Bridget Foley on Why New York Fashion Week Has Gotten Out of Hand and How To Fix It

While the endless Milan/New York fashion week show dates debate has, for the most part, been one serious headache for the fashion industry, there is at least one good thing to have come out of it: It's opened up a discussion about whether or not the current show system is still functional. The most recent person to weigh in on the matter is WWD's Bridget Foley, who wrote a small essay on the subject in today's paper. Foley seems to agree with CFDA President Diane Von Furstenberg's assertion that "New York, London, Milan and Paris are not four separate, independent entities but one long fashion train with four stops," and therefore they need to compromise and remain unified. But, Foley adds, that might be sort of besides the point. "Maybe...the dates dilemma merely obscures the real problem..." she wrote, "Maybe the reality of today’s industry no longer jibes with the once tidy flow of shows from city to city."
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Hayley Phelan
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While the endless Milan/New York fashion week show dates debate has, for the most part, been one serious headache for the fashion industry, there is at least one good thing to have come out of it: It's opened up a discussion about whether or not the current show system is still functional. The most recent person to weigh in on the matter is WWD's Bridget Foley, who wrote a small essay on the subject in today's paper. Foley seems to agree with CFDA President Diane Von Furstenberg's assertion that "New York, London, Milan and Paris are not four separate, independent entities but one long fashion train with four stops," and therefore they need to compromise and remain unified. But, Foley adds, that might be sort of besides the point. "Maybe...the dates dilemma merely obscures the real problem..." she wrote, "Maybe the reality of today’s industry no longer jibes with the once tidy flow of shows from city to city."
Photo: Getty

Photo: Getty

While the endless Milan/New York fashion week show dates debate has, for the most part, been one serious headache for the fashion industry, there is at least one good thing to have come out of it: It's opened up a discussion about whether or not the current show system is still functional.

The most recent person to weigh in on the matter is WWD's Bridget Foley, who wrote a small essay on the subject in today's paper. Foley seems to agree with CFDA President Diane Von Furstenberg's assertion that "New York, London, Milan and Paris are not four separate, independent entities but one long fashion train with four stops," and therefore they need to compromise and remain unified. But, Foley adds, that might be sort of besides the point. "Maybe...the dates dilemma merely obscures the real problem..." she wrote, "Maybe the reality of today’s industry no longer jibes with the once tidy flow of shows from city to city."

She notes that over the past few years, as the Fashion Weeks dotted across the globe have grown and grown, there's been a collective moan that the whole calendar is just too long--something we can certainly attest to. And of course the most "egregiously long run" belongs to New York, a fact that wasn't missed by the Italians, when the head of their Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana Mario Boselli told WWD, "Perhaps the only way out would be for the Americans to reduce their fashion week to seven days, as nine days is too long."

Photo: Getty

Photo: Getty

Foley is in agreement: New York is too long. And with shows spread all across the city, the logistics aren't too fun either. But the thing is, shaving a few days off New York Fashion Week seems nearly impossible. At Foley's count, last season there were 322 shows--that’s an average of 36.75 (!) shows a day. "When last I checked, the day still had 24 hours," Foley quipped, "Some of which are supposed to be for sleep." Clearly, cramming 322 shows into seven days isn't a realistic option.

So, Foley says, maybe we need to cut down on the shows. "We all know that from a creative standpoint many shows — perhaps a full half of the New York schedule — have no reason to exist," she writes. "That conversation tends to focus on younger types 'not yet ready to show.' But...there are just as many established companies who show for no apparent reason other than the press they’ll get."

However even that solution presents its own set of problems: Mainly that weeding out the "nonessentials" would be "probably impossible," and that, even if we tried, the huge influx of actually talented American designers (think: Jason Wu, Joseph Altuzarra, Alex Wang) and the tenacity of the classic American designers (Calvin Kelin, Ralph Lauren) would still make the schedule seem crowded.

So what to do?

Foley presents two solutions that she thinks could work: 1) That New York adhere to a schedule of "deliberately concurrent shows, as many as three an hour from, say, 9 in the morning to 7 at night. Retail and edit teams would have to split up, period. Political problems would ensue, but that’s life. The schedule could potentially be cut by two days."

And 2) That "some brands, the ones who won’t rock the world with fashion, show online and distribute look-book photos." She notes that distributing photos online is already what happens during the Pre-Fall and Resort seasons, and it seems to work just fine. Some brands, like Gucci and Burberry, have toyed with livestreaming their fashion shows but as of yet, no one has shown exclusively online. In this digital age, though, that can't be too far off. It sort of seems like a no-brainer.

Considering we have a relatively small edit team (as many websites no doubt do too), we're more in favor of the second option. However, we don't know how likely that one is going to be. There's something about the glitz and glamour of showing at NYFW that we think brands, regardless of their legitimacy, won't want to give up.

What do you think should be done?