There's only one place for fashionistas to be during the week of Sept. 5 to 12: New York City's Bryant Park, for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. It's one of the year's most important fashion events, where designers roll out their spring collection for the media, buyers, stylists and celebrities.
When the fashionable crowd isn't huddled inside the Bryant Park tents, however, they stay relatively close by. And they tend to prefer the haunts that are just as exclusive the other 51 weeks of the year.
Nearby hotels like The Royalton and The Morgans will host events nearly every night, such as ones for designers Andree Puttnam and Isabella Rossellini's model daughter Elettra Wiedemann.
Central Park views don't hurt either, and both Empire Hotel Rooftop Lounge, where designer Patricia Fields will party, and Jumeirah Essex House, a favorite of designer Catherine Malandrino, will reap the benefits of those who want to see another park besides Bryant.
Exclusivity is always a big draw. Private clubs like Norwood, heavily cool-patrolled enclaves like Graydon Carter's Waverly Inn and Cuban lounge Socialista are always a magnet for fashion insiders. "Everyone loves those places because it's so hard to get in!" says style and luxury publicist Mark Silver of Factory PR.
The calm before the storm
Equally exclusive — and certainly expensive — are the places the fashionistas tend to go before fashion week. Those who can find time to squeeze in a vacation generally do it nearby, in second homes or rentals in the Hamptons, the Jersey Shore, Connecticut or Pennsylvania.
"Everybody needs a little vacation and recharge," says Fern Mallis, the senior vice president of IMG Fashion, who helped start fashion week in 1993. Mallis escapes to her lake home in the Hamptons. When she's in New York, she prefers Michael's for lunch, Koi for dinner or, when she can't sneak off the premises of Bryant Park, the 'Wichcraft food kiosk. "You can't go too far during shows!"
Nicole Esposito, vice president of Full Picture, who has managed events for the likes of Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Christian Dior and Victoria's Secret, says it is important to get your hair, nails, eyebrows, yoga, scrubs, massages and facials all in before fashion week.
"You have to sort of get yourself organized, and you don't want to risk a facial in the middle of the week," she says. For steam rooms, hot tubs and scrubs, she likes Juvenex Spa; for yoga, Laughing Lotus; and for treadmill time, Peak Performance, where she often runs aside models and editors from Vogue. Like many insiders, Esposito is looking forward to Calvin Klein's 40th anniversary party on the Highline (its first event) and designer Alexander Wang's shindig at the Greenwich Hotel in Tribeca.
Outside the tents
Models, who hop from fashion week to fashion week — spanning from New York to London, Milan to Paris and then perhaps on to Mumbai, India and Los Angeles — typically work from early morning until late evening, so they don't get much time to socialize outside the Bryant Park tents. But when they do, Tenjune's Tuesday night "I Hate Models" party is a popular choice.
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And some others don't want to socialize at all — they need quiet time away from the lights, the loud music and crowds.
"My little secret during fashion week are the 'war rooms,' we set up at the Bryant Park Hotel across the street," says Lisa Holladay, who is in charge of branding for Mercedes-Benz, the event's main sponsor. "I take a shower, freshen up and use the gym."
For before-show grooming and relaxing, Holladay prefers the Frederic Fekkai salon for hair and, when she can, sneaking away to Bar 44 at The Royalton Hotel for a drink. "But getting away is a challenge!"