There was a heaviness in the air at last week's New York Fashion Week (NYFW). Beyond the omnipresent rainfall and gray skies, were whispers of the gathering's fate, as the American fashion capital struggles to maintain the same luster as the show's of Paris, Milan, and London. New York mixed up this year's formula by combining men's and women's collections into a massive 10-day-long extravaganza, but with industry greats like Thom Browne, Proenza Schouler, and Altuzarr no longer showing stateside and Alexander Wang and Victoria Beckham presenting their last respective collections here this season, can NYFW revive itself?
The answer, of course, is yes. However, in order to survive and thrive, NYFW needs to reinvent itself, no longer competing with its European counterparts, but creating an entirely different type of experience.
In its inception, Fashion Week was "Press Week," held exclusively for buyers and media outlets who were unable to travel to Paris due to the outbreak of WWII. Over the last decade, scale and purpose has varied from show to show -- from exclusive, invite-only, behind the velvet rope experiences to open-to-the-public, social media-centric parties where fashion enthusiasts rub elbows with celebrities and influencers. With the onset of social media and immediate sharing, designers have experimented with see now/buy now collections, making their creations immediately available for purchase, instead of waiting until the upcoming season to launch.
Others added additional experiential elements to their shows, beyond the typical model of five minutes of runway:
- In lieu of a runway show, CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winner Telfar Clemens opted to showcase his Fall 2018 collection through music. Artists such as Dev Hynes, Kelela, Bryndon Cook, Ian Isiah and Kelsey Lu, styled themselves in Clemens's rock-inspired designs, then joined forces on a circular stage to perform a special adaptation of "Grateful" by gospel singer Hezekiah Walker
- Kerby Jean-Raymond collaborated with Raphael Saadiq to curate a gospel choir performance featuring songs by Kendrick Lamar, Bruce Springsteen and Saadiq's own "Skyy (Can You Feel Me?)"
- Los Angeles-based C2H4 presented "Potential of Ego," with Jesse Rutherford, The Neighbourhood frontman-turned-solo artist, modeling the final look, followed by a performance of his latest single "Drama"
- Becca McCharen-Tran's aquatic-inspired collection for Chromat, titled "Wavvy," debuted with a club-friendly soundtrack by New York-based producer Shyboi. As the models (equipped with Cheetos) did their finale walk, artist K Rizz took to the runway for a surprise performance
- The Blonds Fall collection featured leather, Preciosa crystals, corsets, and a performance by art collector turned musician, Daphne Guinness, overlooking the city skyline inside Spring Studios
Though the biggest trend for dissenters is to take their shows on the road, forgoing New York to build brand awareness in other global fashion epicenters. One of the most prominent examples is Tommy Hilfiger, whose runway shows were blockbuster events in New York that featured elaborate sets (like the time he transformed a pier into a carnival, complete with Ferris wheel, games and food vendors). Later this month, the Hilfiger label will close Milan Fashion Week with what is billed as “an experiential runway show” to promote its latest capsule collection with supermodel Gigi Hadid.
Even for those who stayed local, the days of everyone filing in and out of the Bryant Park tents are long gone. There's no longer only one location available to show. In fact, location has become as important to the aesthetic of a collection as design. Fashion insiders traveled across the five boroughs to:
- Phillip Plein's sporty winter fashion at the Brooklyn Navy Yard
- Alexander Wang at 4 Times Square, the former home of Condé Nast
- Area at an underground high school swimming pool in the Lower East Side
- Japanese performance artist and DJ, Alice Longyu Gao's beauty and art pop-up at Moxy Times Square
Photo courtesy: Michael Fragoso/Haute Living
The latest hot topic, though, is the interest from a handful of designers in shifting their fashion show schedules to December and June, rather than presenting during New York Fashion Week each September and February. The logic is that it would allow designers to streamline their preseason collection with their main runway collections, ultimately condensing their workload and giving clothes a longer lifespan in stores. Alexander Wang is among those who have said they’ll go this route in the future, prompting the Council of Fashion Designers of America to announce that it’s considering adjusting the official fashion calendar.