The Tents

The Tents

The runway show for Dennis Basso as seen in THE TENTS, a film by James Belzer. Picture courtesy Marcus K. Jones Productions. All rights reserved.

The Tents (2012)

Opened: 02/16/2012 Limited

Tribeca Cinemas02/16/2012 - 02/17/20122 days
On Demand02/16/2012

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, YouTube

Genre: Biographical Documentary

Rated: Unrated


In the fashion world, "The Tents" are synonymous with the giant white tents erected every spring and fall during NY Fashion Week. It is here where hundreds of designers showcase their latest collections to fashion editors, buyers and celebrities and where legendary designers have made their first big break. Director James Belzer & Cinematographer Marcus K. Jones catalogue the birth of New York Fashion Week, its expansion and finally its move out of Bryant Park, fashion week's home since 1993, to Lincoln Center.

Told with exclusive behind the scenes footage and intimate interviews with top fashion players such as: Betsey Johnson, Carolina Herrera, Donna Karan, Glenda Bailey, Hal Rubenstein, Tommy Hilfiger and Zac Posen, to name just a few. Great commentaries are also featured with Carson Kressley, Patrick McMullan, Michael Musto and Robert Verdi, adding humor to the mix. THE TENTS is a tantalizing must-see - a unique chance to see behind the scenes at the the fashion industry's biggest event.

Filmmakers Q&A

What were some of the biggest challenges/rewards you encountered while shooting this film?

Biggest challenge - endurance! We had to run a marathon race with the fashion industry over the past 2 & 1/2 years to get this film done. Biggest reward - having so many different players from the fashion industry involved & having the film turn out so well.

What inspired you to make a film about the iconic fashion tents in New York?

When I realized that NY fashion week would be moving from the tents in Bryant Park after 18 years to Lincoln Center, I knew that this chapter in fashion history needed to be captured & recorded. Very few people outside of the fashion industry really know what fashion week was like before it became an organized event in the early to mid 1990's. We also wanted to explain more about how the fashion industry works to the general consumer, so they can learn what happens during fashion week & what goes on inside the tents. It was a great story that really needed to be told, so we were thrilled to have the opportunity to be the ones making this documentary.

You have a number of interviews with some of the most revered names in the fashion industry. How did you get so many high-profile people involved in your film?

Key word to accomplish this: Persistence! Also had some great relationships after having worked for so many different magazines and attended the shows in the tents for so many years. Our first big supporter was Marie Griffin, who handles PR for many key designers. She arranged interviews for us with Betsey Johnson & Carolina Herrera - they were among the first big designers we interviewed, so the rest of the big names came right along.

How do you think "The Tents" have become such a cultural symbol in new york?

As the story goes, there are limited places to stage a unique fashion week experience in NYC - the tents were created to meet the growing needs of the fashion industry to present shows for a wider audience. As a result, they have become an actual symbol & the tents are synonymous with fashion week itself.

Do you think they could exist in any other city?

Yes, in fact, there could easily be The Tents in London, Paris & Milan. Or even other International cities that wanted to create a showplace for fashion - in Tokyo, or China, etc.

What do you think is the attraction to high fashion?

High fashion taps into the aspirations that we all have to feel sexy & glamorous. When you put on some wonderful, top-quality clothes - something that fits you well that is the latest design, well, the clothes can actually transport you to a special place. A place where you look & feel just fabulous.

Do you think people are there for the clothes or the glamour?

Most of the people that attend the shows are there for the business of fashion, so yes, they are there primarily to see the clothes. But also, the added ingredients make the total fashion show experience so exciting - the music, the lighting, the models, the buzz in the venue, the celebs that may be attending the show - all that adds up to something very magical. So yes, people are there for the glamour as well.

Throughout the film, it is mentioned that having these tents creates an accessibility to fashion that is not present in other fashion shows in other cities. Yet at the same time, we see people pressing to get in to the shows, to have the best seats, to get closer to the action. Do you ultimately feel that the tents flourish because they provide accessibility or exclusivity?

This is a complicated question to answer. For starters, we do address the fact that the fashion show is really a trade show - for all the designer to present their collections to the apparel buyers & the press. As with any business, there are the individual decision makers that have to be influenced to buy the products and cover the line editorially. So in the case of the fashion industry, this starts with the formal process of presenting the collection in the context of the fashion show. For the retail buyers, there are then numerous follow-up meetings in the designer showrooms after fashion week where the retail orders will be written. The editors will pick from runway shots to showcase the looks that they believe will be successful trends, then subsequently ask for the merchandise to be used for their individual fashion features & cover shoots.

With the development of new technology and the expansion of media in having direct to consumer applications, the insider experience that the shows used to have just to the fashion industry (the trade) - that exclusivity - has been expanded to include a much wider group of people - the consumers. But, ultimately, the business decision revolving around the fashion shows still fall on that small group of people in the fashion trade. So, the tents flourish because they do both - they cater to the fashion insider, first & foremost, the core audience, but also, the tents do allow more accessibility to the fashion show experience to consumer than ever before.

Shooting in such a small space with people running around preparing for shows must have posed a difficulty. Can you discuss the process of actually shooting your footage in the tents?

You really have to know many of the "rules" regarding the way things work in the show venues and backstage at each of the fashion shows - and - there are no rule books to refer to. You have to have a very good instincts and know your place - the "back of house" PR team will help explain things as each show/designer has their own style & process for doing things. Then also, you have to know how things work in the venue itself - the "front of house" PR team handles different roles - the seating areas/assignments, the celebs, the runway access for the camera crews prior to the show, plus the camera crews in "the pit" - so all of these different aspects of the filming the show experience is just something that you learn by doing it over a period of time. It also helps to be nice & respectful to everyone - that is always appreciated. There are times when you can't shoot or do something you'd like to do, so instead of argue with a PR person or venue manager, you are better off accepting it - sometimes, that's just the way it has to be.

What message about the fashion industry would you like people to take away from this film?

That this is a great business with a lot of interesting, passionate & creative people involved in many different aspects of the work. That the business of designing & making the clothes, then showing the latest fashions during fashion week every season is a celebration of all that creativity, passion & talent in the fashion business.