6 ways to crash New York Fashion Week

Twice a year, Manhattan’s streets are flooded with high heels, red lips, and designer clothing as the world’s fashion community descends upon the city for New York Fashion Week.

The week-long event, officially called Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week (nod to sponsors), runs from February 9 to 16 and will feature presentations by some of the world’s most famous fashion designers of their Fall/Winter 2012 collections. The runway shows are invitation-only, with most seats reserved for press, buyers, and friends of the designer. The after-parties are equally exclusive, with tight guest lists and strict door policies.

But although it’s a mostly closed event, it is possible for New York visitors and residents to get in on the action. Here are six ways to “crash” Fashion Week from outside the industry.

1. Park yourself at Lincoln Center. Since 2010, the hub of New York Fashion Week has been Lincoln Center, after the organizers abandoned the traditional tents at Bryant Park. Throughout Fashion Week, the plaza outside the center is a flurry of activity, with a constant stream of people entering and exiting while paparazzi fight for photos of celebrities and socialites. Bundle up, grab a spot, and feel the energy.

2. Check out Fashion Week’s other venues. Milk Studios, in Chelsea, is the unofficial second main venue of Fashion Week, hosting shows for designers like Peter Som and Cushnie et Ochs throughout the week. Other designers choose to hold their shows at more off-beat (and open) locations. Victoria Beckham, for instance, will be showing her latest line at the New York Public Library, while the 3.1 Phillip Lim show will be held on the Highline. A full schedule, with locations, is available from NYMag.com.

3. Visit the FIT Museum’s new exhibit. The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology will host the first-ever exhibition celebrating the work of the Council for American Fashion Designers from February 10 to April 20. Titled Impact: Fifty Years of the CFDA, the exhibit will feature more than 100 garments from the council’s most impactful designers, including Diane von Furstenberg, Oscar de la Renta, Halston, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, and other fashion heavy-hitters. Admission to the museum is free.

4. Explore the Garment District. The Garment District, located right smack in midtown, is the historic center of New York’s fashion industry. A daytime stroll will find you in the midst of truck deliveries, rolling clothing racks, and anxious interns running errands, and the energy multiplies during Fashion Week. Stay alert, and you may even recognize a familiar face; I spotted designer Anna Sui during a recent visit.

5. Reserve a room at a stylish hotel. It used to be that New York’s most fashionable nightlife was centered around the Meatpacking District, but not any more. This season, Fashion Week’s notorious after-parties will be held in venues across Manhattan, and many of the most stylish hotspots are hidden in hotels. While reserving a room won’t guarantee entrance to the events, it might certainly help. Start with the Ace Hotel, the Hotel Gansevoort, the Gramercy Park Hotel, the brand new Dream Downtown Hotel, and the always risque Standard Hotel.

6. Watch on Facebook. The democratization of fashion continues on Facebook, where people around the world can snag front row seats to shows from designers like Michael Kors, Betsey Johnson, Narciso Rodriguez, Jill Stuart, and BCBGMAXAZRIA. Sure, it’s by live video stream, but until you’re a famous fashion blogger, it’ll have to do.

[Flickr images via Art Comments, Paul Lowry and Jimmy Baikovicius, other image via Fashion Institute of Technology]

World’s first pop-up mall: London’s Boxpark

Millions of us will head to the mall this week to return gifts or buy what we really wanted from the after-Christmas sales. Chain stores, fast food courts, and packed parking lots are what most of us associate with shopping malls, but a new retail concept in hip East London is looking to change that. Boxpark is the world’s first pop-up mall, made out of 60+ shipping containers that house a mix of international labels like The North Face and Levi’s, UK designers Luke and Boxfresh, plus cafes and eateries such as Pieminister. Boxpark will be open for five years, and stores may change after a year or two. Befitting the Shoreditch neighborhood, don’t expect Claire’s Accessories or the Gap, but rather street fashion, cool sneakers, and funky concept stores and art galleries Art Against Knives and Marimekko. Already a huge trend with restaurants, one-off shops, and hotels, the flexibility of the pop-up concept means an urban (or anywhere, since the containers can be moved!) location, up-and-coming designers, and more creative retail spaces.

Check out all the retailers at www.boxpark.co.uk plus info on sales and special offers.

For Helsinki, Design Week 50% longer

Seven days just won’t work for those crazy Finns. These design-savvy northern Europeans thus had to stretch its design celebration to 10 days. From September 4, 2009 to September 13, 2009, Helsinki will host the Fifth Helsinki Design Week: Do Touch! With workshops, seminars and shopping, you can turn this into a hands-on experience. Don’t worry, the usual exhibitions, fashion shows and studio visits (some spaces normally closed to the public) will be available, too.

The primary exhibition will be at the Cable Factory, featuring designs from the Netherlands. At the same space, The New Draw will introduce nine young Finnish architecture offices that are celebrating a book launch. The Design Market will be home to dozens of vendors selling fashion to furniture on September 5 and 6.

The Open Studios show, on September 9 and 10, sounds most interesting. Creators will open the back doors to their workspaces, offering a rare look at how something goes from idea to product. This is the type of opportunity available only during design week.

While you’re in Helsinki, check out the doughnuts at Snellman’s by the harbor. It’s worth the trip.

French Railways Bring High-Fashion to Trains

Most travelers know the absolute best part about train travel is the opportunity to see the land at a slower, more relaxed pace through the windows. Blurs of colorful countryside and villages all to be seen at a much better view than any flight from above could offer and up until now it was the only thing to be seen when comparing the sights of train interior to the outside landscape.

French Railways is doing it up these days. Out with the drab and bland rail interiors and say hello to haute couture on your next high-speed train adventure. They’ve commissioned French designer, Christian Lacroix to renovate the interiors of their trains on the Atlantic route and a new route to Eastern France. His promise is to make travel by rail feel more like a boutique-hotel-like environment. Looking at the pictures found above I’m already getting that vibe.

For more up close shots of what the future of French Railways looks like dash on over to The Cool Hunter.