Jenne Lombardo, the director and curator of MAC & Milk, and the founder of The Terminal Presents, has a new title to add to her résumé: W Hotels’ global fashion director. For the past 12 years, W Hotels has dipped its toes in various fashion initiatives, from collaborations with the likes of Simon Doonan, Michael Kors, and Diane von Furstenberg to its own program in support of rising designers, Fashion Next. The trendsetting hotel is now looking to Lombardo to elevate its fashion program to a whole new level.
“I’m walking into an incredible infrastructure,” Lombardo tells Style.com. “At an early stage in their brand, they were able to identify the need for support and funding in music, fashion, art, and design, and it’s continued to evolve with the right players who are really supporting this growth.”
Now, it’s Lombardo’s turn to make some noise. She hasn’t wasted time making moves. Already, she has selected a promising group of six designers for this year’s Fashion Next program, including Juan Carlos Obando, Nomia, Bibhu Mohapatra, Michael Angel, Rochambeau, and Electric Feathers.
“Right now, it’s in the infancy of what we are going to do,” she says of the W fashion program. “The important thing for us is to understand where the designers’ strengths lie and where they need additional support.”
Already, W Hotels is underwriting the entire cost for the designers’ runway shows, providing funding for hair and makeup and free catering. Lombardo also stressed using the hotels’ stores as distribution points and collaborating with the designers to create hotel staff uniforms, as “W Hotels has done in the past.”
W Hotels is leaning on Lombardo expand its global fashion presence, but the former MAC exec says it’s a symbiotic scenario. “A room at the W Hotel Union Square—it’s my ultimate fashion week survival tip,” she admits. “I have three kids, so it’s nice to have somewhere to go that is clean and quiet to go afterwards that doesn’t have peanut butter on it.”
Though The National have a strong fashion following, they’ve always been a little too introspective to qualify as a “fashiony” band. So it was something of a surprise to find out they’d be headlining last night’s kickoff party for the Fall ’11 season at MAC & Milk. It’s always tempting to credit an opening event with setting the tone for the fashion week ahead; in this case, as National lead singer Matt Berninger (left) keened into the DeLeón tequila-tippling crowd, the temptation was to imagine a week of poetic agitation and body shots. (Which would be interesting, and kind of like college.) Or perhaps the event was auguring a fashion week more intimate than usual, and more full of feeling? At any rate, the atypical band brought out a few atypical A-listers, among them Liev Schreiber and Josh Lucas, and a crowd a bit more representative of rumpled Brooklyn chic than one usually finds in a fashion scene. Maybe “Brooklyn-ness” is the key to this fashion week: After all, MAC & Milk organizer Jenne Lombardo, who booked the National at 11:30 a.m. the previous morning, has also seen fit to replace the much-loved taco lounge of two seasons ago with a hangout space catered by Bushwick pizza place Roberta’s. “They’re doing their cool gangsta build out,” Lombardo said of the Roberta’s guys, who are legendary Brooklyn D.I.Y.ers. Fair warning, noshers, there won’t be endless snacks as there were in the (taco) salad days of yore, but a lucky few will be able to snag some chow. And maybe before the week is out, we’ll all be killing time between shows planting a vegetable garden on the Milk Studios rooftop. Then again, maybe not.