Ballpark Estimate: Free for industry insiders, celebrities and press; $35 to $1595 for tickets to various shows
If you pride yourself on staying on top of the latest clothing styles and trends, then attending Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City is probably a must on your to-do-list. This special event is held in Manhattan’s Bryant Park every September and February, and gives some of the most prestigious designers the chance to showcase their latest collections for fashion buyers and merchandisers, fashion journalists, celebrities and other notable fashion trend setters.
What to Expect
Fashion week usually lasts for a week, as the name implies, and is always held well in advance of the season being spotlighted. This can make it complicated, but if you think about it, it makes sense since the fashion shows offer a chance to introduce upcoming trends and allow buyers to order clothing for the upcoming season. So for instance, Fall 2008 was held in the winter of 2008, while the show held in the fall of 2008 is to reveal the clothing planned for spring 2009. There is generally a total of about 80 or so of the most well-known and most respected designers who will host their own individual shows. About 100,000 people typically attend this whirlwind of events.
The “tradition” of hosting a fashion week in New York dates back to 1943. During World War II, American fashion buyers and press weren’t able to travel to Paris to see the latest fashion shows, so a fashion insider in the U.S. organized a similar event (originally called Press Week) for American designers to show their lines. It’s worth noting that back then, only the fashion magazines were invited to attend. Buyers had to view the collections in the various designer showrooms at a separate time. Following the end of the war, the shows returned to Europe, but in the 1990s a New York fashion week was established as a regular event.
Today, it’s more convenient than ever to attend fashion week near where you live or work, since there is now one held in many major cities around the U.S. and also around the world. However, the four main fashion weeks today where the upcoming season’s trends are truly set are held in London, Paris, Milan and New York. And keep in mind that just how convenient and “easy to attend” these events are is relative, depending on who you are or who you represent. In fact, New York fashion week is an extremely exclusive event.
The Invitation List
Some of the smaller fashion weeks held around the country do sell tickets to the public. But in New York, space is at a premium and as a rule, only VIPS get in. In fact, the events in the Bryant Park tent are by limited to top industry representatives, buyers, merchandisers, well-known media outlets and celebrities.
Cost to Attend
If you don’t fall into any of the invited groups and you want to actually buy a ticket, you will be disappointed to know that your pickings are pretty slim. The general rule of thumb is that you can’t pay to attend. However, that doesn’t mean that there is no hope. Here are a few other ways that you might be able to get in:
Book a Hotel Package
Some New York hotels occasionally offer fashion week package deals that include your room and complimentary passes to attend a few of the fashion week shows. For instance, W New York Hotel in Manhattan offers a VIP Catwalk option that provides reserved seats for two guests to attend one of the popular fashion shows, along with a backstage tour. Only one package is offered each day of fashion week, so you have to book way in advance.
The cost for this package, which also includes a night’s stay in a hotel suite, can be had for $899.
Get a Press Pass
A select number of fashion journalists who work for prestigious publications and media outlets are able to attend fashion week, but must receive prior approval to be included on the list. Usually, members of the press must submit a request that includes their credentials and sometimes even samples of their work. The designers often have the last say as to which press people they want to cover their shows, so entry isn’t guaranteed (unless you work for one of the big fashion names, such as Harpers Bazaar or Vogue).
There is a registration cost for the press members who are approved, which is $90 per person. (The fee is discounted to $65 if you apply well in advance.)
Purchase Special American Express Tickets
American Express recently launched a new program to offer special access to fashion week to premier cardholders. Starting at $250 per person to view two fashion shows, participants get VIP-style treatment from a special hospitality suite/sky box where food and drinks will be served. Only a very limited numbers of these special spots are available, though. There are also a few special packages costing $700 that buys card members a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go behind-the-scenes at the fashion shows and also have their hair and makeup done alongside the models. (You can also cash in American Express points to “purchase” this package if you are lucky enough to have racked up enough.)
Attend a Specialty Show
In addition to the Bryant Park ready-to-wear fashion shows, a number of specialized shows are also held around the city as part of the fashion week events. For instance, a series of special Couture Fashion Week shows are Cost To Attend Fashion Week In NYCheld at the Westin Times Square and the St. Regis Hotel New York to showcase custom luxury clothing designed by international couture designers. Three to four couture shows a day are held over a three-day period. Unlike the main fashion week activities, tickets for these more specialized events are made available to the general public. There are several price categories, depending on your budget and your goals. For standing room, the price starts at $35 for one show, while general admission seats start at $75 for one show. For VIP seats in the front row, you can expect to spend $170 for one show. In addition, if you have money to splurge, you can purchase platinum VIP seating that adds a special dinner, limo and everything included for $1,595 for the entire three days of all of the shows. For this price, you will have something to talk about for years to come.
If you are a regular patron at high-end department stores and boutiques in the city, you might also talk to the salespeople and see if they have any complimentary tickets to hand out to special customers. Or, think about getting an education in fashion since the top New York fashion schools often provide access for its students to get a first-hand look at the industry workings through the fashion week shows. Finally, even if you can’t find a way to attend any of the fashion shows, keep in mind that a number of clubs and restaurants in the city will be hosting fashion-week parties after the shows end, so this is a great time to call on your best networking skills and try to find an entry into one of these rendezvous, where you can expect to rub shoulders with models, designers and celebrity guests.
What to Wear
Since fashion week is all about being on top of the latest trends, it should come as no surprise that if you do plan to attend fashion week, you will want to put some time and thought into what you will wear. Keep in mind that you will be surrounded by the top names in the fashion press and everyone around you will be wearing their best.
Some fashion insiders say that the general rule of thumb is that you should wear something by the designer whose show you will be watching. However, if you will be watching multiple shows and/or can’t afford the designer’s line, you can use your creativity to pull out your most elegant but also trendy items and put together something fashion forward that is also comfortable enough to stand on your feet all day and move around in large crowds. (This may sound like a tall order, so you will need to spend some time looking through your closet in advance and figuring how your best approach on what to wear.) One stylist suggests finding a vintage item to use as a strong statement piece and then building your outfit from there.
Some celebrities not only get invited to attend designer’s fashion shows but they actually get paid to sit in the prestigious front row. While many designers deny that such a practice of occurs, there is a strong rumor circulating in the fashion world that selling seats to most famous celebrities is just a way of doing business. Since Americans look to celebrities to get their style tips, their endorsement of a clothing line is an important element. In addition, even those celebrities who don’t get paid do often get gifted with whatever they desire in the designer’s line of clothes. Not a bad way to live. But for the rest of the world, New York Fashion Week is a great introduction to the latest clothing styles you will have to come up with the money to buy over the coming year.