Turnout was decidedly small at , a three-day music and fashion festival held at .
Rocco Gardner, the founder of Escape, estimated Saturday’s daytime crowd at about 300 people, including hotel regulars.
Amidst stifling heat and high humidity, attendees watched synchronized swimmers in flower hats perform, shopped at a pop-up fashion village, and listened to DJ beats from Albert Hammond Jr. of the Strokes. There were plenty of activities for kids, as well, such as face-painting, yoga, and hula hooping. Acoustic sets from BP Fallon, Saul Kurtz, and Federico Aubele were on deck for Saturday night.
Last year’s Escape to New York was at the Shinnecock Indian Reservation in Southampton, with music, performance art, and food venues sprawled over several acres. “I put together the deal with the Shinnecock tribe through friends. They made some good money out of it,” Gardner said. This time around, the intent was size management and a family friendly event, he said.
To keep the numbers down, Gardner said their outreach was closed with no real advertising. He said a permit was not required, and the festival, kept to 500 people, counting hotel guests, was within Sole East’s allotted usage.
“People were worried,” said Gardner, “But we know how to work with people, we dealt with the Shinnecock tribe.” Festival goers were encouraged to carpool. Rocco joked that the owner did not want an invasion.
“We talked to the town, and we reassured them we had people with noise meters checking everything,” he said. There were also measures in place for anyone who planned to crash the event.
Gardner’s focus was on the intimacy of the festival. “It doesn’t have to be a massive event to be a massive success,” he said. Less people can be more effective and controlled, although a smaller event still takes a lot of work. Gardner wants the Escape brand to ultimately evolve with participants, “Leaving with more than a hangover.” His goal is for “Five million followers in five years.”
The fashion pop-up village was filled with vendors from various boutiques. Mary Wagman, founder of Ibiza Love Child in Manhattan, imports all her merchandise from Ibiza, and represents four designers. “I really like the brand, the concept, and the ease of the whole festival. I’m sure they have a strong future,” she said.
Bianca Moreno, co-owner of A Little Wicked on the Lower East Side, also enjoyed the festival, “I hope it keeps going and growing into something really awesome.”
Ava Sanjurjo, co-owner of Rica on the Lower East Side with Brendan Pezzoli, were at the event for the first time. “There are nice people, great lines, and good vintage around,” she said.
Future Escape events include Jailbreak in September with 100 people who will try to get as far away from Manhattan as they can in 24 hours. Spring break Escapes will be larger events with 50,000 to 100,000 people.
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