Fashion Week: New(ish) Designers Check in at the Hudson, W and Roger Smith Hotels

We’ve been noticing an abnormally high percentage of rangy, good-looking people around town. That means one thing – Fashion Week is back.  More than 200 designers unveil their creations during the Spring/Summer 2012 shows at the tents in Lincoln Center and a host of private venues through September 15.

What are New York’s fashion-forward hotels doing besides gleefully celebrating their full – or nearly full — houses? Hint: think “emerging designers ” – and fashion by association, that hint of glamour that rubs off on anyone around it.


Hudson’s Fashion-infused Vending Machine

Last time we looked, the Hudson hotel’s designer vending machine the Semi-Automatic was stocked with archly curated objects like $20 toothbrushes from Jaoan and 24-karat gold handcuffs. You could also rent an apartment in downtown Manhattan.

But during Fashion Week, all that disappeared, and the vending machine, a bespoke creation that doesn’t carry Coke or Doritos, morphed into a push-button boutique stocked by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, or to be precise, its Fashion Incubator wing. That means creations by emerging designers.

Given the Semi-Automatic’s constraints – objects must fit into 8 by 10-inch bags or boxes and be light enough for the machine to suck them from their perches – selections proved wide-ranging, if pricey ($148 for a necktie, albeit a handmade seven-fold wool number from Public School).  Offerings included a $1,150 rabbit fur jacket by Jolibe and terrific looking cool-nerd sunglasses from Grey Ant in a variety of non-colors ($250). With pictures of each item and a fast-moving touch screen, the Semi-Automatic proved a supremely entertaining — and smart — primer on what’s happening in design, even if we didn’t buy anything.


W Hotels’ Fashion Favorites in the Box

W Hotels hitched its star to fashion as a brand enhancer several years ago and takes Fashion Week seriously. Once again the chain is an official Fashion Week sponsor, its logo writ large on the entry to the Box, the small, black-walled, seat-free showroom in the tents at Lincoln Center.

But W has a new fashion director – long-time fashion consultant Jenne Lombardo takes over from Amanda Brooks  – and a new direction.

Last season, W commissioned 15 fledgling designers to create clothing and accessories for its hotel shops and previewed their designs in a group show in the Box.

This season, the emphasis is on – ta da — emerging designers. Six, handpicked by Lombardo, will present their spring collections in the Box in individual one-hour shows with all the trimmings — hairstylist, make-up artist, music director.

As an additional perk a newsprint paper trumpeted the designers’ work and thoughts (W: What are you doing this weekend? Designer Juan Carlos Orlando: Sewing, lots of sewing.) Are the clothes destined for W’s hotel shops? Not at present, according to Lombardo. The designer affiliations are a way to promote talent and engage guests, she says.  “I want our guests to have an insider’s look into what’s happening.”

We attended the show for Electric Feathers, designer Leana Zuniga’s versatile hand-dyed silks. Ranging from rompers and harem pants to dresses and skirts, they looked wearable, slouchy and sexy, perfect for Eva Longoria or, if she chooses right, a pregnant Beyonce. Like fellow emergers, who include Michael Angel, Nomia, Rochambeau, Bibhu Mohapatra, and Juan Carlos Orlando, Zuniga is a slender designer who boasts a surprisingly plump resume.

Her show, typical of the Box, featured raised platforms where 12 models posed, displaying attitude and leg while guests, including photographers, W bigwigs and, presumably, store buyers, filed in and out. DJs spun at a table behind the platforms. A very different scene from last season’s jam-packed, cocktail-infused W show in the Box, in other words. This time the attention zoomed in on the clothes.



Pop-Up Fashion at the Roger Smith

Strolling along Lexington Avenue last week after a tour of the new Hyatt 48Lex,  we stopped by the RS Pop Shop, the intriguing short-hit storefront at the Roger Smith Hotel.  Serendipity!  Its latest occupant Gail Travis is an emerging designer who launched her company New Form Perspective, or NFP, in 2009.

Travis’ specialty is modular fashions in geometric shapes. Her pieces, created in mix-match shades of cream, pewter, cocoa, black, teal and red are timeless, clever and made to multi-task: a merino wool scarf morphs into a shrug, a knit neck warmer unsnaps to become an ascot.

With her ice blonde Twiggy haircut, red specs and model’s frame, Travis is the perfect showcase for her brainy/chic creations, and her shop, a compact white space replete with fashion posters, hanging garments and big swaths of white sheeting, channels her minimalist look. It also looks deceptively permanent, even if the lease expires in two months.

The Roger Smith, an enthusiastic supporter of the arts, leases the RS Pop Shop short term to artists, designers and other creative types, a lifeline for – here it comes – emerging entrepreneurs who have neither the backing nor the inclination for the long-term commitment of a store.  Included is a superb location – some 25,000 people sweep by daily en route to Grand Central Station – a merchandising team to help leasees set up shop, a product video and an opening-night cocktail party.

Travis, making her third appearance at the pop shop, seems a perfect fit for the Roger Smith. After studying fashion at FIT and knitwear in Italy (and getting a communications degree at Cornell), she worked for almost a decade at high-voltage design firms, including Calvin Klein and Vera Wang, before starting out on her own.

Mobility is built into her business model. In November, she’s booked for Chelsea Market’s group pop-up boutique and prior to Christmas she’ll play the city’s holiday markets, selling her architectural merino wool sweaters priced from $180 to $400, among other things. Travis also does trunk shows, private showings and sells from her Web site

But she smiles as she looks around her remarkably permanent temporary quarters. “They’re serious about promoting new talents here,” she says.


Streaming at the Standard

Want to see spring fashion, but can’t visit the shows? The Standard is live streaming selected shows on their Web site.



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