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The Tents – Bye Bye Bryant Park


image courtesy of Splashlight Productions



Documentaries about the fashion industry have become so ubiquitous, it’s hard to distinguish one from another.  One sees the same faces, hears nothing but praise and pretentious gibberish, and is reminded that they are an outsider, granted a glimpse to where the cool people are via the privilege of watching the movie.

The Tents is not the worst of this œuvre, it actually offers an interesting bit of history, I stress the word ‘bit.”

I didn’t know that New York Fashion Week didn’t really exist until several influential designers, namely, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, and Calvin Klein, agreed to show their collections in one central location at the suggestion of Stan Herman, the then executive director of the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America).

 Before his inspired idea, designers showed their collections in their showrooms which meant frustrating travel headaches for the buyers and magazine personnel to get from one show to the next.  As a result, New York was not held in high esteem as a fashion capital; Paris, Milan, even London held more prestige.

The CFDA was able to raise money for the first few years of the tent shows, then IMG (International Management Group) and Mercedes Benz became sponsors; their deep pockets transformed an industry ritual into an extravaganza, one that made some of those interviewed long for the days when it was possible to get a better sense of the clothes in a small setting.

The movie is a valentine to the fifteen year era that Bryant Park hosted what became officially NYFW (New York Fashion Week).  The freedom offered by the large spaces, the concentration of the press (which has metastasized with the internet), and the throngs of desperate fashionistas cloying for admittance has thrilled the sponsors and some of the designers who think such chaos adds to its (their) importance has forced NYFW from Bryant Park.

Its new home will be at Lincoln Center.  Many of the talking heads say this will be a better fit because Lincoln Center is a Home for the Arts:  Opera, Theater, Cinema …..  On verra.

This movie would have been far more interesting as a twenty minute court-métrage (short film); eighty-nine minutes is a long time to explain the fifteen year run of  NYFW at Bryant Park.

I was astounded that it wasn’t until over an hour into the movie that we hear Donna Karan explain the convenience of Bryant Park’s proximity to the 7th Avenue fashion district.  Assuming anyone watching the movie would know Manhattan’s geography is a bit rich.

Petits Moreaux from the movie:  Carolina Herrera is so effortlessly elegant, Miss J Alexander has a single appearance where he recalls the first time he attended and was told to leave his seat- he refused- Je l’adore!

It was fun to learn that the 1995 documentary Unzipped was filmed by Isaac Mizrahi’s then boyfriend and was about his first show at Bryant Park.  Zac Posen wins the most pretentious award, one could have a drinking game centered around how many times he uses the word “theatricality.”  Hal Rubenstein refreshingly speaks no b.s.; Donna Karan is runner-up.

Tommy Hilfiger’s collection was the final one to be showed at The Tents because he’s the all-American …..whatever they say he is.

If you are lucky enough to read this review before the screening and can attend, there will be a discussion after the movie led by the fashion editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Debra Bass.  She knows what she’s talking about.  If not, you can catch this movie on Hulu.

SLIFF Screening:  Monday, November 18th, 1:45 pm.  Landmark Plaza Frontenac.  Post-Film Discussion planned.


This site was borne of my passion for movies, particularly French films. I have spent time in France and am fluent in the language, hence the “le”. The “snob” part, while of French origin, is not meant to intimidate, but rather an effort to reclaim the word from the pretentious, just as the gay community has done with the word “queer.” We’re all snobs; we all like what we like.

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