A couple of seasons ago I discovered a little known secret in the Bryant Park tents: there's a sky box
quietly tucked away at the very top! It's hidden behind black curtains that shield it from curious eyes. You can't know it's there until just prior to the start of selected runway shows. Then, if you know where to look, just as the runway is about to be cleared of photographers and celebrities, you can see the people inside the box for just a few seconds. Then, the lights dim and they're gone.
You might think you're dreaming--that you didn't really see it -- but the American Express sky box is not
a dream. It is a real and rare opportunity that American Express offers it's more elite card members to be a part of Fashion Week. For a primarily female, fashion-focused, audience, a visit to the sky box is a dream come true. A visit to the American Express sky box gives them the opportunity to see real fashion shows from within the Bryant Park tents, and soak up some of the atmosphere of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York City.
The American Express lounge in the back of the main Bryant Park lobby, is the "portal" to the sky box. It gives a good view of how the rest of the Fashion Week participants deal with the action: noisy crowds, lots of socializing, a visit to sponsor exhibits, and long lines separated by those with seats and invitations, and those waiting for standing room. Sky box guests sit comfortably watching the action, while waiting for their personal escort to take them to the sky box -- no backstage pass, needed.
I was invited up on September 12th to report on this "mysterious" and unique part of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. Members of the press, buyers, photographers, bloggers, stylists and others deal with the crazy crush of the lobby. American Express sky box guests are escorted quietly past them into a completely different "fashion Week" world. In the sky box, just like the fictional Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, everyone
is a VIP with a front row seat, watching the proceedings from a private, priviledged, perch.
This season's sky box was designed by Frank Carfaro, acclaimed founder and creative director of contemporary home furnishings company, DESIRON. Fashionably dim lighting, glass sculptures, comfortable sitting areas, and a bar offering light refreshments and passed snacks, makes for an ideal place to feel relaxed and happy. The sky box opens onto two venues: the large tent, and the mid-sized Promenade. Guests see two runway shows (one in the tent, the other in the Promenade), and get lots of bonuses for the cost of the sky box experience, including nice designer discounts, and exclusive gifts and gift bags, plus the chance of surprise guest appearances of famed designers.
I couldn't resist taking a photo with Amy Smilovic, the woman behind TIBI's fantastic designs.
...and another surprise guest, was the legendary designer (and AmEx spokeswoman) Designer Diane Von Furstenberg! She told us how she got started in the fashion business and her motivation to do so (she wanted to be a strong, independent woman, and to empower women); what all women have (strength "although sometimes you have to look deep inside to find it and bring it out" she said); what inspires her (every woman, because we are all unique); the one thing that she thinks every woman should experience (raising a child) and what none of us really need ("must-have" clothes, because everyone has their own style). Diane Von Furstenberg is the president of the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America).
"Fashion is a reflection of our time -- the street inspires fashion and also the other way around
," she said.
The VIP lounge-style viewing window lets card members see the shows directly, and through monitors strategically placed around the room. These guests are eagerly awaiting the Vera Wang runway show. Although the front row view for A-listers from "downstairs" is closer, for the majority of people attending the popular shows in less desirable seats or standing in the back, the comfy viewing area in the American Express sky box would be Heaven!
Here, my view from the Sky box as a model makes the turn on the runway during the Vera Wang show.
....and my view of Naeem Kahn's finale in the Promenade.
In between the shows, industry experts such as Kate Nobelius of Billion Dollar Babes (shown here, "interviewing" TIBI designer Amy Smilovic), educate, inform, and entertain the AmEx guests. Kate pointed out celebrities in the front row, offered tidbits of fashion and runway information, talked about fashion trends, and introduced the guest designers, asking really good questions that really kept our interest!
The guests I chatted with in the sky box were from all over the country and all ages, united in their desire to see what goes on during Fashion Week. This photo is of Sherri and Britany, a mother and daughter from Ohio, who traveled to New York to spend the weekend, visit the American Express skybox, and go shopping....all for Britany's 16th birthday. Lucky sweet 16!
Britany, who wants to be a model, was excited to see first-hand what a real runway show was like. She was so
excited. While we waited for the second show to begin, I filled her in on some of the things that go on backstage and she asked me lots of questions about the models and how they prepare for a show. Both mother and daughter were having a fantastic
time. Other American Express card members who chatted with me in the sky box said they were there because they were curious about Fashion Week, NYC's fashion scene, modeling, and fashion. Most said they were splurging for a special occasion such as a birthday or early Christmas presents. One woman was there with some friends. Another, as a chaperone for her younger sister.
The cost for all this luxury and excitement? The $700 for the day (much more for a weekend package) may seem like an extravagance, but for fashion-obsessed American Express Gold Card members, Platinum Card ® members and Centurion ® Card members, it's the chance of a lifetime to feel like a fashion insider.
