There’s something about New York; the concrete jungle has a magical force that draws you in – just ask the 12 million international visitors who made the journey there in 2014 alone.
But if you’re an avid follower of fashion there’s one time in particular that you want to head over: September. That’s when the city is overrun by designers, models, bloggers, Instagrammers and celebrities, all of them descending for the hugely anticipated New York Fashion Week (NYFW).
Looking for inspiration in a saturated industry where copycat style is the norm,
I decided to head to the Big Apple for this year’s festival, to check out the spring 2016 showings, and to see the local designers representing Western Australia. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t anticipating an invite to have rooftop cocktails with Kendall Jenner and her bestie Gigi Hadid – though I would have happily obliged if they asked me to hang out with them after they walked for Diane Von Furstenberg. No, I was on a mission (all egos aside) to experience everything the city had to offer.
And from the crowds hanging out the front of the shows to the people walking the streets, it was as if New York City was a runway all of its own, and I wanted to see what outfit would inspire me.
In 2015, for the first time in more than 20 years, Fashion Week events were scattered across the city, spreading the excitement throughout the whole of Manhattan instead of just Lincoln Centre and Bryant Park. Alleyways turned into runways; obscure buildings suddenly had long lines of people streaming from them, waiting patiently for events to start.
This year, NYFW was all about Givenchy. It was the first time the Italian label was taking part, and the label easily overshadowed the other shows with its pre-NYFW coverage.
From Australia, national labels such as Dion Lee and Zimmermann made the main schedule, but there was also a pair of creatives from WA who were hot tickets.
Travelling all the way from Broome, milliner Felicity Brown – of Hats by Felicity – was showing at NYFW for the second time. Invited to hold a solo show at the Prince George Gallery in Chelsea as part of The Fashion Gallery (a platform for up-and-coming designers), her show was elegant and striking, the headpieces looking spectacular in the grand space.
Felicity’s journey from the Kimberley to New York was documented along the way for a film that will feature her solo debut and how she made it to US. But, she says, it’s the opportunity to showcase on the runway again at NYFW that has provided precious national and international exposure. “The first showing was almost like the audience was caught by surprise, so the pressure was definitely on for the second year, as this time guests were waiting for the show,” she says. “The opportunity generated an incredible amount of interest on my social media sites as well, which is invaluable for ongoing exposure of my story and my work.”
Her eye-catching collection of hats and headpieces was inspired by the natural colour schemes of the Australian outback. “I wanted to introduce the world to a snippet of where we call home. I am such a proud Aussie,” she says.
“Apart from the ultimate delight of showcasing my work to a world stage, I also love the opportunity NYFW provides me to not only represent Broome and the Kimberley but also Western Australia and our fabulous country on a whole. There is no prouder moment than to see your name in lights with ‘Australia’ written below it.”
Fashion Palette – a runway dedicated to only Australian labels – celebrated its fifth showing at NYFW in 2015, with the talent running over two parades at Pier 59 Studios on the Hudson River. Among the designers on show was Perth-based Mauricio Alpizar.
“I have been showing in NYFW for the last three years and it’s very important to
keep a presence and to be recognised as a designer on such an amazing stage of fashion in the world,” says the Costa Rican-born designer. “We are currently negotiating with investors to run our showroom base in Manhattan, and take our business to the next level and build a bigger clientele and awareness. New York will help my label to be internationally recognised.”
Inspired by the history and influence of Japanese immigration to Broome during
the Second World War, as well as the area’s pearling industry, Mauricio’s collection boasted a number of Kimono styles on the catwalk, which created drama as they floated down the runway.
“This collection’s inspiration was totally based on my collaboration with the Dream Time Project and Broome artist Rebekah Tracy,” he says. “We decided to bring to New York the landmark of our beautiful desert.”
His colourful creations were complemented by jewellery from local designer Jemma Rae of Little Dove Design, whose hand-made beaded creations were striking on the runway.
There’s no denying the shows are the highlights at NYFW, but getting your hands on tickets can be a little tricky – most of the events are invite only. But there’s still so much to experience that, even if you miss out, you can get your fill of excitement simply by taking to the streets.
I saw photographers get pushed over in the street, trying to spot any celebrity. Crazed fans loitered outside Givenchy to get a glimpse of a random Kardashian. And then there were the impeccably dressed fashionistas who surface throughout the city, taking selfies, posing for photos, and repeatedly crossing the road and standing next to yellow cabs in an effort to get that perfect ‘natural’ street-style shot. You know, the ones you see on social media and vogue.com. I even witnessed a woman waiting at the exit of a show purely to hand her two dogs to any model or blogger who walked past, and have them photographed. And did I tell you about the blogger who walked around a corner of a building, and had her assistant dress her?
