Fall Fashion Kool-Aid: Madison Avenue Fashion Heritage Week

Valerie Steele, Dr. Joyce F. Brown, Gale Brewer, Dr. Matthew Bauer

In a twist of William Shakespeare’s quote “The eyes are the windows of the soul”; sixteen upper Madison Avenue luxury branded stores will soon have windows that ARE their souls… and our eyes will be on them. At least that is the goal of the Madison Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) as well at the Museum at FIT. Yesterday I attended a press event to introduce a new concept dubbed “Madison Avenue Fashion Heritage Week” which will run from October 20 through 26. When I heard the dreaded words “Fashion Week” I cringed slightly, but not to worry, this one doesn’t require attendance at any runway shows, however, since this is the tech age, it will have an app. Each of the participating brands will be “lifting the veil” on the history of their company with an archival window exhibition as well as a companion mobile app found at MadisonAveFHW.org to go live on October 16.

Dr. Matthew Bauer, president of Madison Avenue BID opened the press conference by noting that this event was the culmination of two years in the planning. It will feature some of the world’s most preeminent luxury fashion brands spanning from 57th to 86th Street in a multi-platform event with specially-created exhibitions within the boutique windows of Akris, Bally, Brunello Cucinelli, Calvin Klein Collection, Carolina Herrera, Dolce & Gabbana, Emilio Pucci, Ermenegildo Zegna, Etro, Hermes, J. Mendel, John Lobb, Longchamp, Max Mara, Missoni and Mulberry. Proceeds from the event (either by percentage of sales or particular donation) are to benefit the Museum at FIT. According to Amy Rosi of Aros Communications (the PR firm for the event) this is to be a “museum on the street” which will ultimately benefit tourism as well as the city of New York.

Dr. Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of the Museum at FIT voiced her “strong belief that fashion is a part of history and by studying fashion’s past we can see what it’s going to become in the future.” Dr. Steele offers commentary on the mobile app (designed by C&G Partners) where you will also find videos and hear brand ambassadors speak about their company history from Rosita Missoni to Gilles Mendel to designer Albert Kriemler of Akris. They have some fascinating stories to tell of their brand’s inception, it’s original focus, and how their companies have evolved to get where they are today. From some of the oldest brands including Hermes (their horse-centric feature reminds me of a slightly risque music video even though everyone is fully clothed; even the horses wear Hermes “bandanas de soie”), Bally (when did they drop the “of Switzerland”?), and J. Mendel (they were furriers to the Russian tsar in the 1890’s) to some of the newer brands such as Mulberry (Ugh, NCA ie Not Cara Again) or Carolina Herrera (featuring her Fall 2014 runway show), they all have a rich and compelling heritage experience to share.

Also at the press event were Yaz Hernandez, Couture Council Chair, Liz Peek, Couture Council Board, Dr. Joyce F. Brown, President of FIT, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer as well as brand ambassadors from many of the participating companies.”The windows really are the thing as well as the philanthropy” said Ms. Rosi. I’m thinking that since there are almost two months until the Fifth Avenue Christmas windows are unveiled to the delight of millions of tourists (and perhaps not as many New Yorkers), this educational and informative take-over of Madison Avenue’s windows is a perfect plan. As Borough President Brewer said when speaking of the city’s 71 BID’s this is “really crucial to the vibrancy and economic development of New York City” while the “app will help bring it to people who aren’t necessarily there.” Of course, @MadisonAvenueFHW is also a Twitter handle and #MadisonAvenueFHW will take you to Instagram if that is your thing. If you’re old school, you can be adventurous and take an actual walk, rather than a virtual walk on the IRL street but don’t forget to check out the app on your mobile device or computer for the full multi-layered experience.

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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