.

-Many of the people working a show, including most on the hair, make up and nail teams, are volunteers.

-When NYFW "wraps" most of the popular beauty leads and models pack up their bags and head off to London Fashion Week, followed by Paris and then Milan.

Here Maggie Mulhern takes us on a tour of "the tents" from the point of view of an artist or participant (model, hair, make up, nails) and from a typical "guest" (fashion journalist, stylist, buyer, fashionista). She selected a "light" day to make navigation easier (on a busy day, or on the weekend, this would have been close to impossible). The MANY security guards had been prepped to allow easier entrance.

The show covered here is by designer Alon Livine, who was showing for the first time in New York and at MBFW. The beautiful braids were by Nick Irwin (TIGI), nails by China Glaze and make up by Bobbi Brown. Included is the finale walk of the models after a show that lasted about 10 minutes.

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