In this weekly feature, InStyle’s Fashion News Director Eric Wilson shares his favorite fashion moment of the week, and explains how it could shape styles to come. Look for it on What’s Right Now every Friday.
The Moment: Ending a long and bumpy residency at Lincoln Center, New York Fashion Week’s major hub for runway shows will vacate the premises following the Fall 2015 presentations in February. While the move, to an as yet undetermined location in September, has long been expected, a settlement in the New York City courts this week underscored just how unwelcome designers have been there, and how unhappy the rest of us have been about it.
The Friends of Damrosch Park, a neighborhood group that protested the pollution and greenery destruction that resulted from the twice-annual affair, had sued IMG, the company that produces Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, because the runway production blocked access to a public park for many weeks of the year. IMG, after complaints that many designers and guests were unhappy there, too, had already begun exploring new options.
Why It’s a Wow: For years, New York designers have sought to find a unified home for their runway shows, succeeding in the early 1990s by opening the original tented affair in Bryant Park. Those shows, which operated under many names (7th on Sixth, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, Olympus Fashion Week, General Motors Fashion Week), became so popular that the designers eventually outgrew the space and then moved to what were described at the time as classier digs at Lincoln Center.
Along the way, as with most golden geese, the event began to lose its luster, partly the result of a glut of questionable marketing events that sought to capitalize on American fashion’s newfound popularity. Major designers decamped to offsite locations. These days, when we speak of New York Fashion Week, we rarely speak of Lincoln Center, so, to put it mildly, the eviction represents a big opportunity for IMG, for the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and for fashion in general.
It’s time to rethink Fashion Week, which, in New York alone, typically features more than 300 designers vying for attention in major publications that, from my experience, will publish only about 60 of them, if that. Spreading them out to even more locations around the city only ensures that fewer people will be able to physically attend very many of them. More often than not, designers give no consideration to who shows before or after them, or where, resulting in an absurd caravan of taxis, Town Cars, and, for the public-transit advocates among us, convoluted subway-to-bus excursions, trudging (and wasting money and polluting the environment) from Chelsea to the Upper East Side to some pier on the Hudson River.
It’s a mess that a new home alone will not fix.
This year, the CFDA began to take control of the Fashion Calendar, an institution run by Ruth Finley for more than 70 years keeping track of those shows. One of its priorities should be to corral designers of like product (meaning those who focus on men’s wear, or contemporary, or high-end women’s wear) into consecutive time slots, and within the same neighborhood, so that the journalists and retailers who are most likely to attend will actually be able to do so. Another goal should be concentrate the most important shows in the morning and evening hours, so that people actually have enough time to get to their offices for more than 15 minutes at some point in the day. Yes, that opens a big can of egotistical worms in determining who gets the primo spots, but take a look at who attends which shows as it stands, and figure it out.
And, finally, to IMG, a friendly suggestion: Take a lesson from fashion. People will pay more for a prestige product. Drop the number of sponsorship opportunities to those of utmost importance (and, hopefully, relevance), and charge them more for the privilege of exclusivity.
Eric Wilson’s Weekly Wow column is going on hiatus for the holidays, but will return Friday, Jan. 9. Happy holidays!