At New York Fashion Week on Monday, brands including Adeam, Carolina Herrera and Zankov got their shows in before the snowstorm that’s expected to blanket New York City in several inches of snow tomorrow. Some NYC events like the New York Botanical Garden’s orchid show set to run on Wednesday have already been rescheduled.
But there’s still much going on as NYFW enters its second half. Read on for more about how designers positioned themselves as the antithesis of fast fashion and how a London-based creative studio scored a viral moment involving New York City’s ever-present rats.
The viral hype behind Uncommon Creative Studio’s Ratboot
On the first day of New York Fashion Week, I received an intriguing email about something called Ratboot.
What is Ratboot? I had no idea, and the email was confusingly vague. “What do Jamie Lee Curtis, Ozzy Osbourne, Clint Eastwood and Emma Watson have in common? They’re all rat lovers. And with the 3 million rats in New York City, so are we,” the email read. “RATBOOT is taking over the city—from the streets to the subway to the front row at NYFW.”
The name turned out to be quite literal. On Saturday, model and stylist Jenny Assaf sat in the front row of fashion brand The Blonds’ NYFW show wearing a pair of boots with comically large soles in the form of a cage, inside of which there were two stuffed rats. The boots were instantly talked about, getting mentioned by The Cut and the New York Post. But the biggest shot of attention came from an Instagram post from content creator Janette Ok, who posted a video of the boots to her 173,000 followers on Instagram. The video was subsequently viewed over 97 million times, which is nearly as many people who watched the Super Bowl on Sunday.
The boots were a creation of the New York brand of the London-founded creative agency Uncommon Creative Studio, known for its award-winning campaigns for British companies like ITV and British Airways. It’s not the first fashion-related stunt the company has pulled off. In 2021, it launched a brand called Ballyhoo meant to parody the extreme hype culture around brands like Supreme with clothes that ranged in price from one cent to $1 million. Sam Shepard, chief creative officer of Uncommon, told Glossy that when he drew an initial concept for the Ratboot to show to his boss, Uncommon’s co-founder Nils Leonard, it was the “dumbest sketch I’ve ever made in my life.”
“We just established the New York office in September and we wanted to do something to sort of announce that we’re here,” Shepard said. “We decided that New York Fashion Week would be a good time to do it, but how can we get talked about during New York Fashion Week? We wanted to make the most ‘New York’ boot imaginable, something that combines the elegance of New York Fashion Week with the gritty reality of the city.”
Instagram comments about the boots ranged from fawning to disgusted. But Shepard said he’s most proud of the attention the boots received, in general, considering they went up against the dual competition of NYFW and the Super Bowl.
The boots will be auctioned off with the proceeds being donated to a charity that rescues and rehabilitates domestic rats. The project was not in collaboration with any clients and was done purely to announce Uncommon’s presence in the New York market, Shepard said.
At a time when viral moments are king and brands compete for buzz in an increasingly competitive attention economy, Shepard said the key to a viral moment like the Ratboot is not to overthink things.
“Sometimes we, advertisers, are our own worst enemy,” he said. “We try to overengineer things. I honestly think we just need to meet people where they are rather than trying to force things to happen.”
‘The opposite of slow fashion’
In recent years, it’s become less uncommon to see fast fashion brands with an NYFW presence. PrettyLittleThing showed a collection last season, and H&M hosted a pre-NYFW party at its newly opened SoHo store last week.
But NYFW is also an opportunity for brands to emphasize how their carefully made collections are unlike fast fashion. Multiple designers told Glossy this week that they characterize their brands as “the opposite of fast fashion.”
Alexandra O’Neil, the founder and designer of the women’s luxury brand Markarian, showed its autumn-winter collection on Monday afternoon at the brand’s showroom on 20th Street. The styles featured floral prints and patterns inspired by the immaculate heart motif found in Venetian churches.
Markarian’s clothes are made-to-order and the finishes are done by hand there in the brand’s showroom. O’Neill, who said she takes all of her design notes and sketches every concept with pen and paper, emphasized that trend-chasing is not something that enters into her design process.
“I don’t do any sort of trend forecasting,” she said. “I’m aiming to create something more timeless — pieces that will last a long time, things that you have to invest in. Not just money, but time, as well.”
Fashion, at the highest level, should be about setting trends, not chasing them, she said.
Hila Shtork Zigdon, the founder and designer behind the womenswear brand and boutique Zcrave, said her 6-year-old brand is “not in the same business as fast fashion.”
Her brand showed off its most recent collection with a runway show held in its SoHo flagship store on Sunday evening. Zigdon said she considers her brand “affordable luxury.” While some of the pieces can reach as high as $3,000 for a coat, she is positioning the newest collection with an average price point of $300.
“We don’t follow trends,” she said. “Because when you do that, you give your clothes a short shelf life. You can wear it today, but maybe not tomorrow. We’re trying to make things that you won’t get bored with after wearing them two times.”