NEW YORK (AP) – No celebs taking the first rows. No paparazzi chasing models through the streets. No crowds with stiletto heels. No crowds really. Does it even make sense to do New York Fashion Week in 2020?
Yes, organizers say: it’s about economic survival.
“Fashion is ultimately a business, and Fashion Week is a platform for designers to do business,” said Steven Kolb, CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which hosts the biannual event. So this is about jobs … it’s about people’s livelihoods. It’s about moving forward, but cautiously, for safety reasons. “
With that important priority in mind – safety – the CFDA has pushed designers to go digital this Fashion Week, which starts Sunday evening and runs through Wednesday. It’s pretty much all going to be virtual: less than a handful of labels have decided to show in person. They include Jason Wu, Rebecca Minkoff and Christian Siriano, the latter showing in faraway Connecticut. There will be severe restrictions, from distance from masks to required COVID testing in some cases.
For the seventy designers offering so-called ‘digital activations’, there is a new platform from CFDA, Runway 360, where people can watch the shows and designers can engage with buyers and consumers in various ways – what Kolb describes as a modern version of the old Manhattan tents where the industry once gathered during Fashion Week.
The “week” will even feature a version of the annual CFDA Awards – usually presented with fanfare at a glitzy gala in June, but will be canceled this year. The winners will be announced by video on Monday.
However, a number of top designers have completely opted out. Among them is Marc Jacobs, the industry’s great showman, who traditionally closes Fashion Week with his hugely creative runway shows.
“To be honest, I don’t know what we’re going to do or when we’re going to start, but to design a collection I need my team,” Jacobs explained at a Vogue event in April. “And my team has to look at fabrics. And those fabrics come from Italy. And we travel, and many things happen. Until we discover a new way of working … or discover a new end goal to work towards, we really have nothing to do. “
Other major labels not participating: Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Prabal Gurung, Proenza Schouler, Tory Burch. Many have decided to show later in the year, or in a different format.
Designer Anna Sui presents a video of her new fall collection, inspired in part by a documentary she saw about the French, female Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot, and by a thedailynewsbox of influences Sui thought of during that long time at home – including beautiful home-baked cakes.
Sui initially says she couldn’t even imagine putting a collection together, given what was happening in the world and the ripple effect on the industry.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” the designer said in an interview. “I’ve been in business for a long time, until 9/11 and then (the financial crisis of) 2008. But this is really very seismic. It destroyed our entire system. “
“We all wonder, who is going to buy?” she added. Who wants new merchandise? And will we ever see orders like we used to? Not only have the shops changed, but the consumer has also changed. “
Like everyone else, Sui was totally taken by surprise when the world was essentially shut down in March. Her company had to take orders from her spring collection and struggled to even complete them; most orders were declined or canceled, or buyers asked for a massive discount.
“And I thought, how can you continue?” she said. “I couldn’t get my team back.”
But then, she said, she started thinking about fabrics and watching a lot of movies.
So I put it in my head for a while. And then I would sneak into the office and start working on it. And I’ve put together a story. And that’s what my spring collection is, are all those influences that were going on during that period of being home for so long. ”
When is there a ‘normal’ Fashion Week? Tom Ford, the influential designer and new president of the CFDA, has already said that he doesn’t think things will be back to normal in February, when designers showcase their spring collections, and won’t do his own show. (This season, he will be presenting images from his fall collection in his own slot on Wednesday.)
“If I just try to pay as many employees as possible and don’t have to cut back or pay more time off, there’s no point in spending millions of dollars on a show,” he told Women’s Wear Daily. “I prefer to pay our employees. Plus, I think it’s dangerous and irresponsible to have an audience now and not something to encourage. “
Kolb says February remains an open question, but is confident that live runway shows will return. “We all agree that nothing can replace a live show,” he says.
Kolb likes to quote Ford when asked if the fashion industry will eventually recover: After the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the prosperity of the Roaring Twenties came. “There is a pendulum,” he says. “We will be ready at some point to get out of sweatpants and T-shirts.”
One thing Kolb, Ford, and Sui all agree on is the hope that the current crisis will lead to a reset for an industry in excess.
“There were way too many seasons, way too much merchandise,” says Sui. “So I think this (gives) everyone a chance to put themselves on hold and rethink how they did it.”
“I know it has been a struggle not only for our industry, but for so many industries,” adds the designer. And it will be some time before things get back to normal, if they even return to normal. “
Associated Press writer Alicia Rancilio contributed to this report.