Our Counter Argument for New York Fashion Week

With the recent exodus of designer Alexander Wang to, not Paris or London mind you, his own fashion presentation outside of New York Fashion Week, all the glossies and webbies have been astir with the call that “Fashion Week is Dying”. This sentiment has been employed, in one way or another, by fashion media for over a decade now, ever since the move from Bryant Park, the bi-annual “fashion circus” has been on its last legs. From the days at Lincoln Center, then to Moynihan Station, followed quickly by Washington Square, then Chelsea Piers, the Armory and any number of other venues that designers regularly present in; New York Fashion Week has been “dying”.

A recent article from Digiday’s fashion media site, Glossy.co, expertly crafted this statement about the exodus of large names to other pastures:

Rodarte, Proenza Schouler and Altuzarra all fled to show during Paris Fashion Week, rather than New York. Rachel Zoe, Tommy Hilfiger and Tom Ford tried out Los Angeles. Thakoon went direct-to-consumer, and Rag & Bone and Mara Hoffman ditched the runway altogether.

Add Alexander Wang, one of the more interesting and newsworthy designers in terms of presentation (remember #WangFest) to that list. Add to the above list Vera Wang (to Paris Fashion Week), Rebecca Minkoff (to Los Angeles), Tom Ford (also went to LA, but showed in NYC last summer), Hood by Air (to Paris, although Shayne now designs for Helmut Lang) and Thom Browne (three for Pari) and the exodus seems to turn into a frenzy. However, isn’t it the natural evolution of a designer to go from local to national to international markets and present their wares accordingly to where their most loyal patrons and staunchest media advocates reside? Hasn’t the rise of social media given pause to the normal fashion cycles (not only in NYC) and triggered industry-wide changes such as the ability to purchase looks right off the runway as Tommy Hilfiger and Rebecca Minkoff have both experimented with in the past? Couldn’t it be said that designers have dropped on and off the schedule for years and in fact, far more designers than ever now participate?

Fashion Law provided a good take on what’s really going on with the shift to Paris and one thing we certainly agree with is the access to different markets, particularly regions such as Seoul, Hong Kong, China and even the Middle East. While New York City is a cultural epicenter, it’s a lot easier for media to attend events in say Paris or Milan than crossing the ocean. Julie further elaborates into a potential poaching strategy of La Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (think CFDA France). This does make for some good continuation of the France vs. America conversation, but it also ignores one of the driving factors of American fashion.

Taken from a slightly bigger perspective, it is true that the four major fashion weeks angle for global visibility and to be fair, the Parisian shows do have the advantage from a media perspective. Compare for example the media capitals surrounding New York (i.e. not a one unless one thinks of Toronto) versus Paris (London, Italy, Germany, Dubai just to name a few) and the weight that locality carries. Even in the age of digital, nothing beats the physical proximity and gateway to the East that European countries exhibit. Bump down to the designer perspective and if your aesthetic and creative direction can match consumer interests in those geographies, you would be exposed to a far more diverse and international audience than residing in the United States alone. While both perspectives take the end view of a brand with mega-popularity and stronger financial backing, the vast majority of brands neither have the budget or global cache of an Alexander Wang or Tom Ford.

So what then? Historically New York Fashion Week evolved from Press Week, an opportunity to give LOCAL designers an opportunity to display their wares to trade media and department store buyers (boutiques had not grown to such fame at as a Collette or Opening Ceremony the time). In fact, New York Fashion Week evolved from a desire of American designers to be placed in the creative spotlight alongside French labels such as Chanel and Christian Dior. This is a far departure from modern fashion weeks (circa 2010) that are focused on driving consumer interest and hype (hence visibility) to various designers, who are effectively clients of the respective governing fashion body. Exclusivity isn’t really any more than a concept, as far as in whom is able to partake in the pageantry, so much as press or media credentials are involved. Journalists, photographers, models and buyers sit shoulder to shoulder with influencers, celebrities, fan boys / girls, customers and cool kids, delighting in the same fanfare once held for media only. If not, a mere peak at Instagram or any of the designer’s other social channels will provide livesteams and / or backstage access to exclusive “insider” content.

The assumption then is that if many of the top labels and names desert NYFW, thus making it difficult for the CFDA to maintain their ability to drive elite visibility, consumer interest will go elsewhere, following those elite designers. With consumers, there goes the media, with media so goes the buyers and buyers impact designers in a vicious cycle. Or does it?

According to Curalate, a leading social commerce and content discovery firm that studies the growth of retailers through various channels, NYFW has increased its visibility from 68.7MM impressions in September 2016 to 76.5MM impressions as of September 2017, the highest point since regular analytics has been in place for this particular data. Considering they tracked almost ¾ of a million posts on Instagram alone, this number is sure to be greater when factoring in Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook. The retail economy hasn’t so much as collapsed as it has transitioned online, where Statista shows explosive growth, even in the apparel & accessories sector until 2020. Even more importantly, the circus has ballooned and some estimated 300 plus designers create some sort of presentation during fashion week, Through events such as Harlem Fashion Week, Nolcha Shows and Couture Fashion Week; not including the 100 or so designers on the official fashion week calendar. Of course, from the perspective of the local NYC economy Fashion Week surpasses all other collective event across any number of industries.

It wasn’t too long ago that Alexander Wang was a student in the very same city where “fashion week is dying” or Tom Ford left Gucci to become Tom Ford. Or maybe a glance at Misha Nonoo or Chris Gelinas or check, even Shane Gabier (Creatures of the Wind) or Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osbournce of Public School. Our counter argument is that New York Fashion Week isn’t dying; it’s thriving, due to more resources, support and business strategy for the industry’s most important subset, the emerging designer.

Resources such as Nineteenth Amendment, a production company helping small designers to realistically test the market or FIT’s Design Entrepreneurs program, The Platform or the New York Fashion Tech Lab. Or even the CFDA’s Vogue Fashion Fund or the recent Brooklyn Public Library’s BKLYN Fashion Academy. That’s to say nothing of the world renowned Fashion Institute of Technology or Parsons School of Design and their numerous professional connections, associations, partnerships and alumni.

After all, it took ten years to find the next Facebook and Instagram still doesn’t replace all that Facebook can do. Likewise, there will be another Alexander Wang as there will be a Proenza Schouler both of whom came after Marc Jacobs, still a rock of American fashion.

Image Source: Mozul

Warning: include(../comments.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /hermes/bosnacweb02/bosnacweb02bc/b1718/ipg.nycfashionagencycom/thedesignerwhisperer/wp-content/themes/thedesignerwhisperer/template-parts/content-single.php on line 88 Warning: include(): Failed opening '../comments.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/local/lib/php-5.6.30-precise/lib/php') in /hermes/bosnacweb02/bosnacweb02bc/b1718/ipg.nycfashionagencycom/thedesignerwhisperer/wp-content/themes/thedesignerwhisperer/template-parts/content-single.php on line 88