Thursday marks the beginning of my eighth September New York Fashion Week as a resident of the city. It's my third as an official Fashionista employee, though I experienced my first-ever NYFW as a Fashionista intern back in September 2009. Fresh out of school and still nearly bald from 10 months of breast cancer treatments, my editors entrusted me with many of their precious invites, sending me to report on shows, parties and industry events that, until then, I'd only ever dreamed of attending. It was exhausting, but completely exhilarating; and from that week on, I made it my mission to work my ass off to ensure I'd be at fashion week every season from there on out. (Spoiler alert: I succeeded.)
While seven years is not a particularly long period in the grand scheme of New York Fashion Week — an event that dates back to 1943 — the season that's about to begin is strikingly different from my initial experience in the trenches. In the late 2000s, street style photography was still a niche, spontaneous hobby, with a tight crew of photographers — Scott Schuman, Tommy Ton, Phil Oh — leading the charge; today it's almost impossible to navigate the hoards of camera-wielding hopefuls outside of the shows… and the folks who dress to the nines in order to get their attention. The word "influencer" hadn't yet entered the lexicon, but a few pioneering bloggers, like Bryan Boy, Susie Bubble, Jane Aldridge and Rumi Neely, helped to bring much-needed attention to the voices covering (and celebrating) fashion online by sitting front row. Plus, they showed up because they truly loved fashion — not because they were being paid five figures to do so. Of course, celebrity names were still attached to hot-ticket events, but instead of people like Kanye West and Rihanna securing spots on the show calendar, Lady Gaga or Courtney Love would give an intimate performance at an after-party, allowing the designers to retain most of the spotlight.
In less than a decade on the job, I've followed NYFW from Bryant Park to Lincoln Center to Spring Studios as it's attempted to settle into a permanent home; I've watched big-budget projects like Fashion's Night Out fail; I've witnessed runway models and formerly behind-the-scenes designers skyrocket to celebrity status, and have seen magazines fold and mastheads significantly change. But perhaps the most blatant difference between my first fashion week and today is that, in September 2009, every designer was presenting a collection for the same season. No matter how frantic our schedules became during the seven-plus days of shows, we editors were in no danger of getting confused about what we were there to see: clothing and accessories for spring 2010. This time around, such is not the case.
At Fashionista, we've closely followed the rise of the "see now, buy now" phenomenon, which focuses on the shopper as opposed to industry insiders, with a growing number of brands making their collections — or at least a selection of pieces — available for purchase right after they debut on the runway. This consumer-facing mindset is crucial in a tepid retail climate; in addition, many designers see this quick turnaround from runway to sales floor as a way to prevent knockoffs, as fast fashion giants like Zara and Nasty Gal will have less time to churn out copies if there isn't six months of lag time between the runway show and delivery date. While this system makes plenty of sense, the fact that designers around the world aren't on the same page regarding it makes things very tricky.
As we embark on the next few weeks of shows, we will primarily see collections for spring 2017, though some designers will present their fall 2016 ranges — including Tom Ford, Burberry, Rebecca Minkoff, Tommy Hilfiger and Thakoon Panichgul, who recently shifted to a direct-to-consumer business model — despite the fact that the majority of their contemporaries debuted this season back in February. A few fan favorites, like Public School and Vetements, will opt out of fashion week altogether, and will instead show their collections in January and June when pre-fall and resort take place to better coincide with the retail calendar.
On Saturday, Alexander Wang will show his resort and spring collections together on the runway in order to align closer to the delivery date (resort goods are available to shoppers in November). Some brands will forgo a physical presentation: Kate Spade has plans for an immediately shoppable video series instead, while Misha Nonoo unveiled a "Snapchat lookbook" on Wednesday, following the success of her Insta-show last season. To add another layer of complexity, a few labels will show their men's collection on the same runway as women's, like Rag & Bone, Burberry and, starting next season, Gucci. Is your head spinning yet?
Then there is the ever-growing list of designer switch-ups at the big-name fashion houses. Over the next four weeks, we'll see Anthony Vaccarello's first show at Saint Laurent; Maria Grazia Chiuri's debut at Dior and Bouchra Jarrar's at Lanvin, just off the top of my head. Factor in the houses with new creative directors that won't "officially" debut until February — Raf Simons at Calvin Klein, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim at Oscar de la Renta — and even the most seasoned industry veterans are bound to get disoriented. To be honest, if you were to present me with a non-multiple choice pop quiz on designer whereabouts right now, I might not ace it.
We're in the business of reporting on the retail space, tracking trends, reviewing collections (albeit in our own way) and commenting on the intersection of fashion and pop culture, and with NYFW moving in so many different directions, a number of these might prove difficult this season. How can editors flesh out a spring 2017 trend report if a handful of tastemakers don't reveal their collections until actual spring, when the clothing goes on sale? (Brands like Proenza Schouler and Alexander Wang have already banned the release of their pre-fall and resort lookbooks until they arrive in stores, with more planning to adopt this mentality.) Plus, keeping track of which labels are making their entire collections available for purchase — as opposed to a small capsule a la Moschino, Topshop or Prada, or nothing at all — is a full-time job in itself. (Have no fear, we've put together a handy guide if you're hoping to immediately invest in that runway look you fell in love with on Instagram.)
I know I probably shouldn't confess this in such a public forum, but to say I'm puzzled about what the hell we're in for this fashion month would be a gross understatement. As always, I am going into this thing with an open mind, but am anxious to see which of these new concepts — if any — stick, and whether the measure of success will be based on insiders' opinions or those of the public. As team Fashionista sets out on its four-plus week journey through the gauntlet flanked by all things "see now, buy now," Instagram, influencer, Snapchat and more, we'll be sure to bring you plenty of real talk from the front lines. But even though NYFW is an entirely different beast from when I (and the rest of our editors) started out in the industry, I have a hunch that the magic of it will never be completely lost.