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By dawn Friday, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week was a wrap. Countless photographs of new clothing designs had been taken of several hundred models wearing couture designs created by the top in the industry.
On Thursday night, closing one of the five stages was designer Naeem Khan, who presented a couture line for woman of unbelievable luxury. I was there, guest of Saks Fifth Avenue.
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Models at New York Fashion Week
One entered the temporary “tent” lobby at Lincoln Center in New York; it’s actually comprised of a metal frame, canvas structure, carpeted, heated, cooled, billowing curtain wall coverings, state of the art electronic ticketing and seven sponsor booths including Mercedes Benz and Maybelline.
The security is tight, credentials presented upon entering. The ticketing system is flawless, using ticketing technology that most airports don’t possess.
There is notable buzz in the air, a sense of excitement, just like the start of a new play, a concert or a movie. The crowd is immense — several thousand milling about. Many in dressed in typical New York black, and there are reporters galore, many carrying an immense amount of camera equipment.
Socialites mixed with fashionistas mixed with people enjoying the glamour of the moment. There are many television reporters broadcasting live, and above everyone is a 20- by 30-foot electronic screen that shows the various stages and the designer presentations as each show unfolds. An edge of newness and excitement fills the air.
Peeling off this large tennis-court sized lobby are hallways, with queuing areas that lead to the five stages. Ranging from 300 guests to 2,000 plus guests, the presentation facilities are top of the line. One “tent” holds 1,200 seated, 1,000 standing. This is not your little fashion show presentation in any sense.
Khan’s fashions were to be presented in the tent called “the stage” with seating for 700 and additional standing room for 500. They were over capacity and turning people away.
Reporters are crammed at the end of the runway, near the entrance, with specific reporters having specific space taped off and named. At least 125 reporters were in the area, with massive video camera and photographic equipment that could send the signal wherever.
The walls, ceiling and risers are painted a medium gray. The seating is gray cushions, not chair backs, and each seat has a place card with the name of the guest and who they are representing.
The crowd is split but mostly they are buyers for the clothing line. They represent the big stores such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue and buyers for smaller chains and single shops.
Coming in a close second in numbers are the reporters — covering the event for the press mostly placed in the standing room section so that they can slip out easily to cover the next show since each stage presents about five designers per day.
Then scattered in the middle section are the guests of the designer and of course the socialites from around the nation. For Khan’s presentation, customers from California, Texas, Florida and the East Coast were represented.
His dresses range from about $3,000 to $15,000 and typically only a handful, maybe a dozen worldwide, of each high end dress style would be sold, each fitted separately to the individual customer.
The music is pulsing, somewhat Far Eastern in flavor. Ambient lighting is bright, the runway covered in plastic. The crowd noise increase substantially as the hour nears.
The socialites and celebrities enter to brilliant camera flashes, creating an atmosphere of an old Hollywood movie premier. Khan chose to use a live DJ instead of recorded music, so that the music could be adjusted to the feel of the event. Music ranging from Indian to rock to opera floods the air.
As the time nears, the lights drop gently and the staff removes the runway covering. The runway is not raised, but instead is at floor level.
Khan chose a dark gray felt to cover the walkway, very different then most designers. Opposite the cameras is the stage entrance with a central wall featuring the name “Naeem Kahn” in block bold letters. As the show neared, the name was bathed in blood red lights against the gray walls — Then darkness, and then there was light.
The ceiling exploded with a flood of brilliant white lights and as the first model walked the darkened floor one immediately understood how Khan’s designs come to life under that intense glare with movement, music and physical animation. The show beginning included several cocktail dresses in silk gazar, a black and maroon pattern similar to Rorschach ink blots.
Then came the hint of sparkling stones — with beading adding sparkle to both short and long outfits, either bringing attention to the neckline or the waist. Everything is hand sewn — patent leather jeweled flowers cascading along a gown, sparkling in the light.
And then came the full beaded gowns. They were magnificent. Some were backless and several featured plunging necklines. There were two beautiful jeweled gowns with ostrich feathers hand attached from the knees down, reminding me of those dresses worn by Ginger Rogers.
Naeem had accessorized the models in magnificent jewelry — big diamond earrings, diamond bracelets and large gold earrings all complementing the look somewhere between $500,000 and $1,000,000 in borrowed “rocks.”
The music soared, and it just continued. Attitude, glamour, high style. Model after model took the stage, and, in virtually every instance, leaving the audience with a “there can’t be more?” response. These were certainly red carpet dresses, not for the meek.
But always with the customer in mind, the show included several bejeweled caftan styles that would greatly compliment those not quite razor thin in size. These were dresses to be worn in the most exciting places, as the absolute center of attention. And it ended. And the crowd roared and stood as Naeem took the stage for a bow.
Exiting the facility, the crowd massed in the lobby also showed its approval. For Fashion Week, this was one of the main closing shows. Glamour and style. Per the New York papers: a bedazzling success. And a more realistic success as the buyers began sending text messages to the phone of the VP of sales not 15 minutes after the show had ended.
The pieces travel to London this weekend, the Paris next week. A portion of the collection will be presented at a trunk show at Saks Fifth Avenue at the Somerset Collection in Troy April 6.
For two hours, I was a fashion maven, sitting with socialites, nodding my approval. The experience totally rocked. But what an effort: the design and creation of the clothes, the manufacturing, the presentations, the marketing. All to be repeated with another completely different clothing line in six months. Staggering.
Thanks to Saks for inviting me. Thanks to Mr. Khan for spending time with me prior to the show, and afterward at the employee party.
Ronald Miller is from Ann Arbor and has been involved in the arts community in southeast Michigan for many years.
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