From the outside looking in, fashion week seems like Christmas to those of us who love clothes. It's 7 days (or if you go international, up to 5 weeks) of new, beautiful designs to feast our eyes on, overanalyze, and write about. As a young fashion writer, I love seeing a collection come down the runway for the first time and to witness the pride in the eyes of the designer as they take their bow at the end of the show; it's a deeply inspiring experience. But what I don't love about fashion week often comes into conflict with these idillic, beautiful moments, and I'm not alone when I say that the list of "cons" are very quickly catching up with the "pros."
Last season, Vogue took a lot of heat online for a panel discussion in which several editors criticized the blogging community for coopting the fashion week scene as an opportunity to get discovered and flaunt outfits that they were paid to wear. While many of their critiques were short-sighted (see: one superb takedown c/o Susie Lau over here), it is worth noting that fashion week is not what it used to be, and rarely does it feel as if it is fulfilling its intended purpose - to support designers! The moments of joy witnessing an audience truly engaged in a collection seem few and far between the moments spent waiting in queues and listening to hoards of aspiring social media influencers gossip about one another and primp outfits that they feel uncomfortable in. This isn't a criticism of bloggers - far from it, given that I basically am one myself - but rather an examination of the culture around fashion week that has systemically become more about the guests than the garments, and more about the fanfare than the artistry.
I don't think that it would be a leap to suggest that the pinnacle of this evolution is happening at New York Fashion Week, which is an epicentre of fashion innovation and likely to be considered the most democratic or accessible of the fashion capitals. It's also my current base, and a city that I deeply love, and yet for the first time since I started covering the shows, I've decided to sit this season out. The primary reason is that I am far too busy prioritizing other aspects of my life (read: sleep), but for whatever reason, I don't feel like I'm missing much. I don't need to stand in line and fight for a good seat or spend subway fare to see a collection, when most land online within seconds of the last exit. The changing fashion landscape means that fashion week here in New York has seen its fair share of changes over the past few seasons - from a number of brands switching to "Insta shows" or "see-now-buy-now" models, to others jumping off of the fashion calendar altogether and taking their shows abroad. It has been a tumultuous growing period, and one that perhaps has never been more fragmented than as it stands today.
For example, one of my favourite brands, Proenza Schouler bid 'adieu' to New York Fashion Week this season, revealing plans to present at Paris Couture Week (still under a Ready to Wear label, however) from this point forward. Likewise, Rodarte will show their collection in Paris in just a couple of weeks, foregoing their usual NYC show. Los Angeles has also become a popular site; this season, it played host to Tommy Hilfiger and Rachel Zoe, and will be the site of Maria Grazia Chiuri's first Dior Resort show in the spring. Is the New York scene too saturated and frantic, or has it become *gulps* too "basic" for designers looking to stand out?
There are a multitude of reasons why this may be the case, but I would argue that New York itself nor the designers situated here are not to blame. New York is the home of the OG fashion week and has been known as a launch pad for innovation in the industry; as such, I believe that New York Fashion Week's possible dissolution simply represents the early stages of the reimagining of fashion week altogether. In an age where fashion shows have become more about generating hype with the public than giving press an early preview of the collection, the sky is the limit for where shows can be staged and what format they will take. Perhaps New York designers are not fleeing the scene, but rather, starting a new trend that will guide the scope of the fashion calendar moving forward.
Main Image c/o Marc Jacobs