Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What Happened to NY Fashion Week?

The Mercedes-Benz Lincoln Center fashion shows produced by IMG have gradually lost their cachet. They are not what they used to be. What was new and exciting about them in the 1990's, now seems old and passé . But worse, they have become boring for a lot of us. There is no fun being there anymore. No sense of an industry getting together. And where else does the press have to pay to cover an event? The venue is like going to an airport.  It is all so sterile and uninviting. Years back, there was an opening night party for all in the industry to get together; a cocktail party every afternoon/evening to network; sponsors offering all kinds of foods, goods and personal services that made everyone feel special. All of that is now very limited.

Why is it gone? Because there is no reason to cater to the press. Who cares what most of them say? Hundreds of opinions, some informed and many more uninformed -- it all just so much background noise.  Fashion week today is not really about what the industry thinks at all.

For better or worse, the shows have purposely evolved into a form of mass entertainment in the same way as the Oscars did. Just as the red carpet hype at the Oscars overshadows the awards, the fashion shows have become secondary to all of media hype going on during the week. To put it bluntly, the media is the message and not the clothes. The question remains, does the event actually sell the clothes?

A lot of major designers do not seem to think so. They recognize fashion week, as organized by IMG, is really not about them. However, technology is allowing these same designers to reach just as many people in far more exclusive and controlled settings than at a Tent where they have to share the spotlight with lesser lights. One thing about fashion, when it becomes too all encompassing it loses exclusivity. It appears anyone with the money can show at the Tents. If they have talent, all the better!

FashionGPS had a cocktail party and panel discussion recently at Bumble & Bumble about the future of fashion and technology. There was a Q&A after with the audience. When a question was asked of Peter Levy, SVP Managing Director, IMG Fashion as to why so many major NY designers do not show at the Lincoln Center venues, he responded by saying that some designers can show anywhere they want. A follow-up question asked "Do you think the shows no longer have the cachet and thus many major designers feel it is better for them to show elsewhere?" There was no response.

While the Lincoln Center shows are still the central focus of New York fashion week and remain "too big to fail", it has become less and less where the real fashion story is happening. More and more, it is to be found in other venues among other designers. There are over 300 shows and press events scheduled for the upcoming NY fashion shows in September, and only a minor percentage of them are showing at the Tents. And unless IMG finds new and more creative ways to instill new interest in their shows, they will continue to lose their luster.

Perhaps if they just brought back the fun again...

-Ernest Schmatolla

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