Is New York Fashion Week Relevant Anymore?

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The Business of Fashion asked what happened to New York Fashion Week. Fashionista declared it was wasteful and disorganized. Vogue Business asked if it should be canceled. With retail stores like Opening Ceremony and Barneys closing and many designers jumping ship to show in other locations, NYFW had a lot to prove this season. 

It’s not so much a question of if having a runway show is worth it for a brand. Rather, it’s if having it during NYFW is the best thing. Traditionally, fashion shows were meant for industry and trade professionals. According to The Council of Fashion Design of America (CFDA), the purpose of a runway show is to allow designers a chance to show their collections to buyers and the press. A 2016 report from the CFDA, claims that technology has made shows available to a larger audience than ever. This is causing trends on the runway to become fast fashion fodder. A variation of designer’s clothes will be sold by fast fashion retailers before the original can even hit the market. By then, the trend loses relevancy. 

While show exposure can hurt brands in the digital age, it can also help. Jeffry Aronsson, the former CEO of Oscar de la Renta and Marc Jacobs, told Fashionista that “the business case for investing in a seasonal fashion show, or any other fashion event, is that it should get the brand the attention of the market and press.”  

Tom Ford was notably missing from the runway this season. Instead, he showed his Fall/Winter 2020 collection in Los Angeles on February 7 as a lead up to the Oscars. His show included a bevy of models such as Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid, and a front row of A-listers and fashion editors including Anna Wintour. The show coincided with the first day of NYFW, causing all in attendance to miss shows like Brandon Maxwell and Christopher John Rogers. The loss of big-name attendees makes NYFW’s relevancy questionable.

Ford just became the CFDA chairman in January, and this shift to Los Angeles is not a vote of confidence for NYFW, one of the main events they help support each year. In a statement that Business Vogue reported, Tom Ford suggested that the relationship between Hollywood and fashion was a better pursuit for brands. “In my role as chairman of the CFDA, my main intent and priority is to globalize and bring attention to American fashion,” he said. “There is truly no bigger or more prominent stage in the world at any given time than Los Angeles during the Academy Awards.”

Other designers who didn’t show this season included Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Jeremy Scott and Tommy Hilfiger. Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein simply chose not to show this season, while Tommy Hilfiger decided to take his show to London and Jeremy Scott to Paris. In past years, designers like Altuzarra moved away from NYFW to head to European shows. In Europe, luxury conglomerates allow budding designers room to grow and collaborate as they build up their businesses. 

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Of the designers that do remain in New York, only a few like Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors are household names. These anchor brands may put on stellar shows – Marc Jacobs had dancers under direction of Karole Armitage and Michael Kors had singer Orville Peck– but it’s younger brands that are showing what NYFW could be. 

Christopher John Rogers showed his third runway collection at NYFW. As the most recent CFDA/ Vogue Fashion Fund winner, he stood out as an innovative designer with a clear vision. The vibrant shimmering colors and strong shapes looked powerful walking down the runway. Khaite too showed promise. Cate Holstein, who launched brand four years ago, branched out to include “sexy” to the Khaite brand. 

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@albertemortensen_ on the FW20 Runway. #rodarte

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That’s not to say older brands like Rodarte didn’t pull their weight. After showing in Paris since 2017, the design duo Kate and Laura Mulleavy brought their fantastical designs back to NYFW. This season’s inspiration was Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula and the attention to detail was impeccable. Red beads dangled off opera gloves and real orchids formed boas. 

While the view on NYFW is always ebbing and flowing, the loss of NYFW would mean a lack of opportunity for new talent. There are still talented designers showing their collections and new designers looking to the future. NYFW is needed, it’s not at its strongest right now and it could use an update but come next season we’ll still be following it.