For consecutive seasons, designers have been indirectly begging for an updated fashion calendar. A resounding message: Shifting the February and September fashion months to June and December will alleviate many festering frustrations.
Alexander Wang finally called out the problem earlier this month, when he announced he’s leaving New York Fashion Week following his fall 2018 show in February.
“The strategy behind it was looking at production and the supply chain,” said Stephanie Horton, Alexander Wang’s chief strategy officer, during the “Front Row to Consumer: The voices driving fashion week in today’s digital era” panel, hosted by the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Launchmetrics in NYC on Thursday. “We were asking: How do we better serve our customer? How are we able to do more drops? How are we able to diversify product so that, while it’s still directional, it’s also seasonal?”
Wang will still show in New York, but he’ll be going an independent route: aligning his main shows with the traditional pre-season schedule — June and December — rather than the more structured, multi-brand NYFW.
In the past few years, other designers have made similar changes, opting to debut their collections months earlier than the dates designated by the official, CFDA-owned fashion calendar.
Steven Kolb, president and CEO of the CFDA, credited those changes with fueling the big “New York Fashion Week is dead!” story last year: In January 2017, both Rodarte and Proenza Schouler announced they’d be fleeing New York for Paris, to show during the city’s couture weeks in January and July. Rodarte owed it to a need for more production time, and Proenza Schouler called it a way to give collections (which the brand simultaneously cut from four to two) more shelf life.
“To me, the story wasn’t that they were going to Paris,” he said. “The story was: They were shifting their timing … to have the same advantages Alex [Wang] will have in December and June.”
He noted that Public School tried the same move in 2016, when it pulled out of New York Fashion Week. Designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne announced they’d be showing in June and December, to better sync with their retail delivery dates.
“Maybe it was too soon,” said Kolb.
Today, however, the alternative fashion months have promise.
Kolb said the CFDA has been talking privately with a lot of brands about showing earlier, and many are considering it — specifically younger brands, interested in condensing collections (to two versus four, by nixing pre-season collections) and adopting a more flexible schedule. A June-December schedule not only facilitates more inventory drops, it allows for more free time. (“[Wang] could take the whole month of August off, which is unheard of in American fashion,” Kolb said.)
He also said he wouldn’t be surprised if Rodarte and Proenza Schouler return to New York to line up with Wang, and the other designers who will inevitably follow his lead.
“There will be a transition period, a period of chaos,” Kolb predicted. “A core group of designers will root themselves in June and December, and if that business model holds true and proves successful, everyone will migrate and go there.”
There won’t be stragglers showing in February and September, said Kolb. Those who don’t update their schedules will stop showing altogether, choosing to instead move to market appointments and more business-centered transactions.
“Internally, we call it ‘the Helmut lang factor,'” Kolb said, explaining that NYFW used to come after the fashion weeks Europe, until NYC-based Lang decided he wanted to show first. “Calvin came right after that, and now — where are the American shows? They’re all before Europe. In the 12 years I’ve worked at the CFDA, this is the first time the possibility [of such change] seems real to me.”
According to Horton, being among the first movers was a big risk for Wang, but it was a risk worth taking: The business model needs to change, because the consumer has changed. “Why do something that’s not working, just because that’s what people think you should be doing?”
As for whether other fashion weeks will join NYFW in June and December, when the time comes, Kolb is hopeful. “[The CFDA] great relationships with other cities, and they have an open mind. Milan and Paris aren’t as stubborn as they seem.”
Image via gq.com