There was a time when fashion shows were “underground,” and scattered allover New York City. Designers like Betsey Johnson had shows in clubs starting after midnight, including Studio 54. Then the idea came to move these shows into a concentrated area, Bryant Park, as the 2012 documentary The Tents profiles (available on Hulu). The CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) collected funds from a variety of investors, and although many doubted them, they progressed to shifting the disorganized, rather unprofessional shows into a major display. This increased media attention and exposure, and added a seriousness to American fashion that was not there before. New York fashion shows now came first for a change, eliminating the chance for blame of copying Europe. This earned a lot of respect for American designers who were showing there, including Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors and others.
At the end of the day, the shows are about seduction, because fashion is a discretionary purchase. It is not essential, it is an emotional purchase, so the shows needed to set the stage for that. Bryant Park allowed fashion to take those steps as a major industry and to establish New York as a, if not the place for fashion. Fashion week at Bryant Park changed the face of American and global fashion shows.
Eventually, like everything in fashion, the tents became too popular. They were limited on space, and designers found their space restricting. The tents were suddenly obsolete, and so the shows have since been moved to Lincoln Center. If fashion stayed in one place, it wouldn’t be fashionable, now would it?