Just Follow the Money...
Mercedes-Benz New York Fall 2011 early registration was $80 per person and up to $120 for late registration. So lookonline.com registered 6 people for a total cost of almost $500. Now, what do we get for our money? An ID badge that give each access to the lobby and, if they don't run out of them, an editorial bag filled with mostly junk (I went three times to get the voucher and they did not have them). The IMG press list gets us into nothing as invites must still come from the designers/pr firms and many work off their own lists. And let us not forget many of the top designers do not even show at Lincoln Center, but instead prefer their own venues.
What is next? Selling tickets to the shows is already a reality. American Express has been selling show packages for years to their members to benefit the Vogue Fashion Fund. What next? IMG could make even more money off of us poor journalists and photographers by offering a limited number of "premium" or tier level 2 press passes for say $1500 each. These special press passes would allow journalists or fashion bloggers (not sure they are one in the same) who don't usually get decent access special reserve seating to every show that IMG does at Lincoln Center. IMG could then split the fee with each designer willing to provide X number of good seats for this "premium" or tiered access. It would be a win-win for both IMG and designers who want to help fund the cost of showing their collections. Just wait, that will be next!
It is true IMG has opened the shows up to more and more people. Why not? It pays IMG to let those hundreds of 20-something year old bloggers who are happy to fork over $80 or more to become part of the "scene". Meanwhile, NY fashion week becomes an ever growing spectacle, a circus of sorts, promoted by IMG in much the same ways as the Oscars, US Open, Emmy Awards and the Superbowl. What was once a trade event for the buyers, retailers and fashion press has more and more been taken over by paying sponsors and national celebrity press as a mass entertainment/marketing vehicle. NY fashion week is now part of the annual circuit of entertainment events that are heralded, promoted, co-sponsored, hawked and branded. Fashion week is bigger than any one fashion designer's show. Is it any wonder that many of the biggest name designers do not relish being upstaged by the purveyors of cars and bottled water and choose not show at the Tents?
The question in our mind is: as several thousand people during fashion week get a seat or stand at one or more of the venues - who are they and what do they all do? OK, I think we all know who are in the front rows - any F.I.T. student can come up with that list. And, for the next two or three rows up at the main "Tent", those seats are surely filled with other "A" and "B" list assistant editors, fashion bloggers, minor celebrities, freelance writers, sponsors' clients, stylists, minor retailers, retired ex-VIPs, important and unimportant out-of-town press, designer's psychiatrists, favored friends and relatives, boy friends of the models, hairdressers, -- but what about the rest?
By the time you get to those beyond the sixth row, who are they? Are we all in the industry connected somehow by only six rows of separation? From one show to the next a never ending stream of people walk in through the main entrance. As a casual observer watching this parade, we are hard pressed to find many clues as to who these fashion groupies are? How many of them have anything to do with the fashion industry at all? Our guess is many of them are brought in by the PR firm or publicist who is handling the front of house for each designer. Each publicist has his or her own group of people -- call them "fashion extras" who can be relied on to fill the house with friendly, attractive and eager faces.
We know many legitimate journalists and stylists who cannot get invites into the major shows. People who contribute and participate in our industry and make a valid contribution to it. It is no secret that much of the traditional out-of-town press no longer come to the New York shows because they cannot get enough invitations to make the trip cost effective. In fact, it has been suggested that some designers do not even want informed editors reviewing the collections. Why subject the collection to the scrutiny of an experienced eye who cares for how the dress was made, and whether the seams were sewn on straight? Better just have the likes of some 20 year old fashion blogger or a Full Frontal Fashion like program running live streaming reports online or 30 second video clips of highlights with some "fashion commentator" wide-eyed gushing over how wonderful the collection is?
So when anyone asks me what is the future of New York fashion week, I just say: "follow the money".
(This editorial incorporates a past article entitled "Six Rows of Separation").