Welcome to Glossy’s New York Fashion Week newsletter, bringing you on-the-ground insights and analysis from straight off the runway. All week, we’ll be sending behind-the-scenes glimpses and interviews with industry members straight to your inbox. Sponsored by Shopify Plus.
There were ominous signs leading up to New York Fashion Week this season, with designers like Tom Ford, Jeremy Scott and Tanya Taylor all falling off the calendar. Ford’s absence was most notable, given that he’s president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America; it would seem keeping the event relevant would be part of the job description.
For some designers, the omnipresent chatter about fashion week’s reduced importance rings true.
“With online platforms being so prevalent, a fashion show is not the only way to showcase a new collection,” said Alexandra O’Neill, founder and designer of Markarian, who showed her fall collection in a presentation last week. “People are looking into different mediums, myself included. It is exciting that, in this day and age, every designer has the opportunity to present their collection in a way that feels true to their brand.”
But for newer and younger designers, fashion week is still an important milestone — a way to show they’ve made it, several agreed.
For Nachae Davis, a design student at Clark Atlanta University, who won a design competition hosted by Footaction and the Pensole Design Academy, there’s still magic around NYFW. (Foot Locker, which owns Footaction, also invested $2 million in Pensole last year.) Davis was given the chance to show her designs at a Footaction-sponsored show on Tuesday night, and her winning designs will be sold at Footaction stores. On top of that, she’s been given $15,000 to start her own brand.
“I went to LaGuardia High School, which is right behind Lincoln Center, and my friends and I used to stand outside and dress up really nice. We’d act like we were bloggers and try to sneak in to shows,” said Davis.
She said a NYFW show can potentially be a huge boost to her career, and it’s a goal for her to come back and show again under her own brand.
Ironically, while social media has been called the reason fashion shows are less relevant today (designer Naeem Khan said as much backstage on Tuesday night, as did Alexandra O’Neill), it’s also part of the reason that showing is still so effective for new designers.
“There’s a lot of competition out there right now,” said Angela Medlin, a footwear veteran who is the director of the Functional Apparel and Accessories Studio at Pensole. “Everyone can be a designer now, even if they just make a few pieces and take pictures in a single room and put it up on social media. It’s really hard for new designers to stand out. So fashion shows can provide an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.”
4 Questions With Designer Naeem Khan
How has fashion week changed since you started showing 18 years ago?
It’s changed quite a bit. It’s sized down a lot. People are conscious about how much they’re spending, the environment, the impact they have. What is the return on a fashion show now? That’s changing, for sure. It doesn’t have the same value that it once did because of social media. The pictures on social media are what everyone’s looking for. But I still love it.
What return do you get on it?
You see my clothes. They’re very intricate. They need to be seen up close. It’s different to see it up close on a woman’s body than just in a picture on your phone on a hanger. To be honest, I don’t look at the return. I don’t really care. I create beauty because I love it. It’s not about finance.
So what do you like about fashion week?
My business is a niche business. It’s global — 220 stores — but it’s for a very specific customer and I like that I can bring all those customers in for an intimate affair. All the editors I know are here, all my buyers are here. So I do it for that reason.
Have you changed the way you run your shows?
For sure. I do it in my own home, for one. [Laughs.] This is my building. I live right upstairs. We are not in some big stadium, not in a museum. I’ve tried to make it more economical and less wasteful. It’s cost-effective and and I’m making a statement.
Ewan McGregor shadowing Naeem Khan backstage at his show. “He’s playing [fashion designer Roy] Halston [Frowick] in a TV show, and Halston was a friend of mine, so he’s here observing,” said Khan.
“Listen: I love and respect all of you, but you have to shut up.” –a staffer backstage to an unruly group of dressers and makeup artists who were disrupting a TV interview
“I’m trying to keep my cool, but it’s really hard, because that’s Ewan McGregor.” –a worker backstage at Naeem Khan
As it’s the last day, there isn’t a ton left to see and do at New York Fashion Week. Theory has its men’s and women’s presentation this afternoon, and Sukeina and Fe Noel will round out the day. As usual, Michael Kors will close out the official calendar with his runway show at 6 pm tonight.