Altuzarra. Proenza Schouler. Rodarte. Thom Browne. Four of America’s most creative fashion brands have departed for Paris, leaving gaping holes in this season’s New York Fashion Week calendar, with more moves still rumored. There’s been a good deal of hand-wringing about this development, with many in the industry wondering whether New York is suffering from a crisis of relevancy. What has caused this exodus? And can NYFW get its mojo back?
Reports of the death of New York Fashion Week are certainly premature. The city is home to a dynamic fashion scene and the mix of designers showing at NYFW reflects that. There are daring upstart labels like Eckhaus Latta and Chromat; there are consistently innovative (and influential) small brand stalwarts such as Zero + Maria Cornejo; there are sportswear juggernauts like Michael Kors Collection, Ralph Lauren, and Tory Burch. The Alexander Wang and Marc Jacobs shows are still must-sees for anyone on the international fashion circuit, and with Raf Simons at the helm, Calvin Klein is once again essential viewing. That’s an incomplete list of what’s exciting and what’s important at New York Fashion Week, and meanwhile, for those who have observed a loss of energy in the local industry, well, there have been dips before, and NYFW has always rebounded.
But if New York is going to stage another comeback fashion-wise, the industry’s stakeholders must correctly assess the current state of affairs. The NYFW calendar has always been overcrowded. The collections shown here have long stressed retail-friendliness over directionality. And whatever the deficits of Manhattan’s venues, whether Skylight Clarkson Square or the umpteen pop-up locations all over town, it’s worth pointing out that London, Milan, and Paris aren’t exactly short of frustrations and inconveniences where show-hopping is concerned.
What is new and unique in the pressure it’s exerting on the biz, is the change in the nature of Fashion Week itself: What once was a conference for insiders, has evolved into a marketing platform, with show images disseminated worldwide in real time. Add to that the globalization of the industry, and what you get is a de-emphasis on locality, in terms of how brands identify, and an uptick in designers categorizing themselves according to sensibility. In leaving New York for Paris, Joseph Altuzarra, Thom Browne, Rodarte’s Mulleavy sisters, and Proenza’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez are saying, in…