If you’re bored on a Sunday afternoon and it’s nice outside, one option is taking a scenic walk through the city. You can choose Central Park for a bit of nature. Maybe dip in and out of museums as you make your way up Museum Mile. Or your can go window shopping on Madison Avenue. If that last option is what you prefer, now’s the time.
The Madison Avenue Business Development District has partnered with 16 retailers for Madison Avenue Fashion Heritage Week. Shops including Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein and Missoni have agreed to make special exhibitions, many of them in store windows, to showcase the history of these brands.
The windows on Madison Avenue are usually pretty dazzling, especially for those who enjoy a good fashion show but don’t have the thousands of dollars to drop on the clothing. For us, the best part of the exhibit might be the mobile website, which provides a further explanation of some of the retailers’ histories, care of Dr. Valerie Steele, the director and chief curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
The Madison Avenue Business Improvement District was created in 1996 as a partnership between property owners, business owners, residents, and officials concerned with things like sanitation, security and advocacy for the area, which spans between 57th Street and 86th Street.
Madison Avenue doesn’t really need any PR. Everyone knows that if they want to do a little high-end shopping, they head on over with their credit card in hand. But there’s a heightened interest these days in the history of fashion.The Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute has scored some major traffic with exhibits over the past few years ranging from a wildly popular Alexander McQueen exhibit to another on punk to another focused on Prada. The success of these exhibits has influenced other museums, with art houses across the country offering their own fashion exhibits.
So who better to jump on this trend than the retailers themselves, who can speak knowledgeably about their own goods and how they fit into the story of the business and the culture that they’re tapping into?
In many ways, that’s the whole point of the individual contributions of the fashion houses here. Calvin Klein only offered two outfits, a white gown worn by Lupita N’yongo and a men’s tuxedo, but had lengthy accompanying audio to discuss the resumes of the lead designers and how the company brought jeans and underwear into a sexy mainstream.
And perhaps no window outdid Missoni, which extended its exhibit into the store, offering a timeline of its fashions.
Be warned: Some retailers put in a little more effort than others. My companion and I were really looking forward to Carolina Herrera and it didn’t look like she’d done anything. (And they were filming The Mysteries of Laura out front and we didn’t even see Debra Messing, so we really struck out.) And Hermes was redoing their windows, so there wasn’t anything to see. But those that did include audio, video and a little somethin’ somethin’ in the window were pretty cool.
In addition to the walking tour, there have been parties and events at some of the shops. We only encountered one other person at the Dolce & Gabbana shop and we couldn’t tell if she was actually taking the tour or just stopped by happenstance. So it’s a little unclear how many people will really take advantage of this event but consider yourself informed.
If you decide to give it a whirl, here’s the website to follow along. You can still check it out through the 26th.
All photos by Tonya Garcia.