Fashion Week in New York ended a couple of weeks ago, but other fashion weeks around the United States and the world, are still in full swing. However, beyond the clothes, makeup, hair and trends, it is obvious that the spectacle that is a runway show, lures more than just buyers, stylists, and the media. For the average person, the lure of the spectacle that is a runway show, continues to enchant.
In the old days, fashion week was a very different type of experience, closed off to those not in the industry. As technology improved and the runway shows became even more theatrical, television (e.g. The Style Network and Full Frontal Fashion) brought the excitement and glamour of the runway shows into everyone’s home. Not surprisingly, both men and women longed to be there, instead of a passive bystander, watching at home.
Now, thanks to American Express, the runway is accessible to everyone. Well, at least anyone who is an American Express card member, has some disposable income, and the motivation to order tickets to quickly grab the always sold-out tickets to the American Express Skybox at fashion week, when the shows are posted.
I’ve written about the Skybox a number of times. While some scoff that American Express has made fashion week a fantasy for dollars for those who can’t get in any other way, my feeling is, why not? American Express is a major sponsor of Fashion Week, and the Skybox is really a separate entity that you might not even be aware of, if you were a casual observer. The windows are dark and you can’t see in, and it’s high atop the tents where it doesn’t interfere with anyone else. The Skybox is an elegant, accessible version of what “the trade” experiences. In many ways, it is quite a bit better. High atop the Lincoln Center tents, the American Express Skybox is an oasis of charm and glamour, where each fashion season, patrons can delight in runway shows (and more) throughout New York’s fashion week.
This may sound extravagant, but it’s actually a good value. Consider: Members of the media, stylists, buyers and photographers who require access to the shows pay $80.00 for a media pass (and that sum seems to rise every year). If they are vetted and accepted (and not everyone is),all they get access to the main lobby, and their contact information on the official the media list, where designers can choose (or not) to invite them to their show. It is well known that in the industry that fashion week is exciting, but exhausting, and sometimes, even painful. Working press mostly stand on their feet all day long, generally waiting in long lines to get into shows and find their seats (or worse, standing room where they have to jockey for a view of the runway). The food and beverage service is severely limited (we call that week “the fashion week diet” for good reason) so most of us drink water and eat granola bars, or grab a goodie from a lounge, if we’re lucky, without any real chance to have a real meal. The Spring shows (held in September) feature invariably rainy, hot and sweaty weather. For the Fall shows (held in February) it is always freezing or worse, snowing or sleeting. No matter what the season, everyone is lugging around huge bags with cameras, computers, umbrellas and more.
Guests in the American Express Skybox pay more than double for two shows, but but they actually get a lot more value than the media. They really do get more than just a good show, or two. For starters, if they jump on the ticket sales quickly enough, they can pick whatever shows they want to see, no designer invitation required. There is a dedicated American Express lounge right in the middle of the action in the tents where very friendly and gracious hosts make sure they are attended to and escorted to the Skybox, no lines required. Once ensconced in the Skybox, there’s a large bar with sweet and savory nibbles, champagne, cocktails, or hot or cold soft beverages. Even better, there’s a knowledgeable host who points out who is in the front rows, and explains the action on the floor, below. During the breaks in the shows, she also interviews the celebrity guests. Many of those intermission guests are powerhouse fashion celebrities (e.g. Diane Von Furstenberg was one of the guests a few seasons back when I was visiting the Skybox) that even the media can’t access easily.
This season, two talented young fashion illustrators did drawings of every guest on iPads and emailed them (how clever)! Discounts for shopping are offered, and guests even get the official sponsor swag bag full of products and gifts that not every member of the media, receives. Refreshments are available throughout the Skybox experience, from champagne or cocktails, to hot and cold beverages, sweet and savory snacks, and soft, cushioned chairs on which to enjoy them. At show time, two rows of cushioned benches lined up against the walls of the SkyBox gives everyone attending a virtual front row seat, while flat screen televisions broadcast every detail of the live action closer than the front row view.
Every season, American Express offers even more to it’s fashion-obsessed patrons. There are platinum packages that include make-overs and backstage passes. And there’s usually a member’s only designer fashion show, usually held on the last evening of the last day of fashion week, right after the last official show has ended. This show truly is exclusive. If you aren’t an American Express card member, or invited by American Express to attend, you are not going to see it! Instead of waiting in a long line, guests sipped champagne and nibbled little mini cupcakes while waiting. And then they filed into the show (no pushing or shoving required as every seat had a ticket attached to it).
This past season’s show was an exclusive DKNY show featuring a live performance by pop star Lykke Li as models walked in DKNY’s 2012 Resort collection. Shopping discounts for DKNY were on every seat, with the front row receiving a gift bag (I didn’t get to see what was in it, but from the expressions of the well dressed ladies I saw peeking in the bag, it must have been something great). This DKNY collection, featuring cocktail dresses, tuxedo jackets and sleek -pants, was actually was available in stores (no waiting for six months to buy). Additionally, American Express will contribute a portion of the proceeds to the Urban Zen Foundation, founded by Ms. Karan. Urban Zen is a really worthy cause, committed to raising awareness and inspiring change in the areas of well-being, preserving cultures and empowering children. Donna Karan herself stood on the runway talked a bit about the collection, giving a few, fashion tips.Now that’s entertainment!
Yes, all of this is created with a bit of glamorous fantasy that American Express card members can exclusively purchase, but honestly, in many ways it’s much better than the reality of Fashion Week that the media experiences. If and when I ever stop reporting on Fashion Week as a member of the press, I’m counting on visiting the Skybox with my American Express credit card, to get my fashion fixes.
Each season since its inauguration, the shows have sold out of their packages, which retail for $150 and $250 (for front row and post-show backstage reception). While I can’t tell you exactly when the packages will be posted, you can get details at americanexpress.com/entertainment for more information. When the packages are up for next season, jump on it!