Reality behind New York Fashion Week

New documentary film, The Tents, exposes the not-so-glamorous reality behind New York
Fashion Week
By Daisy Dumas

Think New York Fashion Week and glamour, beauty, catwalks and celebrity come to mind.

But, as new docu-film The Tents explores, what is now seen as a polished production started life very differently.

Lifting the lid on the global media whirlwind that is the showcase week, The Tents explores the birth and adolescence of NYFW - and shows that, much like fashion itself, Fashion Week is constantly evolving.
Making a statement: Designer, Donna Karan, says in the film that industry names wanted NYFW to be the best it could be

Featuring a range of interviews with top designers, the 72-minute film explores the chaotic birth of Fashion Week, from the first shows in downtown clubs and SoHo lofts, to The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)'s organisation of the event in Bryant Park in 1993 to the subsequent take-over by IMG.

A small village of makeshift marquees, the Bryant Park NYFW set-up came to be known as 'the tents' - a term that has become synonymous with high fashion on a global stage.

'Everyone in New York knows that fashion is happening because of these tents,' says a fashionisto in the film.
Haphazard: NYFW's reputation may outshine the piecemeal reality of its birth, film interviewees include Isaac Mizrahi

Director, James Belzer, says: 'With a diverse range of voices, we take the audience on an exciting journey through NY fashion history. The term 'The Tents' now resonates as a metaphor for the fashion show venue itself as well as the overall fashion week experience.'

Interviewees include Isaac Mizrahi, Zac Posen, Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karan and Carolina Herrera. They recount the piecemeal coming together of fashion's very best names and reveal that the Bryant Park location was often a dangerous and haphazard place in which to work.
We live for fashion: Glenda Bailey from Harper's Bazaar remembered designers saying they would live for fashion but not die for it after the tents became a notoriously
dangerous work site

Their stories recall pieces of plaster dropping onto models and designers, electrical fire hazards, power cuts and 'unprofessional' management.

Speaking about the shows, designer Donna Karan said: 'It was frightening. If the police department or fire department ever knew they were going on, they would have shut these places down in a minute.'

Marking the end of an era, September 2010 saw the seasonal event move to conspicuously tent-free Lincoln Center.
The Tents: Synonymous with high fashion, the tents - seen here in 2006 - were a media magnet. The event is now sponsored by Mercedes Benz
Walking the walk: World famous models strode the Bryant Park catwalks inside the
infamous tents

Belzer has tapped into a thirst for honest portrayals of the notoriously hard-to-access backstage life of fashion shows.

'Looking at the success of recent fashion documentaries such as The September Issue and Valentino: The Last Emperor, there is clearly a burgeoning interest in behind-the-scene stories about the fashion industry,' he says.

The Tents will premier at NYFW in September, coinciding with the Spring/Summer 2012 showcase.
End of an era: Designers including Betsey Johnson have fond memories of the tents as
NYFW has now moved to its new Lincoln Center home