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New York Fashion Week is the Cadillac of fashion weeks in America.
With the flurry of designers showcasing next season’s styles comes the need for beautiful spaces to serve as canvases for their visions, and hotels have become optimal event spaces for both veteran and younger designers.
The Plaza Hotel, Gramercy Park Hotel, The Standard Hotels, W Hotels, and Refinery Hotel are all properties that are a part of the 2015 New York Fashion Week, which began September 10 and wraps at the end of this week.
The September 2015 New York Fashion Week marks Refinery Hotel’s fourth season participating, having made its entrance in fall 2014. The hotel plays host to a variety of events and was a venue for two different shows this season, says Manya duHoffman, director of sales and marketing.
“Given our location in the fashion district, Refinery was just the perfect location to be a part of things going on,” duHoffman says.
Refinery Rooftop and the Hatbox Room, named for the hotel’s past as a hat factory, are both used as spaces for designers to present their work in showroom style, with Hatbox’s ground floor location and tall windows inviting the public to catch the event serving as an ideal spot for designers to gain more exposure. Though there is freedom for designers to use the spaces to convey their voice and message, duHoffman notes that many of the brands Refinery has worked with are in line with the same image that the hotel is trying to portray.
“One show had a great edgy vibe to it but still was classic. It wasn’t so far over the edge that it couldn’t appeal to something our guests would like,” she says. “The hotel has an industrial vibe, so it is a good backdrop for a lot of different things. Stylistic-wise, it is easy to work with.”
Among the challenges duHoffman says that come with its involvement in fashion week are the last-minute requests that a designer, for example, may make for a show. Yet with each season comes the chance to anticipate and prepare for upcoming challenges, like buying steamers or rolling racks rather than renting them. And it is these response time to these requests that make a hotel an advantageous venue.
“A hotel is 24/7. There are always people here to assist you and help you when you need those last-minute things, for example, if there is a problem in the room. Those are nice things to have, and I think make it easier because they are built in to the existing infrastructure.”
Jameelah Booker, the designer behind BOOKER, a women’s line inspired by the motorcycle world, had her first show during this fall’s fashion week and chose Refinery Hotel as the venue. There are several reasons Booker felt Refinery’s Hatbox was the perfect space to present her 2016 collection, citing the space’s aesthetics as ones that completed her vision and gelled well with her brand. And, agreeing with duHoffman, Booker says hotel staff played a key role in organizing any last-minute moving parts.
“I think the advantage is having hotel staff to help…which was extremely useful when you are in a crunch for setup,” Booker says. “I would imagine that if I had used a typical event space, I would have had a longer, more stressful time getting my show up and running.”
Hotels can play an even more pivotal role than offering solid, on-call service at designers’ disposal. As Joey Jalleo, vice president of culture and communications for The Standard Hotels, points out, fashion week is an opportunity to give back and support the local community.
The Standard Hotels group works with MADE Fashion Week, founded in 2009 as an opportunity for young designers who couldn’t afford a spot in tents to instead showcase their work in free venues and spaces like Milk Studios and The Standard, High Line.
Earlier this year, MADE was acquired by WME | IMG, the engine behind New York Fashion Week, but will continue to operate as its own entity.
The Standard, High Line has been a playground for MADE Fashion week been for the past 11 seasons, Jalleo says. Among the designers featured this year are AREA; Andrea Jiapei Li; Isa Arfen; Devon Halfnight LeFlufy; Brock; Harbison; and The Fat Jewish.
“There were various designers that were up and coming that needed a voice, platform and a place to show their creativity,” Jalleo says. “First and foremost, supporting this community that has given us so much was a no brainer. These young designers were already within our family.”
In addition to working with smaller brands, The Standard properties also play host to some bigger names. Some of the events at The Standard, High Line and The Standard, East Village for 2015 fall fashion week included the Michael Kors launch of Golden Fragrance with a performance by Duran Duran and an intimate kick-off party with a performance by Erykah Badu.
The partnerships has created not only opportunities for The Standard group to give back but also for the properties to act as a “satellite for people waiting in between shows” to relax and grab a drink, Jalleo says.
Beyond the twice-yearly shows and string of events and parties, fashion week offers hotels a chance to speak to a different way of who they are and where they want to be.
“I think that the fashion industry is a huge part of who we are,” Jalleo says. “We were built on the idea of community, and to be able to nurture that through the fashion industry is really important to us. We do it really well, and the sensibility between our brands and the designers makes a lot of sense.”