The fashion industry operates much like high school. Nowhere is this more apparent than Fashion Week, where everyone gathers in one place and behaves in such a way as to remind each other who is more important than whom. Looking at the clothes is secondary to determining who is cool enough to sit in the front row (Róisín Murphy), who is lame enough to sit in the second row (Miss USA), and who is sorry enough to end up in standing (as if anyone could name a person in that section). Come September, picking out the cool from the possibly less cool will be much easier thanks to M.A.C. For five years, the cosmetics company sponsored Fashion Week in the tents — a multi-million-dollar investment that left the company flaunting body-painted dancers alongside companies that sell cameras, toilets, and Big Macs. You know, companies whose target audience is the standing section. M.A.C is too cool for that, so this season they're setting up a separate show space in Milk Studios, intended for use by emerging designers who need more corporate support in these times. While the smallest space in the tents costs $25,000, M.A.C's studio space is free.
Proenza Schouler, Erin Fetherston, Alexander Wang, ThreeAsFour, Band of Outsiders, and Preen are among the dozen labels already signed on to show in Milk. All very cool, downtown labels with some of the most coveted seats each season. (Designers showing in the tents so far include Erin Wasson for RVCA and Tory Burch, among many others.) Fashion Week organizers are treating the M.A.C space as a complement to Fashion Week. They're arranging for bus service between Milk and the tents and spouting well wishes to M.A.C in the media. But the studio could also be viewed as a competitor. It's like in high school: The cool kids change ranks and then the ex-cool-kids try to regain their former glory by carrying the cool kids' books. Or sending bus service! At least the tents have a new makeup sponsor to replace M.A.C (Maybelline). And maybe DHL Worldwide Express will hand out cookies in the shapes of little trucks again to the only people who will eat them: the standing section. Kidding! They're great for hangovers — who are we to complain?