Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week has been dogged with rumours in the last quarter of 2014, and at least two of these have now been confirmed as fact: Firstly the American fashion week will move from its Lincoln Center location to an undisclosed downtown home in September, secondly – it will get a new name.
As previously reported on Buro 24/7, speculation that NYFW could be losing its title sponsor, Mercedes-Benz, hit the media mid-November last year. No one really thought there could be any truth to the rumours – after all, NYFW and the luxury car manufacturer have enjoyed half a decade together. But, rather shockingly, today the rumours have been confirmed: Mercedes-Benz have pulled out of New York Fashion Week, and the semiannual fashion week will no longer be known as Mercdes-Benz Fashion Week – but rather New York Fashion Week.
But the plot thickens...WME-IMG, which owns Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, is said to be completing negotiations to acquire Made Fashion Week – a rival organisation, which is owned by the cofounder and creative director of Milk Studios – Mazdack Rassi – and Jenné Lombardo and Keith Baptista. The deal is said to be heading for completion come September, and the partners are expected to continue working for Made Fashion Week as consultants.
IMG's departure from the Lincoln Center has been a long time coming – despite its four-year relationship with the location, as early as 2013 problems started to surface. The straw that broke the camel's back arrived when community activists filed a lawsuit over whether the MBFW tents in Damrosch Park were a violation of the public-trust doctrine. The outcome of the legal action led to the City of New York, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and Lincoln Center agreeing not to renew their contract with IMG, but IMG had already made it clear that they would not stay.
Following the announcement of its departure from NYFW, Mercedes-Benz have announced that they do not plan to work with one traditional title sponsor going forward, after they depart from New York Fashion Week following the February shows:
"Our relationship with fashion is not ending, and we do support fashion globally," a Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman told WWD, citing sponsorship of fashion weeks in Sydney, Istanbul and Berlin, among others. "We maintain a top-tier portfolio of events. We routinely review those events for return on investment and general engagement. In general, it's important to note that fashion and design are key pillars for Mercedes-Benz, and we will support fashion well into the future. Globally, Mercedes-Benz supports more than 50 fashion engagements in 30 countries."
American Express have also pulled out of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week (MBFW), and will not sponsor the February shows – although it will continue to sponsor Made New York.
The last MBFW at the Lincoln Center will take place this coming February and although yet to be officially confirmed, the sponsors are expected to be Mercedes, Maybelline, TRESemmé and DHL.
It is said that NYFW is negotiating on a "Downtown location" following its departure from the Lincoln Center next month – sources say that this location will be the Culture Shed – a new arts center at Hudson Yards, once it is completed in 2017. In the interim, the fashion week is said to be spreading around the city to offer designers choice of location, following complaints that the shows at the Lincoln Center had a "circus-like aura".
The reports that IMG are acquiring Made New York have led to interesting debates. Ultimately, both fashion weeks – although semi-rivals – operate in a completely different manner. NYFW famously charges designers hefty fees to show on schedule (anything from $75,000 to $500,000 and upward), whilst Made New York does not – the space, the makeup, lighting, sound and seating are all provided for free. Sources say that the way in which the two entities will work together is still being ironed out.
In an interview with WWD in 2011, Made New York founders Rassi, Lombardo and Baptista said "There's this whole idea out there that, perhaps, there's a competition between uptown and downtown. There is none. We don't compete with each other. We're a completely different idea." Asked whether Made New York makes any revenue, Rassi explained that any profits made are channeled straight back into the project and in supporting the designers: "We've never been a for-profit model." IMG, on the other side of the coin, is of course, a money making business. How the two will intertwine, only time will tell. Something tells us the New York Fashion Week speculation is far from over...