As Convention Begins, SA Designers Praise the Calm Streets

The expected nightmare commute to Seventh Avenue as the GOP convention got under way didn’t materialize, but the scene was surreal.

A quiet Seventh Avenue looking north from Madison Square Garden

A quiet Seventh Avenue, looking north from Madison Square Garden.

Photo By WWD Staff

NEW YORK — It should have been a monumental journey, thousands of Garment District employees commuting to offices in the shadow of the Republican National Convention’s “frozen zone.” But as Oscar de la Renta realized when his driver crossed West 40th Street on Monday morning, Seventh Avenue as a ghost town was not such a bad thing after all.

“It was very easy,” said de la Renta, wearing a navy sports jacket that was slightly creased from the drive and carrying a camel leather briefcase as he walked around the corner to his offices at 550 Seventh Avenue, arriving for the workweek at 10:25 a.m.

“I’m coming from Connecticut, and there was very little traffic,” he said. “They let me through on 40th Street and I left my driver on Eighth Avenue.”

Designers — who are preparing to show their spring collections around the city beginning Sept. 8 — had feared a difficult commute, with a handful of companies based in the Garment District shutting down for the week or allowing employees to work from home in the face of tightened security surrounding the RNC.

But as the opening session had just gotten under way at Madison Square Garden, seven blocks to the south, many people showing up for work on Monday said they had, in fact, made record time. The Port Authority bus terminal, for example, was a breeze once commuters got through the Lincoln Tunnel, which was bottlenecked from street closures inside Manhattan.

The enormous police and security presence throughout the city, the arrival of nearly 5,000 Republican delegates, the media swarm, the numerous protests expected to take place this week and the specter of possible terrorist attacks have put the fashion industry on edge during what is an especially busy time for designers, who generally lean a bit to the left anyway.

Many of them view the RNC as a major headache, as they are expecting fabric shipments to arrive this week from European mills and at the same time are coordinating model fittings and castings in advance of their shows. Seventh Avenue and other streets in the district are subject to closures throughout the week, leaving delivery trucks to plan drop-offs during off hours.
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