If you’re like most people, you probably think of the iconic, green credit card or a Business Blue card, or perhaps, a gold or platinum credit card. But American Express offers so much more than just credit cards and travelers cheques. Along with financial and travel services, the company offers it’s card premium card members something more: unique experiences that money can buy, some that aren’t available to the general public. Their By Invitation Only® events range from sports, fashion and fine dining to the visual and performing arts. …and of course, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City!
American Express is not only a sponsor of Mercedes Benz Fashion week, it supports designers and the fashion industry with a $250,000 donation to the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund (CVFF), a program of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). The program helps supports young designers succeed in the fashion industry, and proceeds from the sale of American Express Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week event packages go towards their donation amount. Each season, fashionistas know to watch for the announcement that tells them tickets to the American Express members only Fashion Week events are on sale. This season one of the features was a members only runway show at the Bryant Park Tents featuring designer Diane Von Furstenburg. There are also up-close-and-personal view of the runway from the very private, American Express® Skybox.
Throughout Fashion Week, the Skybox provides a unique and comfortable place to watch fashion shows that even members of the press might not be able to get into. The event offers two shows at a time, along with the chance to meet and mingle with popular designers and industry insiders. Although I’ve been covering Fashion Week for nine seasons as part of the industry, the Skybox experience is something entirely different and special. For the mostly female guests (many of whom may have only seen runway shows on television) it’s an easy, comfortable, luxurious and memorable way to the shows. Members don’t stand and wait on lines. They go to the American Express lounge in the main tent, and are personally escorted past the ropes and the guards, directly into the Skybox.
The American Express Skybox is so private, the average person in the tent below might not even know it’s there. The only time you can really see in is just before a runway show starts, when the black curtain in front of the large windows is pulled aside and the lights are still on inside the Skybox. When I’m “downstairs,” I always know a show is about to begin when I see the Skybox curtain open and the lights inside, dim. No one can can see inside when the Skybox lights are out, but the guests inside the Skybox get a full view of the action below from their comfy seats.
The Skybox was designed once again by Jonathan Adler, a design expert and lead judge on Bravo TV’s Top Design. The large room featured warm colors of red and orange, brown and yellow. The feeling is one of a chic living room, with sofas and chairs and a few coffee tables on which to put your (included) drinks and snacks.
One inside this exclusive, private sanctuary, you really feel that you’re in another world. You feel special, and you are pampered. I reported on the American Express Skybox last season, and was happy to see that the Skybox “guide” again this season was celebrity stylist and fashion expert Kate Nobelius. She is not just knowledgeable about fashion, she knows just the right questions to pose to celebrity guests; and she de-mystifies the runway experience for the uninitiated, pointing out celebrities and explaining how the runway shows work. In the photo above, Kate is in the process of “interviewing”celebrity guests Roberto Faraone Mennella and Amedeo Scognamiglio of Faraone Mennella by R.F.M.A.S. jewelry.
The Skybox tickets are resonable considering the benefits of the experience, but I asked a few Skybox guests what motivated them to buy tickets:
Kevin De Sousa, a former beauty public relations executive that I happen to know from my work with The Advice Sisters, told me that he paid for several Skybox events, because the Skybox gives him a cool look into the world of fashion. He described the experience as “a real thrill” that satisfied his “passion for fashion.” Kevin explained that he can watch the shows on video, but it’s just not the same as seeing them in person. Although the audience in the Skybox is mostly women, I noticed several male guests who, like Kevin enjoy “the enthusiasm,” and “being part of the experience.” Kevin also mentioned that since the seats at the runway are really meant for buyers and members of the press, seats in the American Express Skybox ensure that consumer don’t get in the way. They aren’t using up limited industry seats but they still have an opportunity to see the shows and be part of the action.
Memories are priceless, and the Skybox is definitely memorable. Many of the people I talked to chose the Skybox experience as a special event for a special occasion. For example, I met first timers Sherri and her daughter Courtney from Dix Hills NY. Sherrie purchased the Skybox package for Courtney as a 16th birthday present. What a fantastic gift, especially for someone like Courtney, who is hoping someday to be in the fashion industry. They were having the time of their lives. After the shows, Courtney told me that she wanted to pursue her fashion dreams more than ever after experiencing the Skybox and the general atmosphere of Fashion Week
The Skybox is the ultimate “girl bonding” experience, especially since Sex & The City and reality shows like “Project Runway” have made the fashion industry more accessible. Sandy Duffy from Connecticut (on the far left), was attending five shows in the Skybox, but she made one of her Skybox experiences into a “girlfriend” outing with her two sisters Linda and Marsha, and Nicole, her young niece, a Fashion Institute of Technology student.
After the two shows are completed, the fun doesn’t end. Creative Director of Estee Lauder, Aerin Lauder, dropped by to chat, sharing insights about her famous grandmother. She told us how much Estee Lauder loved scent, and especially white flowers, which prompted the creation of the Estee Lauder Private Collection. Aerin told us that the Estee Lauder Company always launches new scents at Saks Fifth Avenue first because they gave Estee Lauder her first break. As Aerin Lauder tell it, her grandmother, eager to make sales, literally resorted to throwing her “Youth Dew” fragrance on the floor, When people smelled it and asked what it was, she made the sale! “Whatever you do, do it well” said “grandma” After Kate Nobilus asked a few questions, we were allowed to ask som as welle. “You can have any makeup or skincare product in the world, so what’s the one product you can’t live without?” I asked. “Mascara,” she said without hesitation. “It gives you an instant lift.” She also encouraged us to Take care of our faces (good skincare is a “must-have”) and tipped us off to spraying our hairbrushes with scent.
The By Invitation Only® Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week packages, available exclusively for Platinum Card members, sold out this season in one day. These packages provided full-day access to the Skybox on February 14 and 15, 2009, with coordinated meet-and-greets with fashion industry insiders, a behind-the-scenes tour, and hair and make-up touch-ups so Card members could perfect their own looks.
* another special event just for American Express card members at Mercedes Benz Fall 2009 Fashion Week was a private runway show at the Bryant Park tents featuring super designer Diane Von Furstenberg. She showed her designs for Spring 2009 along with a sneak peek of pieces from her Fall 2009 collection. The event was hosted by André Leon Talley. CLICK HERE TO SEE MY REVIEW OF THE EVENT AND THE SHOW!