In 2017, four well-known young American fashion brands decided to show their new collections on the catwalks of Paris.
These were largely business decisions and would mean little to the average customer. But cumulatively within the fashion industry, they represented an exodus: confirmation of a broader nagging feeling that New York Fashion Week, which normally drew 150,000 visitors every February and September, was losing its seal of approval.
For the next three years, that narrative persisted: New York Fashion Week was either dying or already dead. (Even after two of these outgoing brands, Proenza Schouler and Rodarte, returned to New York in 2018.)
Now, a long quarantine later, there are signs of a resurrection.
The other half of the deceased – Altuzarra and Thom Browne – will return to NYFW in September after three years in Paris. All but Mr. Browne are determined to stay in New York for at least three more seasons.
These unusual commitments are the result of an initiative called the IMG Fashion Alliance, organized by the management company that creates the NYFW: The Shows calendar, sponsored this year by startup Afterpay.
In return for a promise that will last through 2022, IMG will help fund and support a total of 11 designer shows or events, which can cost up to six figures. The goal, said IMG on Wednesday when announcing the incentive program: “Ensure a bold return and a bright future” for New York Fashion Week.
It’s no surprise that IMG, which represents models, photographers, production designers, stylists, hair and makeup artists and more, wants fashion to revive after 18 months of collections that are mostly presented through “digital activations” (many) returning the catwalk short films and lookbooks).
“The success of our business is the success of the fashion industry. We are very keen to really bring the community together and rebuild a stronger fashion industry,” said Leslie Russo, president of fashion events and real estate at IMG. “New York Fashion Week is still the # 1 top-selling event in New York.”
Though often inside events, the shows and parties generate nearly $ 600 million in revenue each year, estimated to be more than the Super Bowl, New York Democrat Carolyn B. Maloney said in a report from the 2019 highlighted the economy of fashion week.
Outside the oversized bubble of Spring Studios, the IMG fashion headquarters, there are other signs of life for New York Fashion Week. The much-anticipated America-themed Met Gala moved May through September to close NYFW. Pyer Moss, arguably the liveliest brand in town, will also be on display in September, ending a two-year break on the runway. Tom Ford, President of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, announced Monday that he will also showcase a collection.
For Joseph Altuzarra, the decision to bring his runway to New York – similar to his decision four years ago to bring it to Paris, where he was born and raised – was “a very emotional, personal decision.” He made it to the city during the pandemic.
“I felt a really strong kinship with the city that I hadn’t felt so deeply in a long time,” said Altuzarra. “I missed the energy.”
He believed that despite their best efforts, no brand had found a “convincing replacement for a show,” he said. He also liked the courtesy of the IMG initiative. Several designers, including Mr Altuzarra, signed a letter last May pledging to adhere to a more sensible seasonal shopping calendar – a rare show of collaboration in fashion.
“Prepandemic, there was a lot of a feeling that everyone was doing their own thing,” he said. “People are now much more open to thinking about different models and different ways we can do things and build community.”
However, the community is less attractive to another brand that has worked with IMG: Telfar, the iconoclastic label under the direction of designer Telfar Clemens and artistic director Babak Radboy. Although the last two live presentations were in Florence and Paris, the highly independent company is little known for traditional runway shows – more likely for palace nights and after-parties at discount stores – and for setbacks from industry associations (including words like “alliance”). .
“We want to be able to support New York and young designers who are trying to show in New York,” said Radboy. “We’ll keep doing the things we’re interested in. They can be called part of New York Fashion Week, but we’re certainly not doing a runway show.”
When asked if Telfar would ever do another runway show, he replied cryptically. “In terms of the loosest definition of it,” he said. “I think we have one planned for this summer. That’s a secret.”
(As for NYFW in September, Mr. Radboy doesn’t say exactly what the brand has planned, despite offering “television” as a cue.)
For the most part, however, designers who work with IMG are more firmly anchored in the industry and share the view that New York Fashion Week is something special regardless of business associations. “We are honored to be part of an incredible community of creativity that inspires us to do our best,” Rodarte sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy wrote in an email.
Sergio Hudson, the Los Angeles designer who recently outfitted Michelle Obama for the inauguration, put on his first runway show at Spring Studios a month before the pandemic. It was a lifelong dream, said Mr. Hudson, but then “we made pretty much no sales for the season.”
He hopes a revitalized New York Fashion Week will help the business. The more editors, buyers, and other decision makers come to New York to see the clothes in person – to experience the energy of the space – the better a designer’s chances of survival within the traditional system.
But Mr. Hudson is equally driven by the emotion of it all. He sees this as an opportunity to “show the world that we are a fashion capital,” he said. “And yes, we have something to say about what women should wear.”
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