As designers like Alexander Wang and Joseph Altuzarra pull their collections from the New York Fashion Week calendar, Alice McCall is just getting started.
The stylist-turned-designer launched her namesake label 16 years ago, but this season marks the first time she’ll debut a collection on the runway on the official NYFW schedule, this Saturday at Industria. Based out of Australia, the London-born McCall has partaken in both Australia and London fashion weeks before. The time slot and location came together last minute, as McCall said she only decided in December that this would be the year she would show in New York.
“I was just suddenly like, ‘This is it. It’s time. We have to do the show in New York this year,’” she said. “We were lucky to be accommodated.”
In the days leading up to her show, McCall is working out of a borrowed studio space in a Tribeca penthouse, finalizing looks and hosting model fittings. Ten members of her Australia-based team, from the design, marketing and wholesale departments, have joined her to spend the week leading up to the show working in New York.
Beyond gut instinct, McCall decided it was time to show in New York as her brand is gaining popularity internationally. Her designs have been worn by celebrities like Rihanna, Beyoncé and Kirsten Dunst, and are now sold through global outlets like Net-a-Porter, Farfetch and Moda Operandi, in addition to a Australian network of boutiques and 12 brick-and-mortar stores. McCall hopes the show will capitalize on current momentum, as well as heighten the brand’s profile. While she’s proud that the prices of her pieces — which are mostly party dresses and tops — are accessible, her next goal is to elevate her brand.
“This show will be successful to me once we get that nod, that seal of approval, from our buyers. Then we will have a place in New York Fashion Week, which is still an important platform,” said McCall. “I want the customer and audience to know that, as well as being a commercially viable brand, we can hold our place in a high-end forum down the runway. And I think we will.”
Finding a proper match
Working alongside McCall is Anna Trevelyan, the stylist putting together the final 38 looks that will be featured in the runway show.
“I found her on social media. She just seemed to get the girl we’re after: She’s strong, sexy, but cheeky,” said McCall. “As a former stylist, I understand the importance of that role, and so I gave her time to look over the entire collection without me breathing down her neck. I think that helped a lot.”
Models’ casting cards
On the Wednesday before the show, Ann is fine-tuning the final looks, matching them with models, and demonstrating the way they fit and flow on the models as they walk for McCall. One model, wearing a red leather overall jumper with white heels, comes out and parades in front of McCall as she gives the go-ahead.
“It’s collaborative,” she said. “I mean — she’s styling the entire show, and it was so important that she gets the looks on brand. The whole point of the runway show is that people can look at it and say, ‘Oh, that’s an Alice McCall.’”
Down the runway
While McCall is sending 38 separate looks down the runway, that only accounts for about half of the new collection. What’s unseen will still go on sale, it just wasn’t as suited for the spectacle of the runway, she explained. With each look is a pair of shoes and a bag that McCall designed specifically for the show. Each outfit has a unique shoe that was made at the same factory as Manolo Blahnik’s and was just delivered on Tuesday.
McCall with Trevelyan and a makeup artist during fittings
“The work that went into this show — you do have to ask your brain to think differently,” said McCall. “The shoe design, the bag design. That was all done specifically for the show. The set. The music. The casting. The seating arrangement. Quality was so, so important.”
Keeping an eye on sales
For McCall, her first runway show is a balance: She wants to elevate the brand, but without alienating her existing customer. So while some pieces — like the finale, which is a pleated lamé piece reminiscent of an ‘80s prom dress — are meant to dazzle, the idea is that most are fit for pre-order. Immediately following the show, the entire collection (including what wasn’t shown on the runway) will go on pre-order through Moda Operandi and the brand’s direct e-commerce site.
“Capturing that moment right after the runway is important, not just as a payoff for the show, but also to show us what’s going to sell,” said McCall. “It’s direct market research. What should we invest in? What’s going to do well? That’s so important for us to know, and it makes this entire investment worth it.”