For the first time since I started working at Fashionista as an intern six years ago, I didn't go to New York Fashion Week this season. (Yes, I'm OK. Thanks for your concern.)
Because I moved across the country about five days before the event kicked off, I sat comfortably in front of my computer, wrapping up Los Angeles's unofficial fashion week, and helping our New York team with news and editing instead. When I did venture outside, there was no snow on the ground to trudge through — just, well, typical LA weather.
My reason for moving when I did was not to skip out on NYFW, but I can't say I didn't feel relieved knowing I wouldn't have to deal with the disorienting schedule, constant running from show to show in freezing weather, mild panic attacks every morning when trying to decide what to wear, awkward small talk with people I only see during fashion shows and inevitable fatigue — both mental and physical. But I was also curious about the level of FOMO I might experience, and if I would learn anything about the importance of seeing a runway show in person — particularly in a time when more designers than ever seem to be questioning the value of participating in NYFW. Plus, when you're attending five to 10 runway shows per day for a week, 20 miles uphill in the snow (so to speak), the thought inevitably creeps into your mind: Couldn't I have just looked at this at home on my computer?
For the most part, that "relieved" feeling remained throughout the week. Like, I was very cool with my decision not to attend 8 million fashion shows in the freezing wind. But as my job is still to cover fashion, I did my best to keep track of all the major shows and collections — through Vogue Runway, Fashionista (obviously), Twitter and Instagram. Through those channels, it wasn't difficult to keep tabs on the major runway trends, the political messages, the controversial front-row guests and the unorganized, sometimes violent, front-of-house situations.
And yet — to my surprise, somewhat — the experience of being 3,000 miles away allowed me to better appreciate the effect of a good runway show. The emphasis being on the word "good." For the most part, looking at pictures, or a livestream, online was enough. In one case, it was actually better: I watched the entirety of Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia’s Monse and Oscar de la Renta runway show livestream, and did not notice the weird sparkly curtain snafu everyone wrote about in their reviews. As far as I knew, the transition was basically seamless. On the other hand, I also read Tyler's recap of Prabal Gurung's — a favorite designer of mine — powerful, touching finale, and felt a pang of jealousy knowing I had missed out on something truly extraordinary. I knew it was one of those rare moments when a fashion show manages to elicit genuine emotion — when you feel so lucky to have been invited to witness such a brilliant display of artistry. That's a feeling you can't get through a computer screen.
I got a similar pang when I watched the livestream of Marc Jacobs's show. I've never not felt truly privileged to attend one of his shows. His ability to defy expectations and shake some life into even the most exhausted, jaded editors at the end of NYFW is unparalleled, and I will never forget Molly Bair taking a lone, circular walk in a dramatic fur checkered cape as it cast an ominous shadow against the runway backdrop of Jacobs's Fall 2016 show. But for Fall 2017, I think Jacobs made fashion history. That show was really cool to watch online, especially knowing that the actual real-life audience had no clue they were going to see all of the models sitting on the sidewalk, on their phones, when they walked outside. But to have been there, in that sparse venue, in a front-row seat, would have been an unforgettable career highlight.
And overall, physically going to shows and seeing them in person results in collections having a stronger imprint in your memory than simply browsing slideshows online does. I found it difficult to remember which items I saw where, unable to contextualize them with any other elements aside from the clothing itself.
For the first time in six years, I had a solid answer to the question: Is going to runway shows really necessary? In some cases, yes, it is. Does every single designer need to stage a runway show to stay in business? Definitely not; and in some cases, it’s better that they don't. Did I feel completely out of the loop or unable to do my job because I didn't go to the shows? No. But can seeing a runway show in person have a very different effect than seeing it online? Absolutely, and I truly hope designers don't stop working to make their IRL experiences unforgettable — with more than just Instabait in mind.