Diane von Furstenberg, Betsey Johnson and Tommy Hilfiger descend on Broadway's 'Sidewalk Catwalk'
By Gina Salamone
Broadway will soon be transformed into a runway.
Beginning Monday, mannequins decked by dozens of top designers will be installed in the Fashion District for the free exhibit 'Sidewalk Catwalk.' They'll be covered up till Thursday, when they'll be unveiled to the public and remain on display through Sept. 3.
A sneak peek reveals that the mannequins are just as diverse as the designers who dressed them. For instance, while Jason Wu's is draped in a strapless beige dress and simple black belt you could easily imagine on a runway model, others are far more outrageous.
Diane von Furstenberg's is painted in a gray-and-purple leopard print. Tommy Hilfiger's features an American flag made of melted resin that looks like it's waving in the wind. And Donna Karan's wears a cityscape dress and backpack covered in buttons celebrating New York -- from a Hell's Kitchen pin to a 'Fashion Avenue' street sign.
Embroidery handmade in Naeem Khan's native India brightens the middle of his mannequin, whose arms and legs are covered in stainless steel studs from Germany. Nanette Lepore's bursts with bold oversize flowers and bows, meant to symbolize the 'bright lights and constant energy' of New York. And Norma Kamali's is a techie's dream. Passersby can scan bar codes with some types of phones and view 17 different videos.
'Sidewalk Catwalk,' presented by the company LF USA, will boast six mannequins in Macy's windows and another 26 along Broadway between 35th and 41st Sts. Besides being in the heart of the Fashion District, the strip was chosen for its high level of pedestrian traffic. Visitors often stop by the information kiosk for the Fashion Industry Business Improvement District to ask how they can get access to designers or their work.
'There was no way to really showcase the idea that this is the home of American fashion, this is what we do here,' says Barbara Randall, president of the Fashion Center BID.
'We wanted something that would bring people to the neighborhood and articulate who and what we are. So we came up with a mannequin parade,' said Randall.
Thirty designers, along with students from the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons the New School for Design, were each given a charcoal-colored Ralph Pucci mannequin to outfit as they wished.
There were some rules, though. Materials had to stand up to rain and the relentless summer sun, as well as hands-on treatment from New Yorkers (the mannequins will be outside for more than two months).
Betsey Johnson put the finishing touches on her fluorescent pink mannequin by scribbling on it with a black Sharpie. It's decked with messages thanking her friends and family for support, photos of her daughter and grandkids, and FDNY and NYPD emblems. But the belt is the best feature, lined with tubes that'll be filled with fresh flowers.
'If you need a posy to make your day, you can pick one from my girl,' Johnson says. 'It'll be interesting to see how long the flowers last. I just wanted her to be friendly, flowery, entertaining and pretty-smelling.'
Johnson's mannequin also sports a blond punky updo, like that of her maker, and a matching lightning-bolt tattoo on her chest.
Nicole Miller's mannequin rocks a platinum Mohawk made of outdoor carpeting; a dress of shiny stones, rubber stripping and zippers, and glow-in-the-dark fabric.
'I didn't know where to start,' Miller admits. 'I thought I could make a crazy headdress [at first]. I'm thinking of ‘Avatar,' painting her blue. But then I thought she really should reflect me. We do these sexy cocktail dresses, so I took that direction and made her an edgy girl.'
With his model, Elie Tahari pays tribute to Fashion Week's new venue, Lincoln Center. His inspiration was Richard Lippold's sculpture 'Orpheus and Apollo,' which hangs from the ceiling in Philharmonic Hall.
Aluminum panels coated in light gold that mimic the sculpture's metal make up his mannequin's dress. Despite the rough edges, the outfit is appealing. 'It's a sexy night cocktail dress,' says Tahari.
After 'Sidewalk Catwalk' runs its course, the mannequins will be auctioned off. Proceeds will go to Materials for the Arts, which donates art supplies to local schools and nonprofits. But they'll have plenty of time in the spotlight.
'A runway model gets about eight seconds of attention, but she'll get two months' worth,' says Johnson of her girl.