Under a big top


Reality show stars-turned designers! Olympians fresh from performing feats of strength at the Summer Games! Peacockish bloggers taking pictures and typing on smartphones while walking on death-defying stilettos!

There is all that and more at the three-ring circus that is New York Fashion Week, which kicked off Thursday with designers, retailers and media new and old converging in Manhattan for the spring-summer 2013 collections.

The seven-day-long photo op includes runway shows and presentations held in warehouse spaces on Hudson River piers and at Chelsea art galleries, the Park Avenue Armory and tony places such as the Carlyle Hotel -- as well as under the big top at Lincoln Center, the hub of fashion week.

In addition to the main acts such as Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs and Tory Burch, there are lots of side-show attractions.


Sammi “Sweetheart” Giancola (“Jersey Shore” cast member and apparent fitness fanatic) is coming to fashion week for the first time to show her fashion fitness line with SXE Fitness, and Whitney Port (star of MTV’s “The Hills” and “The City”) is back with her Whitney Eve contemporary line, and no doubt some kind of cameras rolling.

Several former cast members of fashion reality programs are showing lines. Among them are Christian Siriano (“Project Runway” fourth season winner), who opened his first store in SoHo on Wednesday night with a bash that drew Heidi Klum and “Girls” star Allison Williams; Cesar Galindo (a 20-plus year veteran of the industry who appeared on Bravo’s “The Fashion Show” last year); and Kara Laricks (first winner of NBC’s “Fashion Star” for her androgynous designs).

For the front row, Olympians seem to be the most popular gets. Swimmer Ryan Lochte is making the rounds, thankfully without the grill, taking in the Joseph Abboud show and appearing at shoe designer Brian Atwood’s swank party. And sprinter Sanya Richards-Ross turned up at BCGB, where she wore her super-high heels with what appeared to be cotton pads placed between the straps and her famously fast feet, to prevent blistering.

She’s not here, but First Lady Michelle Obama seems to be on everyone’s mind. Indeed, nearly four years into the administration, designers are still dying to dress her. Why? Because Tracy Reese, who made the gorgeous fuchsia and coral jacquard dress the first lady wore when she spoke Tuesday at the Democratic National Convention, has already seen a boost from the exposure. Her website crashed from so many hits, and ticket and interview requests have increased significantly, according to her representatives.


Meanwhile, the celebrity-as-designer trend is also making itself known. All eyes will be on Katie Holmes when she and stylist Jeanne Yang show Holmes & Yang for the first time during fashion week. The former Mrs. Tom Cruise is no doubt hoping that a presentation of the line, which launched in 2009, will be the fresh start she needs to enter the next phase of her life. (In further evidence that the fashion world is embracing Katie with open arms, it was announced last week that Bobbi Brown Cosmetics has named her the face of the beauty brand.)

Victoria Beckham is showing her high-end collection, as well as her lower-priced Victoria by Victoria Beckham line, while Avril Lavigne is presenting her Abbey Dawn line for Kohl’s.

Looking forward

But enough with the circus, what about the clothes? Pantone has pronounced emerald green, dusk blue, African violet, tangerine, poppy red and something called “tender shoots” green the hot colors of the season. And trend forecaster WGSN predicts that cropped, tapered pants, tailored separates and longer shorts will make a big showing.


Made in China, made in Romania, made where? In the wake of the flak Ralph Lauren received over the news that the Olympic opening ceremony uniforms he provided for the U.S. team were made in China, you have to wonder if the consumer sentiment for Made in America goods will influence fashion designers and buyers this season.

Industry bible Women’s Wear Daily published several stories on the subject Wednesday, suggesting that “like a phoenix, the American textile and manufacturing industry could be rising once again,” due to a confluence of economic and social factors, including the Great Recession and higher wages in Asia. WWD also published results of a study conducted with market research firm NPD Group that indicated 21% of people surveyed would buy an American shirt over one that was made in another country so long as the price was no more than 25% higher.

“It’s something I’m doing my due diligence on,” Eric Jennings, men’s fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue, said when asked about buying more brands that manufacture in America. “I’d really like to find a made-in-America men’s suiting brand that we could carry.”

But for Stephanie Solomon, women’s fashion director of Bloomingdale’s, the issue is more complicated. “The center of the fashion universe is not the U.S., it’s Paris,” she said, referring to how designers in that city still hold sway over the direction of trends to come. “If you’re a consumer interested in high fashion, and in the craft of high fashion, you’re interested in what’s coming from Europe.”


Which is why, when New York Fashion Week ends Friday, the circus will pick up and move to London, Milan and Paris, where the last word on the spring season will finally come Oct. 3.