We relish the excitement of New York Fashion Week as a dizzying, somewhat dyslexic time, when we bundle up in our winter’s wool and fur, while bustling by the boutiques on Madison and Fifth Avenue, brimming with the bright fashions of early spring and resort, simultaneously scurrying to survey the styles sashaying the runways for next fall. It can give a girl a fashion identity crisis!
Hilary, Pam Taylor & KK
Analyzing the current affairs of New York Fashion Week, piqued our interest to peek back to the start of it all. Before New York, there was Paris, only Paris. The designer darlings invited the most cherished devotees to shows held at their ateliers, know as “défilés de mode” or parade of fashion. Chances are good, that one or more of New York’s retail brothers, Julius, Samuel, Louis or William Erlich had been in Paris to witness the pageantry and brought it back to their emporium on The Ladies Miles. In 1903 the Ehrich Brothers Dry Goods Store at Sixth Avenue and Twenty Second Street, put on a show and New York Fashion Week was born.
Ehrich Brothers NY Times Ad 1890
Ehrich Brothers Dry Goods Store today. Photo by Army.Arch
By 1910 most large department stores were hosting Fashion Shows to bring the styles of the day to their attentive group of well heeled women, eager to wear the latest designs, mostly copied from French couture.
1910 Models Parade at Wanamakers New York
Carriages wait for shoppers across from Sterns Brothers Dry Goods 1903 – NYPL Collection
In 1943, the visionary fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert created the first organized assembly of designers at the Plaza Hotel and called it Fashion Press Week. It was during the war when travel to Europe was out of the question. With the outpouring of patriotism in this country, It was also an opportunity to recognize American designers for the first time. And whereas the Paris shows operated as a closely guarded secret, the American shows would be much more democratic, like us. Invited press were introduced to designers such as Norman Norell and Claire McCardell. Eleanor’s continued promotion of home grown designers, led to the founding of Council of Fashion Designers in America in 1962. Her impact on American fashion is incalculable.
For fifty years the shows continued to be held in various venues throughout the city, some of them less than ideal. At a 1990 Michael Kors show held in a loft, cracked ceiling plaster rained down on the attendees while the stalwart models, covered in dust, continued to strut, and the attentive audience picked the chips from their scalps.
It was 1993 when Fern Mallis, Executive Director of the CFDA, had the foresight to bring the designers together under one flap and the tents went up in Bryant Park. It was a fantastic and frenzied scene as the city’s most powerful fashion elite dashed from town cars and taxis, ran up the steps and disappeared behind the drafty doors, as throngs of students and fans milled around with aspirations of entry or spotting their designer du jour.
A vivid memory from February 2010 was learning of the tragic, self-inflicted death of Alexander McQueen. The startling news ran through the throngs creating torrents of sorrow and tears. It seemed a harbinger of the changes ahead. It was the last time that the show called Bryant Park its home.
In September 2010 the entire operation was moved to Lincoln Center. Here the magnificent Josie Robertson Plaza provided a perfect medium for budding bloggers and photogs. Students and indefatigable fashion fans lingered as before, but instead of the treacherous six feet of sidewalk on Sixth Avenue, now there was the marvelous expanse to inhabit. People came to record, to be recorded or to watch the show unfold. The colonnade of The David H. Koch Theater was a gauntlet to be maneuvered skillfully in stylish stilettos. Everyone was having their fifteen minutes of fame.
From Jamee Gregory’s Articles on Fashion Week
This was the early days of Social Media and some scorned bloggers for their entree into the scene. Editors and buyers were giving up coveted front row status to the young men and women with vast networks of followers. Devotees of Bryant Park longed for the past venue, while some complained the atmosphere took on that of the big top. But for five years, the shows remained at Lincoln Center ironically at the long time site of the Big Apple Circus.
Very young bloggers or were they looking for the circus?
In 2015, the shows departed for downtown locations – Clarkson Skylight , Moynihan Station were the two main events. It led some designers to find their own venues, others decide to take a break. At the same time, the business of fashion was changing. The immediacy of Social Media had a huge impact. Today, virtually every attendee is their own photographer, videographer, journalist and model. Women don’t want to wait for fashion and the “See Now Buy Now” concept gained popularity. The shows have shifted to be even more democratized as the audience can live stream the shows. This is a far cry from the traditions of the past when fashion followers had to wait for WWD and others to publish the collections and then wait 6 months more to buy them.
The CFDA understanding the shift in consumer patterns, commissioned a study on The Future of New York Fashion Week. “The unanimous consensus among our interviewees: the time is ripe for change in our market and ‘In-season relevancy’ emerged as a recurring idea.” The study also made the point that designers should do what is best for their business. There are various ways to bring a product to market and the organization has many programs and initiatives to aid designers in finding their most effective solutions.
Savvy designer, Nicole Miller who for decades has mastered the fickle fates of fashion, illustrates this point of making an individual decision for her brand. Nicole’s first show was in 1991 at Laura Belles, the posh supper club at 120 West 43rd Street. “This year I am showing at Industria under the NYFW umbrella and I am very psyched about it. I generally prefer a downtown venue so this works for me. I was never a big fan of the tent situation, however when there is just one venue it is better for editors and press logistically.”
Backstage at Nicole’s Show
Our beat for Fashion Week has always been what to wear to the shows rather than reporting on the runways. We have been consistent with our approach to presenting our curated collection of what is available now. Almost nine years later, our mantra still applies, “We take the guesswork out of dressing, the legwork out of shopping and the panic out of packing.” See it, buy it.
Hilary’s picks are right on trend. “Whatever the venue may be, Fashion Week is always inspiring, exciting and admittedly, stressful. And part of this whirlwind is what we are going to wear. Since the Fall shows are in February, I usually opt for a chic warm coat and stand out accessories. But this year I am thinking to change it up and play a bit of the fashionista. Have fun with it and not take it too seriously. Thus my outfit choices below. You can’t go wrong with jeans and I am loving wide leg pale denim, but of course black is always safe. A pretty blouse or colorful sweater add just the right mix. Pale pink is speaking to me this season and always flattering. Instead of an all purpose tote, why not carry an interesting bag, since all you really need is your phone, lipstick and credit card. Add a white boot or shoe, still a current look, statement earrings and of course the all important shades and you are good to go … uptown, downtown or where ever the shows may take you.”
Leggy Beauties, Ann Caruso and friends.
Just how do you maneuver, running from show to show in either sweltering heat or artic cold? As usual, Hilary is far out in front when it comes to style. For me, I tend to dress for comfort in classic black, and some sleeves to temper the cold February breezes. This Kenzo Sweater Dress is ideal. Thick heeled pumps are a boon to running to the runways but not giving up my stilettos. Some statement earrings and cat eye shades complete the look. I fell in love with the Fendi Runway bag, just large enough hold all of the essentials for a day of crisscrossing downtown.
Regardless of potential changes that are coming, the business of fashion is firmly rooted to New York City. Women’s Wear Daily reports, “New York Fashion Week generates almost $900 million for the greater metropolitan area — more than the U.S. Open, the New York City Marathon or the 2014 Super Bowl. New York City’s fashion industry employs more than 184,000, accounting for 5.4 percent of the city’s workforce; pays $11.6 billion in wages, and generates $1.4 billion in tax revenue annually.
For a complete schedule and to watch the shows live, go to Fashion Week Online.
And the future? Is is widely speculated that New York Fashion Week will have a permanent new base at the Culture Shed in Hudson Yards. Watch this fascinating video on the multi-arts center, the first of its kind in New York. Culture Shed Hudson Yards.
Stay tuned for the future of NYFW!