Visiting New York Fashion Week with Lacoste

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Words: Alex Synamatix
Photography: Alex Synamatix

During the peak of New York Fashion Week I had the pleasure of hopping over the pond to live it up in the Big Apple with the team from Lacoste, soaking up the entire experience of one of the world’s most famous fashion safari’s.

Having not been to New York before, to say I was excited to visit one of the world’s most enjoyed cities was an understatement. Having hopped over to Portland late last year, it’s fair to say that I’ve caught the trans-atlantic travelling bug. I’ve visited a lot of different cities over the years and nothing could have prepared me for how surreal driving into New York was; it looks like it was built as a ginormous film set, perfectly placed on the horizon as you approach over one of the many iconic bridges. As we entered Manhattan I found myself staring out of the window of my cab as you’d expect a small child on his first holiday to do. It wasn’t just my surroundings that were fascinating me, but the sheer number of skaters cruising down the middle of the road as if it was nothing. I’d seen it numerous times in skate edits and endless brand promos, but for some reason I never thought it actually happened, or at least no so frequently, mainly because in London you’d get arrested or killed within a few minutes for doing this. Just as that thought was going through my head my cab driver decided to play a little unannounced game of chicken as he approached one skater, missing him by what must have been no more than two inches and quickly following it with “I should have hit him shouldn’t I?”. There was an air in his voice that he actually expected me to agree with him on this. I was definitely getting the full New York Cab experience in my first journey.

With plenty to do over the next few days, including the US Open, New York Fashion Week and The Color Run, I took advantage of Soho House‘s dingy comfort and relaxed before the madness began…

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Friday was a very relaxed start; rolling out of bed early in the morning and finding my way up to the roof of Soho House for a scenic breakfast by the pool. What better way could you spend your first morning in New York, with the beaming sun crashing down and a panoramic view of Manhattan. It was good enough for Sir Richard Branson, who was the first face I saw when the lift doors opened onto the roof that morning. You get that brief moment where your mind races; I just flew on Virgin Atlantic, he owns Virgin Atlantic, he does cool stuff like space missions, I should say hello and introduce myself, he’s clearly enjoying a chilled breakfast for one, probably best I don’t interrupt, I won’t interrupt. It took about 2 seconds to run through that thought process before I returned to normality and sat down to enjoy my freshly squeezed watermelon juice. Next time Rich, I promise.

After a casual breakfast that went on for far too long (I know how to indulge), myself and Eniola from Lacoste UK set off to check out the US Open. I’ve been to the ATP at The O2 before and that’s impressive, but there’s something about the vastness of American sporting stadiums, about how they are built for one single purpose, for one single sport rather than many that makes them so much more grandiose. Going past the New York World’s Fair on my way into the stadium did accentuate the feeling of awe for the US Open, to give credit where credit is due, and this was almost solely down to Men in Black and Iron Man 2. Anyway, it was the Arthur Ashe Stadium that was the location for the 2013 US Open and I found myself walking through a string of tunnels, security posts and stairwells before emerging out onto the balcony of the Lacoste private box to be greeted by the mixed doubles finals. Talk about good timing. After a few hours of indulging in tennis, some strange sporting noises from Victoria Azarenka (check out the highlights for yourself), glorious sunshine and an epic buffet it was time to head back into Manhattan for the evening’s activity…

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Anyone that knows me well will know how highly I place coffee in my life priorities, so it will come as no surprise that amongst the busy schedule of Friday I somehow manage to find enough time to hunt out one of New York’s best flat whites, which was conveniently located a few blocks over from Soho House at Blue Bottle Coffee. It’s something I like to do when visiting a new city. Maybe it’s a comfort, maybe it’s another form of hoarding to add to my list – collecting coffee shops? Having enjoyed my caffein re-fuel as much as I could and having put a substantially hipster photo on my Instagram, it was time to head to Central Park for some fun.

This is a very fitting moment for me to say that the folks at Lacoste took very good care of me for the entire journey, making sure that I was always entertained. For Friday evening it was all about roller skating in Central Park, a place that I only knew through watching a lot of Friends as a kid (as most people do). I’m a big fan of large parks within cities; Victoria Park in East London is one of my favourite places and Central Park definitely gave it a run for it’s money. I don’t want to go as far as saying it won (local pride coming in here), but I’ll just say that that view pictured above is quite a bit nicer than the tower blocks on display over Victoria Park. There’s the difference in weather as well.

