Tess Eyrich 2015-09-01 01:46:21
For an emerging designer, showing at New York Fashion Week can be a door-opening experience— a reality no one knows better than last September’s crop of first-timers. Nowadays, in a time when most designers’ primary focus is to create lifestyle brands with broad appeal, New York Fashion Week gives up-andcomers access to key industry insiders—buyers for big-name retailers, boutique owners and editors of major magazines—who can make or break a career. The road to fashion week, however, has been repaved, going beyond the semiannual production that first saw revered designers’ collections in white tents at Bryant Park, and later, at Lincoln Center. In January 2015, after a five-year partnership, Mercedes-Benz withdrew as a sponsor of the main series of events, owned by WME-IMG and now simply known as New York Fashion Week. Also this year, WME-IMG acquired Made Fashion week, a program designed to spotlight emerging talent at the Meatpacking District’s Milk Studios, meaning Made now falls under the New York Fashion Week umbrella. Meanwhile, outside of these WME-IMG-organized events, up-and-comers like Meggie Kempner will continue to show independently at venues of their own choosing. The New York-based designer launched her Kempner collection last September at The Glasshouses event space. The granddaughter of socialite Nan Kempner—whom legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland once deemed the only chic woman in America—Meggie Kempner cut her teeth as a stylist at Ralph Lauren before partnering with her brother, Chris, on a line of sportswear separates. “The girl we’re designing for is a girl living in a major city who’s a little bit ‘uptown-meetsdowntown’— super polished, but always with a bit of an edge,” Meggie Kempner says. The description brings to mind her grandmother, known for wearing beaded-leather Gucci jeans well into her 70s. “Showing [in September 2014] was really beneficial for us,” she adds of the experience, which allowed the brand to break into department stores like Nordstrom and the e-commerce behemoth, Moda Operandi. “We had a lot of key editors and buyers come, and it’s a dream, as someone new, to be on their radar.” Kempner will show for a third time this fall, planning to take the uptown-meets-downtown girl on a road trip across America: “The collection will be a reflection of her city roots and how she adapts throughout the road trip,” she says. Faraway places inspire the work of another New York-based designer, Nicole Hanley, who founded Hanley Mellon with her husband, Matthew Mellon, after years spent working with brands like Intermix and Ralph Lauren. Matthew Mellon, too, came from a fashion background, having served as the creative director of his ex-wife Tamara Mellon’s luxury shoe label, Jimmy Choo, and founded men’s footwear brand, Harrys of London. What started as a lifestyle website progressed into a full clothing line, shown for the past two seasons at Midtown’s Hudson Mercantile. Inspired by international destinations, the collections feature rich fabrics in bold colors and dramatic draping. Despite the line’s luxe feel and its designers’ industry experience, it remains a small-scale operation, selling on hanleymellon.com, out of a handful of Bloomingdale’s stores and boutiques in the United States and, curiously, India. “Everything about this business is extremely costly,” Hanley remarks. “It’s incredibly important to stay strong and vigilant about keeping a budget, even if it means forgoing something you may have had your heart set on.” The couple, who wed in 2010 at Diane von Furstenberg’s Bahamas estate, announced their divorce last May. However, they still plan to show at New York Fashion Week this fall, taking guests on a new adventure to “another destination— seemingly different from the last few, but woven naturally together by the trajectory of our own life,” says Hanley. Of course, one way to alleviate some financial stress that comes with building a brand is to secure a sponsor. For LA-raised Hillary Taymour—who debuted her Collina Strada line of fine leather goods, watercolor-inspired prints, and deconstructed suiting just last fall—getting to New York involved partnering with the Made program. “I was so fortunate when they offered me a spot on their calendar,” Taymour says. “Still, there are a ton of costs that you don’t prepare for.” She lists everything from hiring models, makeup artists and publicists, to coordinating set design, sound and lighting, to budgeting for taxis and backstage catering. “As an up-and-coming designer, you really need to weigh the pros and cons of showing if you don’t have significant sponsorship in place.” Still, the allure of the proverbial big break continues to lure designers like Taymour, whose line is now carried in boutiques across North America and Asia. This year, she’ll experiment with a more muted color palette and minimalist silhouettes at her New York presentation. “[Showing at New York Fashion Week] really gives your brand a sense of recognition and establishment,” she adds. “People finally start to take you seriously.”
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