We sat down with John Demsey, the group president of Estee Lauder, and Mazdack Rassi, the founder and creator of Milk Studios, to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on the most talked-about venue at fashion week this season.
First of all, we weren't aware that the entire lineup of 30 superstar indie designers showing at M.A.C. at Milk this year -- from Alexander Wang to Proenza Schouler -- was pulled together in a mere 48 hours. "Most of them were people we associated ourselves with in other venues around the city," said Demsey. "They're our friends."
Demsey added, with a wink, "The phone started ringing from Europe for some designers who were considering a switch." (Alas, they didn't have any more room.)
Rassi and Demsey have known each other for over a dozen years, so it seems to have been a fairly organic move for them to join forces to create a groundbreaking space for upstart designers to take advantage of downtown. Best of all, the space would be free.
Says Demsey, "We collectively felt that we wanted this to come off really well and there's a lot of expenses putting on a show." He added, "Not everyone should be showing in 500 seats in a big tent."
"We felt that those funds that they could be saving would go torward the creative process," said Rassi, "Milk could be sort of the hub of that, and then that's where we win. There's no doubt that they could be more creative in this environment than they could in a tent, which is just set up for one idea."
And touring the space, we couldn't help but agree. All 80,000 square feet of Milk Studios are being placed at the designers' disposal: Heck, the majority of the second floor is being used for backstage dressing and makeup areas.
Indeed, it seems the whole downtown community's getting in on the act. As a delightful side note, passersby on the High Line will be treated to a view of models getting ready through the second floor windows. Plus, Milk is inviting local fashion schools to participate in fashion week -- from 40 interns from Parsons to an end-of-week round table for students at SVA, Parsons, and FIT.
Walking through the as-yet-unfinished space (workers are still moving chairs, stringing lights, and delivering refrigerators), it really does feel like the M.A.C. at Milk partnership is really getting everything right. It will be interesting to see, as the week wears on, if the venue can withstand the onslaught. (Rassi admitted he's most looking forward to Temperley!)