The sky box may not be inexpensive, but some pretty good perks come with the package. I so
wanted one of these railroad spike bracelets by jewelry designer Philip Crangi, who also appeared as a surprise guest. Crangi's jewelery is sold at Barneys with many of his pieces going for well over $1,000. Each sky box guest got one of these fantastic bracelets as a gift from American Express, personally engraved with a special message of their choosing (many chose "Fashion Week 2008
" - not original, but it made a great keepsake). Another bonus of being a sky box guest is that you take home a sponsor swag bag that only the Fashion Week sponsors, and a limited number of press, can even attempt to snag. I had to wait on three long lines to get one this year.
As part of American Express' continued support of designers and the fashion industry, proceeds from the sale of Card member packages will contribute to the $500,000 American Express donation to Council of Fashion Designers of America in support of the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund.
One special offer that all American Express Card Members can take advantage of (until October 31. 2008) are the Lambertson Truex Totes, created exclusively for American Express® card members, in partnership with Vanity Fair Campaign New York. Luxury accessory designers Richard Lambertson and John Truex teamed up to create two terrific totes. There is a personally signed, "Index of Happiness" tote $1,000 in full color, and more simple and affordable "Gertrude" Tote $150.00 in blue canvas with brown leather trim. Either one would make a special gift this holiday season. Even better 15% of the purchase price from these totes will benefit the Whitney Museum of American Art.* Click here
to get more information and photos of the bags, and to make a purchase.
Although this is a report of the sky box, the attendees are really there to see runway shows. We saw two: Vera Wang in the Tent, Naeem Kahn in the Promenade:
VERA WANG: Vera Wang's subdued Spring collection featured day-to-evening looks in a very muted palette, with just pops of color, and without a bridal or red-carpet gown in the bunch. The most festive touches were the seriously large, sparkling and showy accessories that were almost blindingly glittery bouncing off the lights on the runway. Wang's inspiration for her Spring 2009 collection celebrated the vibrancy and naivete of Niki Saint Phalle, a woman and artist of extraordinary imagination, individuality, and talents. Saint Phalle, was deeply affected by the work of Antonio Gaudí' and was known for her use of bright colors, while the mainstay of Wang's Spring collection was basic black, grey, cream, white and navy. But the knee-length dresses and resort-y pants with tops, are wearable designs we'd all die
to own and wear!
NAEEM KAHN: Naeem Khan's collection was glamorous, mixing lots of glitz and sparkle with other exotic touches. This collection was a contrast to Wang's more day-to-evening approach to evening fashion. Kahn's glittering, opulent gowns were in bright colors and full-length. "Obi" style belting, jewels, and lots of opulent detail traipsed down the runway. The inspiration: "The Far East though the eyes of Diana Vreeland, Loulou de Falaise, 60's handmade clothes, and Japanese origami."
Spring 2009 Fashion Week completed my 9th season covering the runway shows. My regular experience during Fashion Week is not one of the A-list in the front row or that of the guests in the American Express sky box. My week is is not only physically demanding, it is emotionally draining. But the American Express sky box is a commercial experience that gives a flavor of Fashion Week, although it's a glammed-up view. The feeling is one of privilege that money can buy, and it's awesome fun! In addition to the sky box, American Express collaborated with popular designer Zac Posen to present a one-of-a-kind private runway show for American Express® Card members this season. Last season, I attended the American Express® Cardmembers only runway show by Designer Peter Som.
If you have the time and the money (and can get your tickets early--they immediately sell out), a visit to the American Express sky box is an awesome way to be part of the action. Just weeks before the doors to the tents at Bryant Park open for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, American Express informs it's privileged card members of the upcoming "fash week" activities via an email list. The card members I talked to approached securing their tickets as if they were for a sure-to-be-sold-out concert, or sporting event. American Express is not only a sponsor of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, they sponsored several episodes of the popular television reality show, Project Runway (one of the shows was a chance to see the Project Runway finale from the sky box). If you are an American Express American Express Gold Card, Platinum Card ®, or Centurion ® Card member, you can sign up for Ticket Access and you will get emails when here’s an opportunity to purchase advance tickets for a number of special events sponsored by American Express, even before they go on sale to the general public! For more information about American Express and Fashion Week, please visit http://www.americanexpress.com/entertainment
All content and photos Alison Blackman Dunhamm for the Advice Sisters copyright © 2008 all rights reserved by Alison Blackman. The Advice Sisters is a registered United States trademark. Fel free to link to this story. For other permissions, email the Advice Sisters advicesisters(at)advicesisters(dot)net
Labels: American Express Fashion Week Skybox