For most of the Western world, January 1st marks the official onset of a new year. But for we who work, toil and triumph in the fashion industry, nothing spells fresh start quite the way September does. Like kids heading back to school, our community returns from its collective summer break for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week -- which, this month, celebrates its third season at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
This season witnesses the return of designers such as Chris Benz, Rachel Roy and Vivienne Tam to Lincoln Center spaces, following the success of their February shows here, and also welcomes the inimitable Zac Posen, who reclaims his hometown after two seasons in Paris. Teen Vogue is storming the Campus with the opening of its consumer-oriented "Haute Spot," in the New York Public Library, while InStyle is gearing their lounge toward retailers, who seek asylum from the Tents. Tory Burch will stage her first ever runway show in Alice Tully Hall on September 13th, and Norma Kamali is creating a 3-D fashion-meets-film presentation in the David Rubenstein Atrium on September 14th. On September 15th, Arise Magazine is hosting the production of a capsule collection by seven designers and chasing their runway with a musical performance by Leona Lewis. The Couture Council hosted its annual FIT Luncheon in honor of Mr. Valentino Garavani in the David H. Koch Theater on September 7th. Anna Wintour presented Mr. Valentino with his award with such a heartfelt speech that everyone rose to their feet in celebration. Eleanor Lambert's legacy was feted last night during a book party celebration that I co-hosted with Steven Kolb, Nadja Swarovski and Suzanne Slesin. The author, John A. Tiffany, was as full of life as his mentor was. Notables in the fashion industry attended both events.
September, never content to be outdone, is gearing up to be among the most diverse and exciting show seasons in recent memory. A new Mercedes-Benz façade will adorn the iconic tents, merging the traditional architecture of Lincoln Center with ever-evolving digital technology. IMG, the powerhouse behind the event, has created initiatives spanning and unifying the worlds of fashion, art, culture and social media. They, of course, are raising the ever-ascending bar by producing over 80 shows in what amounts to a gorgeously jam-packed calendar, ranging from established designers such as Derek Lam, Diane von Furstenberg, Michael Kors and Vera Wang, to emerging talents like Honor, Juan Carlos Obando and Candela. Meanwhile, as I triple check on last minute strategy queries, I also find myself supervising the very literal back-to-school transition for my three children. I don't think any working mother has convinced herself that she perfectly balances motherhood and her career -- guilt is the parent's most polished accessory -- and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is certainly the most rigorous obstacle course in my "double life," but I've managed to develop a routine that's fair to both sets of responsibilities and even allows me a few hours of sleep.
I drop the kids off at school every day, regardless of the show schedule. Life goes on for them even while Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week steamrolls my appointment book; the car-rides mean that I don't miss what's at home for the sake of what's on the runway. Sometimes, I get the chance to mix-and-match responsibilities, like I did yesterday, when I took my daughter, Alexi, to the Ralph Lauren Girls Runway Show. As the Ralph Lauren team's target audience, Alexi scored a front row seat, and I dutifully sat behind her in the second row. It was incredibly adorable! Ralph finished the show by embracing all of the fresh-faced, vibrant children. Fashion is my job, and with that comes accountability, but it can also be exciting! I was thrilled to be able to introduce her to that.
It's by watching my kids zip up their new backpacks, stack pens and highlighters into mesh pencil cases and nervously examine every aspect of their chosen first-day ensemble, that I realize that despite my position as "acting principal" for the fashion industry, on the eve of the week that I've been organizing since March, I feel the same jittery butterflies that I've been attempting to soothe in my children. Last night, we all obsessively parsed our summer reading, memorized our schedules and tried and failed to fall asleep at a reasonable hour. In that eternity of tossing and turning, there is no jadedness. There is no sense of cynicism. It's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, and school is in session.