Glossy’s daily New York Fashion Week briefing brings you on-the-ground insights and analysis from straight off the runway.
At J. Mendel’s Fall 2018 presentation, which was inside the Ladurée restaurant in Soho on Tuesday morning, designer Gilles Mendel’s intricate dresses and fur coats were displayed on mannequin forms, making the collection look more like a display in a museum exhibit than something anyone could actually wear.
“The runway can be a great place for expression, but the movement of the collection is so fast,” said Mendel, who’s held his position as creative director for his family’s company since 1981. “There’s no space to really spend time with the clothing. There’s no appreciation that comes with being close to the clothes. A presentation done well creates a wonderful sense of intimacy for us.”
Mendel’s designs include lace craftsmanship and stitch work, and by setting up the clothing on immobile mannequins, viewers could touch and examine each piece down to the last detail. Mendel didn’t mind that the format meant it would be up to the guests’ imagination to envision what each gown looked like when worn by an actual human. “If it looks this fantastic standing still, just think of how amazing it would look in motion.”
As fashion week continues to go through a time of transition, designers are mostly landing in one of two camps: those who stay on the runway and those who choose a presentation. Despite existential hand-wringing, the runway isn’t dead. The heavyweights like Ralph Lauren, Coach and Calvin Klein have stayed on the runway, after all, making it feel like fashion week is business as usual.
In contrast to J. Mendel, Badgley Mischka designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka built a Spring Studios runway show around the movement of their gowns: Models gripped the corners of skirts to make the fabric float as dramatically as possible in front of the mass of photographers gathered at the end of the runway. But there was still an element of presentation, done digitally. The designers asked attendees to download an app where they could view the details of each outfit (what it’s made out of, what pieces are involved in a look) and give feedback.
It was clear the designers craved both the traditional drama of a runway show and the one-on-one interaction of a presentation. Whether it worked is unclear, but it didn’t look like attendees were engaging with the app.
For the voices who are making a case for the presentation model, their reasoning is united around common themes: the engagement, the intimacy, the creative canvas on which they can project a collection’s vision trump the runway, which sits at arm’s length.
“A presentation is like theater,” said Alice + Olivia designer Stacey Bendet at the presentation for her Fall 2018 collection on Tuesday at Industria. The theme was collegiate, and the production saw models lying, sitting or standing about on sets in the brand’s new pieces. “It’s more engaging, and you have to be thinking about Instagram today. The way clothes move on a runway is really beautiful, but to me, this is so much more dramatic, in a storytelling format.”
So if Bendet is to be believed, there’s no fashion week crisis. There are just new decisions to be made.
Ken Downing, the fashion director and svp at Neiman Marcus, will see just under 100 fashion shows this season. That’s a light year. It used to be about 120 overall — and at one point, it was that many shows in New York alone. Things are changing.
“Fashion is in a transformative state. The industry has a real challenge ahead of it when it comes to how we address fashion weeks and present collections,” said Downing.
As designers change the ways they show their collections — be it on the runway, in private appointments at showrooms or at presentations — the buyer’s job is ultimately unchanged, according to Downing.
“Do you need a big fashion show to buy a great collection? You don’t. It can be exciting if there’s drama or creativity, or a great moment, but you really don’t.”
Paris Hilton at the Alice + Olivia presentation, writing a note on a branded display wall themed around female empowerment. She wrote “The future is female.” Points for participation, if not for originality.
“It made me so sad when Rachel Zoe went to L.A. Why do designers keep doing that? It’s not going to catch on. If I get an invite for something in L.A., I’m like, ‘LOL, what? No.’”
- Votre Paris, an ongoing fashion campaign run by the Parisian design studio Yveline Kay Atelier, is looking to livestream the fashion shows of emerging Paris designers inside American department stores — just not during fashion week, when it’s already too noisy.
- Unpacking the different formats of fashion week, from presentations to Instagram shows.
Last night, Ralph Lauren’s latest see-now-buy-now show premiered on the runway. It was a punchy, Jamaican-themed show ready for summer that received mix reviews during a time when Ralph Lauren’s revenues overall are slipping. In its latest financial report, the company announced a net loss of $82 million for the third quarter. Here’s to hoping see-now-buy-now can save it.