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W Hotels 'Fashion Next' Partnership to Hit the Runway


High thread counts and high fashion go hand in hand at one luxury hotel chain.

W Hotels announced this season’s roster of Fashion Next designers at its kickoff of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on Monday.

For the first time since its inception four seasons ago, one of the program's designers, Bibhu Mohapatra, will stage a runway show at Lincoln Center. The group’s four other designers will present their collections at the Box at Lincoln Center.

Through the initiative, designers receive financial and marketing support along with exposure on the hotel chain's website, said Carlos Becil, W Hotels' vice president of brand management.

“As W Hotels continues to transform into a global design powerhouse, we are committed to providing a platform for supporting and showcasing what’s new and next in fashion to guests and locals alike at our hotels around the world,” said Eva Ziegler, W Hotels’ Global Brand Leader.

The company has been involved with Fashion Week for seven years now, Becil said. Before launching the Fashion Next initiative, it sponsored a VIP Backstage Lounge at the event.

“We really wanted to take our program from backstage to center stage,” he said.

Bibhu Mohapatra
Photo by: Elizabeth Lippman

Jenne Lombardo, the W Hotels Global Fashion Director, picked each of this season’s designers. In addition to Mohapatra, Nomia and Rochambeau make up the group’s returning designers. The two new additions are Haus Alkire and Suzanne Rae.

As part of the initiative, the designers collaborate with the company to build their business and gain more exposure on the fashion scene.

Following his runway collection debut on Monday, Mohapatra will fly to the Paris W, which opens on Valentine’s Day, and take market appointments with buyers. Previously, he used the partnership to drum up support for a trunk show at Nieman Marcus.

“I had a Boston trunk show, and they did an event — a fashion-show event,” he said. “They invited a lot of clients and press. It created a buzz.”

Another one of the labels, Rochambeau, will leave its mark in a slightly unexpected place — the W Seattle’s bar uniforms. Created by business partners Joshua Cooper and Laurence Chandler, the label also designed a suede tote for the company this season.

Haus Alkire, a partnership between Julie Haus and Jason Alkire, emphasized how beneficial the program’s financial support has been so far.

“Showing in Fashion Week is very expensive,” Haus said. “You have production and models and a lot of little things you don’t think of. Having that avenue — they’re taking a lot of weight off.”

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