Do People Still Care About New York Fashion Week?

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  • Tommy Hilfiger
    Tommy Hilfiger
    American fashion designer
Models walk the runway wearing Tommy Hilfiger Women’s Fall 2016 during New York Fashion Week on Feb. 15, 2016. This year, Tommy Hilfiger will show his collection in Los Angeles, not New York. (Photo: Getty Images)
Models walk the runway wearing Tommy Hilfiger Women’s Fall 2016 during New York Fashion Week on Feb. 15, 2016. This year, Tommy Hilfiger will show his collection in Los Angeles, not New York. (Photo: Getty Images)

On Feb. 1, designer Raf Simons, whose impressive résumé boasts stints as creative head at Jil Sander, Christian Dior, and now Calvin Klein, showcased his namesake line in New York for the first time, during Men’s Fashion Week.

The Belgian native revealed a collection that was largely an ode to New York City. Sweaters took visual cues from iconic “I ❤ New York” tees and the plastic “Thank You” bags that greasy street-cart food comes wrapped in.

And if you’re basing your judgment only on the hype around Raf’s show, New York Fashion Week, which runs from Feb. 9 to Feb. 16 this year, seems as essential to the industry as ever.

A model walks the runway at the Raf Simons show during NYFW: Men’s on Feb. 1, 2017. (Photo: Getty Images)
A model walks the runway at the Raf Simons show during NYFW: Men’s on Feb. 1, 2017. (Photo: Getty Images)

But other designers aren’t as sweet on New York. A handful have opted out, with plans to show in a different city, hold a nontraditional show outside the Fashion Week calendar, or not show a collection at all.

The list includes veterans of the NYFW circuit: Rebecca Minkoff, Rodarte, Tom Ford, and Rachel Zoe. Designer Rachel Comey has opted to do a part-sit-down-dinner/part-presentation, which she frequently hosts, in Los Angeles. It’s also the last year that NYFW stalwart Proenza Schouler will show in the U.S.

Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, co-founders of Opening Ceremony, chose to present their Spring 2017 collection ahead of NYFW in February, not on a runway, but onstage at the New York City Ballet. Opening Ceremony has shown in New York for five years, but Leon said that Fashion Week’s predictability, combined with the changing landscape for how people consume fashion, made it clear to them that OC was ready to try something new.

“The ability to watch shows online has really changed things,” Leon said. “If you want to see an outfit, a shoe, the details, you can immediately go online and examine it. So traditional presentation is less important.”

Worth noting: Cameras and videography were prohibited during the Opening Ceremony ballet on Jan. 28. Although a ban on flash photography is a standard rule during a live performance, the policy helps stymie the in-your-face deluge of smartphones you’d otherwise have on a traditional runway. That’s important because social media has diminished the cachet of an exclusive runway show, once reserved for the fashion elite. Instagram, for example, accounted for 97 percent of social media engagement at NYFW last year. Nearly anyone can go — and broadcast — the shows, giving copycats a window to rip off a collection and sell it cheaper (see: Zara).

Opening Ceremony’s last show during New York Fashion Week was in September, though the brand put on more political performance than runway show. (Photo: Getty Images)
Opening Ceremony’s last show during New York Fashion Week was in September, though the brand put on more political performance than runway show. (Photo: Getty Images)

As for the designers showing in other cities, namely Los Angeles and Paris, they may be doing so in part to appease business interests. Tommy Hilfiger, for example, chose Venice Beach, Calif., for its upcoming “Tommy Pier” show, a locale that mirrors the collection’s cool-girl California vibe, according to the brand.

But the move is more business strategy than fashion statement. Shoppers will be able to buy items from the collection directly after the show itself, translating real-time social media fervor into sales. After last year’s Tommy x Gigi Hadid show, “there was a 900 percent increase in traffic to tommy.com overall in the 48 hours following the show — more than 70 percent of visitors during this time were new to tommy.com,” WWD reported.

The Hilfiger see-now-buy-now model isn’t the only way that designers are adapting. In some cases, a brand forgoes a runway show altogether. Private showings, such as the one Diane von Furstenberg held for her Fall 2016 ready-to-wear collection, help fashion houses regain control over who sees what and who’s in attendance.

Small presentations are also easier — and cheaper — to produce than a runway show. A 30-minute runway show can easily cost hundreds of thousands, between renting the venue to paying the models. Meanwhile, designers can slap together a presentation for only $2,000.

Model Gigi Hadid and Designer Tommy Hilfiger walk the runway at the #TOMMYNOW Women’s Fashion Show during New York Fashion Week in September. This year, Hilfiger will take his NYFW show to California. (Photo: Getty Images)
Model Gigi Hadid and Designer Tommy Hilfiger walk the runway at the #TOMMYNOW Women’s Fashion Show during New York Fashion Week in September. This year, Hilfiger will take his NYFW show to California. (Photo: Getty Images)

While NYFW might seem like a drag to the heavyweights who have complained about it for years, there are plenty of people who aren’t ready to give up on it yet. (And, to be fair, September’s schedule is considered the more important of the biannual fashion weeks in New York.)

For one, the city of New York financially supports Fashion Week. In September, Mayor Bill de Blasio spearheaded a $500,000 campaign to promote the local designers, after pledging an additional $15 million to the industry. It helps, of course, that Fashion Week generates $1 billion in tourism alone for the city.

NYFW is supported by its sponsors too, who don’t seem to be pulling their money out of the event. This year’s backers include Etihad Airways, Getty Images, and Lexus — the company that replaced Mercedes-Benz as the event’s chief sponsor in 2015.

Perhaps most important of all, NYFW provides a platform to emerging designers who realize the level of prestige that comes when you debut a collection in the American fashion capital. In non-fashion-speak, it’s like when your favorite sports team makes the playoffs.

New Orleans-based designer Terris Zakar, a 22-year-old newcomer to the industry, is bootstrapping his way to Fashion Week through a GoFundMe to cover his entry fee, travel, and lodging expenses. While Zakar is presenting at the Walk Fashion Show Independent Designer Showcase with other young designers — where costs for the venue and models are covered — he still can’t afford to go without some help.

Zakar said going to NYFW is so important that he’ll attend whether he meets his $5,200 crowdfunding goal or not.

“I feel like it’s going to open so many doors for me as a designer. Someone could help me get my brand off the ground,” Zakar said.

While Tommy Hilfiger can afford a beachside extravaganza in Los Angeles and Rodarte says bonjour to Paris, designers still trying to establish themselves will always need the exposure that comes with NYFW.

I’ve been trying to connect.” Zakar said, “and I had met someone a while ago — a stylist — but it’s hard to find people just through Instagram.”

Alexandra Mondalek is a writer for Yahoo Style and Beauty. Follow her on Twitter @amondalek.

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