When looking at the official New York Fashion Week calendar, my first thought was: Who are these people?
Here at Fashionista, one of the best parts of our job is discovering exciting new talent. It's thrilling to find an up-and-coming designer whose work reminds us why we joined the industry in the first place. But there's something different happening in New York: Three of the city's coolest designers — Hood by Air, Rodarte and Proenza Schouler — have announced plans to show in Paris in the near future. Tommy Hilfiger, Rebecca Minkoff, Rachel Comey and (maybe) Tom Ford all defected to Los Angeles this season. Brands like Kate Spade New York, Ralph Lauren, Misha Nonoo and Thakoon have all pivoted towards a "see now, buy now" consumer-facing format that doesn't require a fashion week time slot — though Thakoon opted to debut his Spring 2017 collection in a live format this season. Some are abandoning the schedule altogether, like Opening Ceremony, which opted for a ballet presentation at Lincoln Center back in January. Even the celebrity faction has begun to decamp. Rihanna shows her Fenty x Puma collection in Paris now, and as the New York Times points out, designers are having an increasingly hard time filling their front rows with A-listers because, according to Teri Agins, "The shows are not cool anymore."
This leaves New York with very few marquee designers on the calendar: Marc Jacobs, Altuzarra and Alexander Wang are perhaps the biggest, with Oscar de la Renta banking on Monse designers Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim for a comeback. Stuart Vevers has been making the case for Coach's resurgence, and Raf Simons has temporarily electrified the scene with buzz for his upcoming debut at Calvin Klein. But all of those brands have the kinds of resources that could foot the bill for showing elsewhere should an alternative schedule become appealing; Vetements, Proenza Schouler, and Kenzo have all moved to show on the couture calendar (in January and July), both allowing the brands' craftsmanship to shine and circumventing the ever-frenetic fashion schedule of pre-collections and runway shows.
But even without these major names, the schedule is still too full. In their place are young, unheard-of brands showing because they think they should. This is not a new problem; the CFDA has struggled for several years with finding a solution for younger designers who want to show but who aren't prepared or who lack the resources. Fashion shows are expensive, and it's hard to even get a fraction of the attention needed to justify the cost when there are over 300 presentations on the lineup. These days, it takes a real blowout, à la Tommy x Gigi or #Wangfest, to really capture attention. And while those events are certainly fun, they take attention away from the design and put it on the dreaded #content creation.
It's certainly a delicate balance between artistic design and commercial appeal, but it's one which NYFW struck rather brilliantly until recently. Pulling an international audience is crucial for the success of any fashion week; without it, NYFW:M seemed like it would be a short-lived experiment until Raf Simons announced he would show his eponymous brand here. In womenswear, New York must compete against the rich history of cities like Milan and Paris, and in recent years, London has replaced the Big Apple as the place to find exciting new designers. New York needs to decide what role it wants to play in the future of fashion: Does it want to be a hotbed of buzzy, new talent? Or does it want to be a mostly commercial, social-media oriented event for influencers? This season might be a wash, but organizers need to figure this out before both camps start to focus their attention and funding elsewhere.
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