Dispatches From New York's Fashion Week

Lifestyles of the Not-Yet-Famous
The language of style.
Feb. 12 2004 8:19 PM

Dispatches From New York's Fashion Week

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Click here to see a slide show from fashion week.

Arlequin at the MAO Space
Arlequin at the MAO Space
A Cat Swanson runway look
A Cat Swanson runway look

You think being a fashion designer is all glamour? In reality, it's a rough life, especially for new talent still on the fringe. Raising funding for your label—even for the big players—is next to impossible. In this business, it can take up to five years to recoup your investment, if you recoup it at all. Manufacturing clothes is a logistical nightmare—fabric deliveries are unpredictable, quality is hard to control, perfecting fit is an endless struggle. And the fashion press can be brutal. Where does the little guy go to get a break? Two blocks south of the huge white tents currently dominating Manhattan's Bryant Park, where big names like Michael Kors and Oscar de la Renta show their new collections, exists a parallel universe of the struggling and unknown. There are the same leggy models and runway photographers, note-taking fashion editors and nervous designers, but here in the ragged third-floor offices of 66 West 38th, the atmosphere is one of excitement, uncertainty, and hope.

Advertisement

This is MAO Space, fashion's most important venue for fledgling labels. With its whitewashed plasterboard walls, acid-green couches, and bar that serves only Red Bull, MAO looks like a social-services organization for young people afflicted by a love of fashion. One imagines it to be the perfect place for a group meeting, where the addicted could stand before the crowd and come clean. "I am a fashion junkie," they might confess. "Help me."

MAO founders Mauricio and Roger Padilha
MAO founders Mauricio and Roger Padilha

What else beyond fashion addiction could explain the devotion of Mauricio Padilha, 34, and his brother Roger, 31, to the cause of fashion's underserved talent? Graduates of the Parsons School of Design fashion program, the brothers opened their fashion PR company (MAO is Mauricio's childhood nickname) in January 1999, after closing their own downtown label, Spooky, in 1998. Their intent was to do "good works" in fashion by giving a platform to fringe talent. By the end of this week, 18 designers will have debuted their new lines to journalists and buyers on MAO's runway; without the organization, these labels might not have shown at all.

MAO Magazine promotes “creativity first”
MAO Magazine promotes "creativity first"

You are not likely to know the labels showing at the MAO Space, and perhaps you never will. But the Padilha brothers have a broad eye for talent. Shopping for club clothes? Check out Heatherette. Need a swank dinner suit? Look to Michael Soliel. These young labels are often competing for business with companies whose budget for floral arrangements would keep them in fabric for a year. But whatever shot these designers have at the Big Time is largely due to the Padilhas' knack for marketing. For the second season in a row, MAO has published its eponymous magazine that promotes the company's ethos of "creativity first." Like-minded fashion luminaries such as legendary fashion editor Polly Mellon and Barneys creative director Simon Doonan have contributed to MAO Magazine for free, as have Liza Minnelli and Boy George. Not bad for two guys working on fashion's fringe.

Gary Graham’s new collection
Gary Graham's new collection

Are the Padilha brothers bringing fashion's fringe to the center with broader visibility? "I would hope so," Roger Padilha says without missing a beat. "Fringe fashion is cool because the stuff is cool, not because people don't know about it."

Josh Patner has written about fashion for Slate, the New York TimesBritish Vogue, Glamour, Elle, and Harper's Bazaar.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Amazon Is Launching a Serious Run at Apple and Samsung

Television

Slim Pickings at the Network TV Bazaar

Three talented actresses in three terrible shows.

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

We Could Fix Climate Change for Free. Now There’s Just One Thing Holding Us Back.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 17 2014 7:03 PM Once Again, a Climate Policy Hearing Descends Into Absurdity
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Jurisprudence
Sept. 17 2014 4:49 PM Schooling the Supreme Court on Rap Music Is it art or a true threat of violence?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?