St. Louis Fashion Week finds home at Union Station
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By Debra D. Bass Post-Dispatch Fashion Editor firstname.lastname@example.org 314-340-8236
Photo by Chris Lee, email@example.com
St. Louis Fashion Week has a new home in Union Station, the city’s newest event space, and both are hoping to cash in on the cachet of the other.
The fashion week enterprise will gain stability in planning events from year to year instead of starting from scratch each season and scrambling for space around town. It doesn’t hurt that the new space opening in April boasts a $5 million renovation, part of the station and hotel’s $66.3 million makeover by its new owner Lodging Hospitality Management. Registered as a national historic landmark, Union Station was a hub of rail passenger service after it opened in 1894.
Union Station developers want to reclaim some of that prestige and see the benefits of being associated with one of the most fashionable events of the year as they woo new conventions, bridal parties and special events.
The two have agreed to a three-year collaboration that is a mix of trade, multimedia promotion and cash.
St. Louis Fashion Week creative director Sam Foxman sparked the deal after touring the space as part of his event planning business Evntiv.
“The first time I saw the space, which is a completely open long and narrow hall that’s basically an exhibit space, the possibilities were swimming in my mind, but fashion week was one of the things I saw first,” Foxman said speaking of space called the Midway, where trains were once launched.
The 50,000 square feet of space with a barrel roof has a line of windows along the ceiling for natural light, and the developers have restored many historic touches, removing all signs of the 1980s retail storefronts that occupied the space along the Market Street side of the building.
“It’s perfect for a fashion show and perfect for any number of unique events,” said Stephen O’Loughlin of Lodging Hospitality Management, which bought Union Station for $20 million in 2012. “This is absolutely a win-win, a great thing for us to come out of the gate and unveil our new space.”
Foxman said that although it’s great to host events all over the city to show that fashion is happening everywhere, it’s “enormously beneficial to have a home for a while. And the fact that it’s new, that’s got a bit of good buzz to it.”
Elizabeth Tucker, the co-founder of St. Louis Fashion Week and executive director, couldn’t agree more. She said that every year they were creating pop-up venues, which meant lots of meetings to review the space, configure the seating, rework the sound system, design new runways, meet with city officials and more.
“Now we can focus more on the designers and more on enhancing the production,” Tucker said.
St. Louis Fashion Week, launched in the fall of 2007, hasn’t had a dedicated home since it was hosted at Lumière Place Casino and Hotel for four seasons (March 2008 to fall October 2009) in an unfinished event space above the casino floor.
Tucker said O’Loughlin was immediately on board with the idea of bolstering the fashion appeal of the city.
“We knew they’d be great partners because we’ve worked with them in the past few years for our after parties,” at the Hilton St. Louis at the BallPark’s Three Sixty Rooftop Bar, Tucker explained.
When she sat down with O’Loughlin to discuss the new venture, she said that his answer was “yes” before she even presented any details about payment.
“That’s a great feeling,” Tucker said. “He gets it, and he gets us, and both of us want to be somewhere where there’s a bubbling up of conversation around what you’re doing. Celebrity, culture and food and fashion all have that kind of cachet.”
St. Louis Fashion Week will host only one show at Union Station during its three-day run in April, but it will return in the fall, its longest schedule, with two or three days of shows in the space.
By fall, the $2.5 million renovation of the Grand Hall (previously a salon for ladies and gentlemen to wait for their trains to depart) will also be complete with an ornate digital ceiling and early 1900s style bar and lounge areas. The space will be used as a cocktail and preparty area for St. Louis Fashion Week.
“Once we saw the space it was a no-brainer. It’s as if it was built with the notion that it would be a fashion center,” Tucker said.