Fuelled mainly by Pop Chips, I slipped into my custom Lacoste Orelle hi-top roller skates, which I must say were very comfortable and proceeded to realise that I was no where near as good on these things as I remember being when I was a kid. Thankfully, everyone else was in the same boat other than a few slightly strange locals who were incredibly enthusiastic and loved to meet new people and tell those new people about how long they’ve been doing this in this exact park. I’m not knocking the friendliness or the passion by any means … but I hadn’t fully acclimatised to the American friendliness yet.

All worn out from roller skating all evening, we made our way to a legit New York pizza house and ate a pizza that would have made any New York deep dish item you could buy in the UK look like a crepe. Early nights all round as tomorrow was an early rise in the name of fashion…

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Another day began with another thoroughly enjoyable breakfast before I put myself in a yellow cab and made my way to the Lincoln Center for Fashion Week. After spending a good ten minutes trying to explain to my cab driver who Richard Branson was, to no avail, I found myself pondering on the differences in celebrity culture, having forgotten that not everyone who is famous in the UK, however big they are, is famous outside of the UK. Maybe it was just my cabbie though.

The Lincoln Center is a great building and as striking and iconic as you’d expect for New York Fashion Week. It’s clean, vast and imposing with just the right mix of femininity thanks to the fountains out front (check them out in our Street Style). Walking round to the back I strolled past a hoard of paparazzi, bloggers and what I can only assume were fashion students before making my way backstage to get a peek at the madness before taking my seat for the Lacoste Spring 2014 show.

My time backstage actually got cut a little short by a very diligent security woman who spotted that I didn’t have exactly the right pass and promptly had me ushered to the main room. Thankfully, this occurred only minutes before I was supposed to take my seat so it was probably for the best as my time management abilities are not the strongest. Fashion Week is a beast that you will only truly know if you have immersed yourself in its inner workings and having lived with a lot of fashion students in the past I’ve seen the stresses that it imposes from many different angles while thankfully never feeling any of them myself. It was interesting to compare the differences between New York Fashion Week and Londons, with the main one being that New York was physically larger and therefore a little more spacious. As spacious as you can get for Fashion Week anyway. Backstage at Fashion Week truly is a raw representation of the endless organisation, minute detail, vibrant characters and wonderful organised chaos that is the fashion industry. It’s one or the few times that an air of stress can be enjoyable. Thankfully, none of this chaos found it’s way into the actual show…

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The show itself was really impressive. The huge mass of people somehow organised into one room without feeling cramped. The air of only-just-controlled nervous panic that translates as excitement or “buzz” as the organisers scuttle around trying to ensure that everyone has their seat and the show starts on time for the strict schedule. In this world there is no room for error. As the lights dim and the tension rises, heckles start to emerge from the wall of photographers, stacked upon themselves so densely that you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for some form of installation art using a mass of obscenely oversized camera lenses to represent the hunger and lust of paparazzi. The only sign of human life behind the sea of lenses was the loud and precise heckle that emerged when the lights went down … “CAN YOU PLEASE CROSS YOUR LEGS ON THE FRONT ROW!”. A clear and precise message repeated as may times as necessary until the it had the desired effect. I couldn’t help but find it quite entertaining to watch some of the fashion industries biggest names getting treated like small school children by faceless photographers.

The show began and look after look was presented to the crowd in a seemingly never-ending flow of male and female models. Faces, colours and themes were repeated while the music pumped across the room and people absorbed the visual messages. The appearance of a Mount Kimbie track half way through the show put a smile on my face as I felt a little silent moment of British pride. Credit to whoever did the music – the selection was on point. Unfortunately, the actual soundtrack hasn’t made it onto the video, which is a shame, but it’s still worth a watch to get an idea of the scale of the collection and the incredible styling within it. Designer Filipe Oliveira Baptista has worked wonders with Lacoste since becoming Creative Director in 2010 and this collection is no exception; clean, cutting, light, considered design.

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After the show had finished it was time to fight my way through the crowd, finding myself swimming against the tide as I headed back to the backstage area to once again enter the chaos. Post-show is a subtly different atmosphere to pre-show, understandably, mainly due to the lack of tension to ensure it all goes according to plan. This tension is now replaced with a militant focus to empty out as quickly as possible and get the next show in. It’s an impressive and slightly bewildering occasion.

