Lincoln Center is quickly going out of fashion.
Top designers Tracy Reese, Michael Kors and Diane von Furstenberg have joined the parade of fashionistas leaving the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week tents in Damrosch Park, joining exiles Carolina Herrera, Tommy Hilfiger, Oscar de la Renta and Vera Wang.
The high-profile departures make many in the fashion world feel uninspired about Lincoln Center on the eve of the February tent shows.
“The tents were great,” says Adam Glassman, creative director at O, The Oprah Magazine. He adds wistfully, “It was fabulous when everyone could be under one roof.”
Bibhu Mohapatra parades his wares for the Spring 2014 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at at Lincoln Center in September.
The number of shows being produced at Lincoln Center has been fairly constant, but the number of top designers has dropped.
Instead, the Lincoln Center shows will include Candela, Zimmermann, Nicholas K. and the Art Institute of New York — not exactly brands you’d see in major department stores.
The tents have evolved from being the center of the New York fashion industry to a haven for foreign designers and others who focus more on business than art, such as BCBG, Herve Leger, Nicole Miller, Lacoste and J. Crew.
“Designers need to go where they gain the greatest exposure at the lowest price, and right now [Lincoln Center] isn’t the place to be,” says Jono Waks, a fashion show producer.
Robert Sabo/New York Daily News
Backstage at the show for BCBG, a business-oriented line that prefers the Lincoln Center tents.
Instead, game-changing designers are staging their shows in far-flung locations with more cachet. For example, Proenza Schouler has shown on Gold St. in the Financial District; Alexander Wang has used the West Side piers and the Cunard Building next to South Ferry; Marc Jacobs has chosen an out-of-the-way armory, and Calvin Klein has shown in an old office building next to the Holland Tunnel.
These moves may fit the designers’ brands, but they create a nightmare for the retailers, guests and media.
“You need a jet pack to get to all the shows,” says Kate Dimmock, fashion director at People Style Watch.
Worse, “Designers are forcing people to decide what shows to miss, and they may miss the chance to see the next new thing,” Dimmock adds.
Andrew H. Walker/Getty for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
Diane von Furstenberg’s show in September drew quite a crowd to Lincoln Center but she is among the big-name designers leaving that site.
Good Housekeeping fashion director Jasmine Chang admits, “We will miss some shows” by having to run all over town.
In the process, she’ll have to sacrifice her fashion sense.
“Forget heels,” she quips. “I’ll be dressed like the guys, wearing sneakers.”
In September, Michael Kors showed his designs at Lincoln Center, but he, too, is going elsewere.
The notion of having a single venue for fashion week started out from necessity: Designers wanted to just roll in their racks, dress the models and send them out on the catwalk. Retailers and editors wanted one-stop shopping.
So “Seventh on Sixth” — operated by the nonprofit Council of Fashion Designers of America — was born in Bryant Park. But IMG, the global sports and media conglomerate, bought the production in 2001 and moved the tents to Lincoln Center in 2010.
The result has been bizarre and bazaar. Mercedes are on display in the lobby, plus booths from other corporate sponsors — booze, diet bars, soft drinks and courier companies — that have little, if anything, to do with fashion.
Meanwhile bloggers and photographers set up mobile offices in every corner and crevice.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Michael Kors
Designer Michael Kors strode proudly down a runway at Lincoln Center but he is walking away from that venue.
“There has always been a disconnect with the shows and what is going on in the lobby,” said one fashion show producer. “At the end of the day, IMG is a marketing company. There is a huge overhead to produce the shows, and they need to monetize this by renting out the lobby to anyone who will pay.”
The jumbled message — more circus than couture — is proving to be unappealing to top designers. But Lincoln Center’s loss is the fashion world’s gain, says Steven Kolb, Council of Fashion Designers of America CEO .
“Lincoln Center is one piece of a bigger picture,” says Kolb. “There are 350 [fashion week] shows. Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week has about 60.”
As such, Kolb disagrees that Lincoln Center is on the wane.
A designer’s runway show for Fashion Week is televised outside the venue at Lincoln Center, a site falling out of favor with designers.
“IMG has done a great job of listening to the complaints and and creating something new,” he says. “I’m excited to see how it manifests itself.”
A spokesman for IMG declined to comment.
Reps for Herrera, Kors and von Furstenberg did not respond to requests for comment.
Reese tells the Daily News that IMG “has been great,” but that she “simply had the desire for change.”