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.

“It was the fastest ride from the Hamptons I’ve ever had,” said eveningwear designer Roland Nivelais, who ambled up Seventh Avenue to his showroom on West 40th Street around 10:30 a.m. He estimated the commute took less than two hours.

“I’m loving this,” he said of the streetscape, absent the typical array of town cars, taxis and trucks. “I was afraid to be here this week, but maybe we’ll be able to accomplish some things after all. It’s much quieter than I expected.”

Walter Baker, designer of contemporary apparel line Walter, with a showroom at 37th Street and Eighth Avenue, said he had corporate IDs made up for all his employees, but “no one needed them.”

“I think because of all the hoopla, a lot of people took off, so there’s fewer people around, and it’s easier for those of us who stayed [in town],” Baker said. “I gave people the option to take vacation this week, but everybody came to work.”

David Flohr, chief financial officer at Betsey Johnson, 498 Seventh Avenue, added that the company’s shipments had already arrived, so it was operating as normal.

“I think enough people got scared away that people are getting through whatever security zones they need to get through very quickly,” Flohr said. “Our office is about 50 percent full. Betsey’s here, but Chantal [Bacon, company president] is off. Everyone has said their commute has been easier than it is under ordinary circumstances. In a certain way, it’s very good for Betsey. It helps her to focus on the task at hand and getting her show up and running better than it would have been under the ordinary course of a business day.”

Vivienne Tam was one of the first designers to show up at 550 Seventh Avenue, just after 10 a.m., having taken a taxi from her apartment up Sixth Avenue. She had flown to Miami last week for the Video Music Awards and attended a party thrown by Sean “P. Diddy” Combs there on Friday before returning to the city on Saturday.

“From 15th to 24th Street was easy, because there were no other cars,” she said. “We’ve been working over the weekend, too. There’s nobody here, and that’s great. It’s easier to get a taxi.”
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