Once I’d made my escape back outside and into reality it was time for some celebratory afternoon drinks at the Lacoste New York head office. A few faces that I’d spotted backstage before and after the show had somehow managed to find their way to the office at impressive speed, already in full after-party flow by the time I got there. It was nice to see some more pieces from Lacoste that didn’t make it onto the catwalk and to see where the magic happens so to speak. For the New York team at least.

If I’m being completely honest, amongst the off-white crocodile skin sneakers and luxury clothing it was the metal rackets within the display cabinet that got me most excited at the Lacoste office. It may sound odd to you, but there is good reason for this … René Lacoste aka “the Crocodile” actually patented the tubular steel tennis racket back in 1963. It caused quite the stir back then as almost all rackets on court were wooden, but it has somehow become a little-known-fact, partially due to the racket being marketed in the United States under the Wilson brand as the Wilson T-2000. I’m told that Lacoste sold the patent later on, which I regard as a great shame, hence my excitement to once again see Lacoste metal tennis rackets – a homage to one of René’s many great inventions.

After some more chinwagging, refreshments, food and a quick tour of the office building it was time to venture into the heart of New York. If there was one thing that I couldn’t resist while in town (other than coffee), it was a bit of sneaker hunting…

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I honestly couldn’t list all of the different sneaker stores we visited on Saturday afternoon. There seemed to be a new one on every street corner once we found our way to Lower Manhattan. We started on Mercer Street to check out New York’s equivalent to 1948 London before strolling past some of the nicest looking stores I’ve seen and onto Broadway. The area reminded me of Soho in London, but on a grand scale and with a lot more sneaker stores. It was the less “cool” sneaker stores that got my attention though; the independent equivalents to Sports Direct almost. I get a real kick from visiting the more sports related sneaker stores in different countries and seeing what that market is really into, especially America. Yeah you can check out the niche stores, but the selection is almost always the same as the ones in the UK and you’ve seen it on all the blogs anyway. It’s the general release stores that you find the real foreign gems – that’s where the product really differs between the territories. For example, ACG is still alive and kicking in New York and the basketball selection is crazy.

Obviously, I had to poke my head into Kith NYC to see what all the hype was about. It’s actually a lot smaller than I thought, taking up the back rooms of another store called Atrium. Regardless of it’s size, the selection was still impressive and it was nice to see that it wasn’t too Nike dominated. The selection was really strong and there were some less obvious models on display next to the obvious classics. Just check out the adidas Superstar’s next to the brand new adidas Springblade’s in the image above for a good example. You wouldn’t find Springblades in a boutique in the UK. Shouts to our friend Rav Matharu aka ClothSurgeon for his exceptional python skin Chukka with Modern Vice, sat comfortably in a cabinet at Kith.

It got to a point where I’d seen so many different pairs of kicks that I’d hit saturation point and it was time for another coffee to breathe life back into my soul. Just after this was when I stumbled upon the official NBA store, so it only made sense that while I was in America and specifically New York that I strolled confidently into the store and proudly bought a pair of LA Lakers shorts. Doesn’t matter where I am, I gotta rep my team!

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Sunday was a very early start and my last day in New York. Time had flown by and today was another jam-packed day full of organised entertainment from the Lacoste family. This time it was a short 5K run to get the blood circulating before I jumped back on a plane to London.

The Color Run has gained a lot of popularity in the last year or so, especially in London and I’ve often found myself looking at strangely multi-coloured people in East London and wondering what on earth is going on. Well, I found out exactly what was going on when I lined up to start my first Colour Run in Brooklyn New York, and I’m glad I did this on this trip because no one does enthusiastic fun events like the Americans. We represented well, with Team GB consisting of Eniola from Lacoste, Mr La Touche the hat man and our adopted American, Caroline from H&M. We did ourselves proud … and I can say that with confidence because they don’t time you on Color Run. We had a lot of fun and saw some truly surreal scenes.

Sufficiently multi-coloured and enthusiastically inspired, we hopped on the Metro and headed back to Soho House to clean ourselves off (easier said than done), have one last brunch and head to the airport to return to Blighty. In summary, New York left me wanting more, in fact it left me wanting a few months more at least and I’ll most definitely be fulfilling that hunger very soon. For years people have been telling me that I’d love New York, but for some reason I still wasn’t prepared for how much I did.

Huge thanks to Eniola and all the Lacoste team from various different countries who made the visit so enjoyable and so special. I couldn’t have put together a better weekend to introduce myself to this incredible city. Hopefully it won’t be too long until I can begin the second chapter of this story.

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