While, to the outside world, fashion shows may seem exciting and glamorous, the feeling among those whose job it is to work during fashion week is generally one of dread. For the past week and a half, whenever we’ve run into industry friends at events, they’ve bemoaned the fact that fashion month is approaching.
The New York Times‘ Eric Wilson points out that complaining about fashion week is nothing new. (What!? Fashion editors complaining? We’re shocked!) But it’s plain as day that fashion week in its current incarnation–with over 350 shows on the calendar plus the ever-expanding media/blogger/street style circus that surrounds them–is verging on becoming unsustainable.
Even Fern Mallis, who helped turn the shows into the media event they are today, agrees. She told Wilson: “Fashion Week needs to be rethought.”
And it seems that rethinking should start with fashion week’s official home, Lincoln Center. In Wilson’s opinion, the move from Bryant Park to Lincoln Center has “been a failure.” Not only are residents in the area suing the city to try to get the week-long commercial event booted, but designers have also expressed dissatisfaction. Apparently “many designers who showed there complained that the environment was beginning to resemble an airport terminal or a trade show, with overwhelming crowds and displays of sponsorships. ”
“The next show comes in and they’re hauling you away like a wedding caterer,” said Vera Wang.
And then, of course, there’s the explosion of street style peacocks and the paparazzi that trail them. Garance Doré recently predicted that the street style situation, which right now is already pretty bonkers, is only going to get worse.
“The thing that’s going to happen is Festival de Cannes,” Doré said. “There’ll be barriers to keep the photographers back and branding boards. It’s already on the way.”
This is precisely the reason why, last week, Oscar de la Renta announced he’d be drastically scaling back his show guest list.
“When you do megashows, it loses the reason of why we’re showing,” he said. “It’s important for [certain industry professionals] to look at the clothes and see them. They shouldn’t have to go through 30,000 people, and 10,000 who are trying to take pictures of all of those people who are totally unrelated to the clothes.”
More than all these logistical issues, though, is the fact that many industry vets question whether, in the age of near-instantaneous runway images and livestreams, fashion week even makes sense anymore.
Now, consumers get to see the collections at precisely the same time editors do; they can decide for themselves what is “in” and what is “out”, they don’t need a magazine to tell them. This has drastically changed the way consumers shop. They’re getting tired of falling in love with clothes on the runway only to wait six months to actually buy them. This is the ethos behind the “buy now, wear now” sales plan of Tamara Mellon’s new namesake line. Her approach has been commended by the media–though it’s true, it presents a unique challenge to department stores and boutiques, who are beholden to the wholesale cycle.
So what will become of fashion week as we know it? The truth is, it probably isn’t going anywhere for the next few years. It’s too entrenched. But what we could see happening, gradually over time, is that more and more designers will scale back their shows, or perhaps opt for presentations. They’ll invite only those who strictly need to be there (see: buyers, important editors) and will release the images online to the public. We hope change comes sooner rather than later.