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Historic NYC industrial building gets all dressed up for New York Fashion Week

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A massive New York City industrial building on the far West Side where mighty machines were once unloaded from freight trains will be transformed into the capital of fashion – at least for a week.

The Starrett-Lehigh Building, a 1931-vintage leviathan-size monument to the city’s manufacturing and shipping age, will be the new headquarters for New York Fashion Week, which begins Friday. 

The streamlined-style structure on Eleventh Avenue at West 26th Street will host runway shows by 70 designers – including Bach Mai, Badgley Mischka, The Blonds, Libertine,  Prabal Gurung, Son Jung Wan and Pamella Roland.

Event sponsor IMG “wanted to put all of Fashion Week under one roof,” said RXR managing director Bill Elder, whose company bought the building for $920 million in 2011.

In recent years, Starrett-Lehigh has taken on a more fashionable image than its past would suggest.  RXR  brought things to a different level with major infrastructure upgrades,  including thousands of new windows, equaling five miles of glass.

The renovated office and showroom facilities have attracted firms including Ralph Lauren — the largest tenant, which recently renewed its lease for over 250,000 square feet — Zimmermann and Fashionphile.

The Starrett-Lehigh Building, a 1931-vintage leviathan-size monument to the city’s manufacturing and shipping age, will be the new headquarters for New York Fashion Week. Starrett Lehigh Building

RXR also lured chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Hav + Mar restaurant and the sprawling Olly Olly gourmet food hall and market, both of which are hosting Fashion Week events. The landlord also launched  a 15,000 square-foot 601 Athletic Club with Adidas credited as a “programming partner.”

Texas-born Bach Mai, a two-time nominee for a CFDE Emerging Designer Award, recalled the first time he stepped foot in the historic building.

New York Fashion Week starts Friday at its new home on Eleventh Avenue. Victor M. Matos/TheNEWS2 via ZUMA Press Wire / SplashNews.com

“It was years ago after a flash flood and I had waded  through knee-high waters on the street with my portfolio to meet Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman, so it’s such a full-circle moment to have my first time showing with IMG to be in this iconic building,” said Mai, the son of Vietnamese immigrants. 

IMG will rent 68,000 square feet on the 18th floor as the show’s venue and 17,000 square feet on the 17th floor for support space from Scott Rechler-led RXR.

Elder wouldn’t say what IMG was paying for the short-term space. Standard-term rents in the building run from the low $60s to the upper $70s per square foot. 

Bach Mai, left, is one of 70 designers with runway shows at Fashion Week. Getty Images for Human Rights Campaign

The building is just over 70% leased with other deals “in the pipeline,” Elder said.

NYFW was previously held at Spring Studios downtown and, before that, at Lincoln Center and in Bryant Park.

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