When New York Fashion Week resided for years and years at Bryant Park -- right in the midsection of the city, behind the New York Public Library, at 40th Street and Sixth Avenue -- suddenly a so-so city landmark became the hippest spot in town. Restaurants small and large sprung up to feed the need, and the Bryant Park Grill right on the park thrived when it opened, as did its outdoor tables during fashion week in September. The Bryant Park Hotel, on 40th Street between Fifth and Sixth, beheld a super hot spot -- both its bar and the trendy sushi spot, Koi, owned by L.A. entrepreneurs.
But with Lincoln Center the hub for the last few years -- 63rd Street and Broadway, to be precise -- several other locales have risen up as the main fashionista haunts. Of course, the fountain on Lincoln Center Plaza now has a steady stream of curiousity seekers with camera phones, and many a fashion editor will meet friends there and sip an iced tea and call it lunch. But we also saw better-dressed people in the Starbucks on the corner of 60th and Columbus than we've ever seen anywhere outside a major shopping area.
But the Empire Hotel, on 63rd Street between Columbus and Broadway, has wildly benefitted from its proximity. It has featured The Allure Lounge all week, in conjunction with the Conde Nast beauty magazine and Maybelline. It's got makeovers, free gifts, hairstyling by the Ricardo Rojas salon, skin consultations by SkinMedica, hand treatments, a designer fragrance bar, fashions from the lines Stop Staring, Renzo & Kai, etc., live streams of fashion week shows and the piece de resistance: free Diet Coke. IPads located throughout the Allure Lounge allow visitors to shop on-site. The second floor is Allure Upstaris, which is for press and VIPs, has free WiFI and is, of course, two steps from the tents, so very well-dressed editors are popping in and out constantly to file stories -- including yours truly!
The Empire's roof has a private lounge hosted by The Daily, the fashion week publication -- with more facials, makeovers, manicures, even massages and, more importantly, Belvedere cocktails. There are even tutorials for fashion bloggers.
This Upper West Side fashion festival extends even to the luxurious five-star Mandarin Oriental, the closest great hotel in the area -- only a three-block walk. The restaurant and lobby bar -- with the most amazing views of the Park and all of Manhattan -- are part of the comings and goings of the fashion pack all the time, but a lot more so at this time of year. The hotel has also created the HTC Lounge, a media headquarters that takes place in the MObar on the 35th floor every day til Sept. 13 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Anyone with a press badge or business card can enter and enjoy the view -- and the much-needed air conditioning. And the much-needed phone-charging capabilities.
The Mandarin's also doing something new and exciting: a designer Q&A series with the team of Cushnie et Ochs (Michelle Ochs and Carly Cushnie), Yuna Tang (on Sept. 11) and the Mulleavy sisters of Rodarte on Sept. 13. They'll talk about their inspirations and new collections, and it's rare that designers make speaking engagements during fashion week -- so worth taking advantage of.