Please Don't Freak Out About the Future of New York Fashion Week, Says the CFDA

The organization's President and CEO Steven Kolb tells Fashionista that NYFW still features plenty of strong talent, even despite the recent Parisian exodus.
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A look from Altuzarra's Spring 2019 collection, shown during Paris Fashion Week. Photo: Peter White/Getty Images

A look from Altuzarra's Spring 2019 collection, shown during Paris Fashion Week. Photo: Peter White/Getty Images

Since Joseph Altuzarra announced earlier this week that come September, he'll be exiting New York Fashion Week to show his brand's Spring 2018 collection in Paris, there's been a deluge of content about what, exactly, this says about the current state of the American fashion industry. You've likely seen the write-ups, many of which are focusing on what NYFW is doing wrong — or rather, how the event stacks up to its European counterparts, particularly Paris Fashion Week, which has already claimed Rodarte, Proenza Schouler, Thom Browne and, as of this week, Altuzarra.

"Three's a trend, but now there's four," wrote Vogue Runway's Director Nicole Phelps in an editorial on Wednesday. "And it's not just any four; it's four of the best regarded, most influential labels on the calendar. New York has lost a good-size chunk of its new guard."

Phelps is, of course, stating the facts: Of NYFW's most iconic talents, those four do represent a sizable group, in addition to calendar mainstays like Michael Kors, Diane von Furstenberg, Carolina Herrera, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Oscar de la Renta and Marc Jacobs. But simply because the schedule is now going to be without Rodarte, Proenza Schouler, Thom Browne and Altuzarra doesn't mean that NYFW is doomed, according to the Council of Fashion Designers of America's president and CEO Steven Kolb

"You have four brands that have decided to show in Paris for different reasons, at different times, and each one of them made that decision not because there was a problem with NYFW or something was wrong with NYFW, but there was an opportunity for them in Paris," Kolb told Fashionista over the phone on Thursday. 

In Proenza Schouler and Rodarte's cases, Kolb suggested that the choice to show on the couture schedule had more to do with timing and delivery than other external factors; meanwhile, Altuzarra himself is from Paris, and it has been a personal dream of his to show in his hometown. "If you were to ask any one of them, I think they would confirm that it's not a negative statement on New York, but really a chance for them to show their collections in a different market. And that's not unusual, right?"

Right. Designers decide to show in cities that aren't their own all the time, as is the case with Stella McCartney, for example, who famously lives in London but has shown in Paris since 2001. "I think it's part of the changing landscape of fashion weeks in how designers are experimenting with different things."

And, Kolb argues, it's not as if the CFDA hasn't adapted to NYFW's changing tides. Just this season, the CFDA shortened NYFW by one day to ensure that the final Thursday remained open after the industry vocalized wanting a gap day between the New York and London shows. The CFDA has also become much more selective about its official calendar, which really began once it acquired the Fashion Calendar in 2014.

"People will say, 'Anybody can show in New York!' And you know what, it's not true," said Kolb. "Try to do a show in New York. You have to fill out an application, and you have to be approved. And people aren't all always approved. The calendar itself, the official calendar, is probably cut in half from before, when we didn't own the Fashion Calendar and that was intentional."

Looking to Spring 2018 and beyond, Kolb is more than optimistic about what lies ahead. Take Rihanna, who is bringing her endlessly buzzy Fenty Puma runway show back to New York from Paris, where it was held the previous two seasons. 

"I think the holes — or the vacancies that are created by designers showing elsewhere — only open up opportunities for a new generation of talent to be nurtured and grown and supported," said Kolb. He explained that on Monday morning, the selection committee for the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund is meeting to pick the 10 designers who will be finalists in competing for the top prize. "As we know, all of those designers — Rodarte, Thom Browne, Proenza [Schouler] and Joseph [Altuzarra] — are past winners, actually, of the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund. We still have that support system in place, and there'll be a new generation."

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