Oct 05, 2017 | By Carlene Thomas Bailey
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Feb 10, 2017
New York Fashion Week kicked off today with a ripple rather than a bang. Actually that’s not quite true, it kicked off with a huge bang over on the rival coast in Los Angeles, where Gigi Hadid and Tommy Hilfiger put on the most talked about show. The theme? ‘Everyone is invited, models, social media stars, and more importantly you, the consumer’. It was a celebration that you could get a fancy invitation to, or you could sit in the comfort of your home watching it unfold on Snapchat (and hopefully buying it too).
But we can’t count that. Because New York Fashion Week happens in New York, currently a city covered in snow, not the Venice Beach sunshine.
But it got me thinking, this season there’s already been so much chatter about designers leaving the city to show in Paris or Los Angeles, and Fashionista went so far as to ask Is New York Fashion Week over?
It’s an interesting question because NYFW can never really be over, but it is changing, the ‘see-now, buy now’ buzz is causing a stress and the continual catwalk location changes don’t help, plus some of New York’s biggest designers are jumping ship.
Proenza Schouler is headed to Paris, Hood by Air already had its Spring 2017 show there, Rihanna moved her Puma runway show from New York to Paris, and then there’s Rodarte also headed to France. While this season saw Tommy and Rebecca Minkoff swap New York for Los Angeles (at shopping space The Grove and Venice Beach).
So if not New York, it’s all about Paris and Los Angeles then right? Cities that present two hugely different ideals.
Paris is the home of fashion, of classic couture styles and hand written invitations rather than digital ones. It is exclusive and beautiful.
By contrast there is Los Angeles, which has struggled to shake its perception as the lesser New York ( too laid back, too inclusive). It is a city with an approach to fashion that says ‘everyone is invited to the party’ and so that made New Yorkers think, ‘well if everyone is invited, do we even want to go?’ there was no VIP seating, no extremely noted front row. But Los Angeles can’t be slept on anymore, its retail scene is booming, and west coast consumers want to shop. It’s a shift that begun in 2015 and has been building steam. In 2015 WWD noted: Retail Making Strong Comeback in Los Angeles. And then in 2016 High Snobiety ran the article saying Why Los Angeles Could Be the Next Fashion Capital. Plus Rebecca Minkoff’s most innovative digital store is in LA, complete with smart walls and mirrors that encourage consumers to shop from the changing/dressing room.
However this idea of industry inclusivity and exclusivity goes beyond the locations. It is also a fashion feeling. Last year Vogue kickstarted a twitter storm with the argument against bloggers at fashion shows, and bloggers fought back.
In my opinion widening out fashion week beyond a room of five editors is a great thing, it has brought with it more voices to the party (including writers, bloggers and editors of different races, and as one of the very few black fashion writers, I’m 100 % here for this).
But this 24/7 news cycle and the digital innovation that has opened up the way fashion is seen, embraced and digested across the globe does make me think (especially when I see smartphone cameras go up at the end of NY runway shows now instead of claps for the designers who spent six months toiling way to create the dresses). I wonder is such wide-reaching, constantly connected inclusivity really helping fashion? Even if we miss seeing the actual runway show because we are trying to Boomerang the perspex heel of the model and GoPro the finale, and make sure we get the blurry snap of Anna Wintour on the frow). Is the allure still there if you see the show through the Instagram filter of the person in front of you?
Has New York, one of the first global fashion cities to embrace the democratisation of fashion week (I’m thinking of Anna Wintour’s spearheaded Fashion’s Night Out events here and Kenneth Cole’s 2013 social media runway with the models tweeting the audience) been consumed by the huge level of inclusivity? Maybe the luxury laggards in Paris, with their more industry focused, restricted seating settings are on to something?
Or maybe it’s the opposite? Maybe LA has the attitude right.
Get designers like Jeremy Scott over to shake things up at MADE Fashion LA, create some fun around the shows again, let’s invite everyone in, let’s give them a stunning show, let’s bring fashion to life and make it as jovial as a party, rather than stuffy, like a beautiful relic of the past? As LA continues to claim its space as the new fashion hub, the new cool- I think that this is a question we’ll be asking more and more.
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