But it’s not the bloggers or the posers you really want to be looking out for, it’s the uber-stylish men and women who fly under the radar. The ones who often don’t crave attention; who leave the shows straight away and don’t wait to be photographed. They walk to and from shows, and can be seen casually strolling though Soho or Chelsea looking for a bite to eat.
And if you’re paying attention, they’re everywhere. I bumped into Grace Coddington, the creative director of American Vogue, about five times. Not once did she have a photographer follow her, but her stylish little entourage was enough to inspire.
Strolling the streets of New York at any time of the year is an unpredictable rush. Walking them during Fashion Week, however, raises it all to a new and amazing level. It’s like watching a reality TV show; keep your eyes on it, because you never know what’s going to happen.
COFFEE AND EATS
This time of year, the city greets you with a pulsating atmosphere, as residents enjoy the remaining warm weather before the cool change takes hold. Rooftop bars are full, and the sidewalks are overflowing with alfresco diners. Here are some places to get you started and help with your coffee fix.
• Two Hands at 164 Mott Street has great food, coffee and lots of Australian accents floating around. The owners, a couple of Sydney lads, have created a healthy menu that will make you return time and time again – I’m pretty sure I went twice in a day. Their acai bowls are designed for Instagramming – I mean, eating – and they also have your classic scrambled eggs and avocado on toast. This welcoming space is a must. twohandsnyc.com.
• If you’re after authentic Greek yoghurt, then Greecologies is the place to go, with its assortment of fresh yoghurt from grass-fed cows. It’s simple: choose the taste you want, either traditional (unstrained) or strained, and add a topping. I went for the organic walnuts, thyme and flower honey. greecologies.com.
• Happy Bones NYC is a tiny space founded by coffee-loving New Zealanders. There’s normally always a line in this hotspot on Broome Street, but it moves fast and the coffee is worth the wait. happybonesnyc.com.
• Irving Farm Coffee Roasters also hit the mark with their coffee in the Upper West Side, and they have a Kalita brew bar for Japanese-styled pour-over coffee. Fancy. irvingfarm.com.
For the first few nights I stayed in the NYLO in the Upper West Side, close to Central Park. It’s a lovely hotel, and it’s nice to be close to Central Park and go for morning walks – it’s also walking distance to the more touristy destinations like Times Square. I promptly moved somewhere with a bit more atmosphere, however – I wanted to be surrounded by excitement, so I moved to the newly opened NobleDEN Hotel, which is situated in the heart of Little Italy and a street away from popular Mott Street (a stone’s throw from Chinatown). It’s a small boutique hotel that is intimate and relaxing. The staff were very quick to help me track down a number of vintage clothing stores close by in Nolita and Soho, and were on the ball with directing me to surrounding restaurants and the correct subway lines. I didn’t feel like a tourist staying there, and I was able to experience the city much more easily.
I like my holiday to start on the plane, not when I arrive at my destination. I decided to fly with Cathay Pacific from Perth with a stopover in Hong Kong on both legs of the trip. Hong Kong is the easiest airport to navigate, and with the help of the express shuttle, you’ll be stepping outside and heading for some dim sum soon after you land. The stopover really breaks up the flight from Perth, and being able to experience the culture of Hong Kong on your way to New York just adds to the adventure.
But, if you find you don’t have enough time to leave the airport then you’ll be happy to know that, after an extensive renovation, Cathay Pacific Airways has also reopened The Pier First Class Lounge, which exudes class and feels like a retreat in its own right. For the first time in Cathay Pacific lounges, there are complimentary foot massages to help you feel more relaxed when flying.
The food in the lounge is simply divine, and this continues on the flight with a menu in business class that boasts healthy produce and delectable dishes such as grilled lamb backstrap, sweet potato puree, roasted Tuscan vegetables, tomato and olive jus, or pan-seared chicken breast, sautéed cavolo nero, pumpkin risotto and herb cream sauce. The fresh food, combined with the ability to completely lay down in your own private pod, means that I could hit the ground running in New York, and I had the energy to enjoy my stopover in Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific, 131 747, cathaypacific.com.au.
• Stopping over in Hong Kong? You can easily leave the airport and head out for some shopping or lunch in between flights. The airport has luggage lockers so you can leave your hand luggage there.
• Architecture enthusiasts head to The Whitney Museum of American Art which sits in the heart of the Meatpacking District, inside a contemporary building that is simply breathtaking. The exhibitions are also worth a visit. Visit whitney.org.
• The US Open and New York Fashion Week overlap, which makes the city’s atmosphere even more exciting… though it also means that you need to get on to your accommodation earlier than other times of the year.
• There’s thrift shopping and then there’s designer consignment shopping. INA has a men’s and women’s store in Nolita, and boasts Chanel to Celine. While you’re in Nolita be sure to pop into 2nd Time Around Boutique, which is at the end of Mott Street and E Houston Street.
• The NYFW schedules are released quite close to Fashion Week, so be sure to stalk all of their websites. I found nymag.com had the most comprehensive list.