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Amid fashion’s rapid evolution and regular shakeups, there’s something comforting about New York Fashion Week’s predictable Saturday schedule. Regular showgoers know they’re going to trek it deep into Brooklyn for the Eckhaus Latta show and that, later in the afternoon, they’ll make a mad dash from Christian Siriano to Jonathan Simkhai.
But across the week, it’s not all business as usual. Tomorrow, Rebecca Minkoff will be returning to the NYFW stage after a two-season break, and Thursday marked Elie Tahari’s comeback after three years. There’s also been some falloff of designers, some of which have decided the reported $100,000-plus investment is no longer worth it; consumer and industry behaviors have changed, while fashion week has remained relatively the same. Pyer Moss is sitting out, as is Calvin Klein. Other recent drop-offs include Tommy Hilfiger, Zac Posen and Altuzarra.
“I didn’t find we were getting much out of it,” said Elie Tahari, founder and designer of his namesake brand, of why he left the fashion week schedule in the first place. “We have our established clients, and I didn’t think it was as necessary as it used to be.”
What brought him back this season was a celebration of his brand’s 45th anniversary and the coinciding launch of its first fragrance. “It’s a good time to celebrate,” he said, noting that those attending his show were people the brand has worked with over the years, including influencers, who live-streamed the show as part of their brand partnership.
This morning before her show, Jane Siskin, founder of Cinq à Sept, expressed her wavering feelings on the week. “I have mixed emotions about fashion week, as a general rule,” she said. Cinq à Sept was one of the few brands that were new to Saturday’s lineup, changing from Thursday, which was a strategic move. “During the week, a lot of our retail partners aren’t here, and a lot of the international people aren’t here,” said Siskin. “If we can get a bit later on the calendar, we can see more people.”
Wei Lin, co-founder and CEO of PH5, which presented on Thursday, said she and co-founder Mijia Zhang are currently debating dropping off the fashion week schedule. However, just five seasons in, they feel they’re still testing the waters. “We see it as a time to try to build the brand,” she said. “It’s not an immediate return thing; I don’t think being featured in Vogue or the New York Times does much for us at the time, but we can’t tell. We’re questioning everything: What is it that we’re trying to get out of this? Why are we doing this? Should we do something differently? We’re giving it time.”
While holding a seasonal show like clockwork seems to be working for some brands, others are now regarding it like a marketing menu item. They may or may not choose it, depending on their priorities at hand, from promoting a launch to celebrating a milestone.
“Everybody right now is navigating this fast-paced era of communication,” said Ivan Bart, president of IMG Models and IMG Fashion Properties. “So every brand and design house is taking a breath, taking a minute, and thinking about how they can best reach their consumer. Connecting with that person and getting to know them better is what it’s all about.” — Jill Manoff
5 Questions With … Designer Christian Siriano
What’s the significance of showing at 30 Rockefeller Plaza this season?
I was working on the collection, and it is kind of this idea of futurism. I went to this idea that we had to move tomorrow off of this planet, into this new world, into another realm, wherever that was. And I felt like Top of the Rock was that place, because we’re at the highest point in New York. It’s overlooking the world in a way.
What’s your take on fashion week as an effective marketing tool today?
For us, it is super-important because it’s the one time we can show people what fashion should be: this idea of beauty, closing the show with an amazing model — we’re closing with Ashley Graham. We’re showing all of the reasons why fashion should be, and not the superficial, annoying reasons.
You were one of the first to present a diverse model lineup on your runways. Do you agree that there’s been progress in terms of diversity across the industry?
There is progress. There are a lot of retailers now getting involved, there are more editorials, more covers of these amazing, beautiful women. It just takes time, and there just needs to be more — more diversity, more people supporting.
You mentioned retailers. You opened your first brick-and-mortar store last year, in New York. Why go there?
We had to be closer to our customer. We love retailers, but unfortunately, they don’t always relate to the designer anymore. It doesn’t work. We couldn’t listen to someone saying, “Strapless dresses aren’t selling this season,” and then we sell out at my store. That’s why we did it — so that, in one place, we could see what the customer really wants.
So do you want to pull out of wholesale retailers altogether?
I want a mix [of wholesale and DTC]. It has to be a better balance. If the collection isn’t in a hundred-million stores, I don’t care anymore, at least not as much as I used to.
“Are you guys influencers?”
“No, we’re on ‘Westworld’”
— front-row banter at Self-Portrait
“It was really fashion-y. It’s unfortunate.” — an attendee leaving the Eckhaus Latta runway show
“You can’t come in this way. No. It’s a full house. There’s about to be a show going on.” — a PR rep fending off a UPS delivery man attempting to walk into a side door of bar-nightclub Gospel, two minutes before the Cinq à Sept show
John Elliott will present his fall-winter 2019 collection tonight at 8 p.m. Streetwear enthusiasts are already buzzing about the collaboration the designer teased today on Instagram: a second iteration of his Icon sneaker with Nike and LeBron James. Last year’s version was black and white, the new style is tan and gold.
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