TRAVEL / In New York, fashion is dog’s best friend

When Fashion26, a Wyndham hotel and the first in this designer inspired series, opened this summer in the heart of Chelsea, the timing was perfect for me. I had signed up for a one-day seminar on fashion design for dogs presented by Ann and Bjorn Gardsby of Manfred of Sweden, Europe’s leading canine fashionistas. The event was conveniently held at the Fashion Institute of Technology just across Seventh Avenue from Fashion 26. If you fancy a fashionably educational vacation of your own, visit www.fitnyc.edu.

FIT says “live and learn at FIT this summer,” and among the hundreds of classes on the schedule was the “canine college” seminar exploring the burgeoning market for pet apparel and accessories-a moneymaker in the U.S., Brazil and Japan, in that order. For the record, Manfred is the name of the Gardsbys own pooch, which was the inspiration for such canine couture as an $18,000 Swarovski studded vest that was a hit on the runway shows in New York, Tokyo and Sao Paulo. Mario DeFante, a guest speaker and executive director of MD Productions, reminded our class of upward doggers that Pet Fashion week is scheduled for Aug. 22 and 23 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in the heart of Chelsea, an event any dog fancier would enjoy (www.petfashionweek.com).

Within walking distance of FIT is the Rubin Museum of Art, where a spectacular collection of art from India, Tibet, Bhutan and the Himalayas, among other countries, which occupies a fascinating multilevel building and was once a Barney’s department store ( www.rmanyc.org). There are jazz concerts, cabaret cinema and an excellent café with a selection of Himalayan flavors, teas and sweets worth sampling. Over on Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue) is the new Limelight Marketplace, New York’s Festival of Shops, where three levels of boutiques are housed in a deconsecrated church (and former nightclub); these range from the Cupcake Stop and Om Aroma & Co (where raspberries are whipped into fragrant facial creams) to Miss Tea, Baci’s Gelato and more. Keep tabs on free museums, such as the New Museum at 235 Bowery where admission is complimentary on Thursday evenings from 7-9 p.m. The installations range from sensitive to thoroughly thought provoking, and are rarely derivative. The first floor had an exhibit featuring hundreds of colorful ribbons, each with a quote, from political to poetic, which visitors are invited to take home in exchange for leaving a wish.

Thanks to New York’s insatiable appetite for organic cuisine, a spate of small cafés has opened such as the Bluedog Coffee Bar in Chelsea, where dining is a “gourmet picnic everyday.” Its wild caper egg salad with mixed greens on seven-grain bread is a case in point. There’s an obvious boom in shops with specialties from cupcakes (try Crumbs with locations throughout Manhattan) to tea (Argo Tea www.argotea.com serves an impressive choice of iced teas from Tea sangria to Tea Squeeze with hibiscus and fresh squeezed lemonade) to herbal and fruity infusions. Dedicated chocoholics must pay tribute to Max Brennner (www.maxbrenner.com) where Brenner is “creating a new chocolate culture worldwide.” This is where you can order (in addition to chocolate drinks, iced and hot) black and tan beer battered Vidalia onion rings with a dark chocolate ranch dressing.

All of this sounds deliciously delirious but if you really want to go nuts, get yourself to Chelsea Market’s Nutbox where you can select a pound of mainly marvelous Turkish nuts and dried fruits (the apricots are outstanding) and snack between snacks. Finally, if all of this noshing makes your head spin, ask the concierge at Fashion 26 to reserve a few hours for you at the Oasis Day Spa (www.oasisdayspanyc.com) where there are six kinds of massage on the menu, from a Muscle Meltdown to a Lava Stone. Rejuvenate yourself by reserving the Total Body Wellness (salt scrub, body wrap, facial and massage). Request Bruce Baltz for one cool stone massage that will have you walking on air. And don’t forget the Eco-fashion Going Green exhibit at the Fashion and Textile History Gallery back at FIT, it’s free and gives you the inside scoop on what the future holds for the fashion industry, which employs 30 million people worldwide.

Pam Price is the co-author of “Day Trips from Los Angeles.”

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