As NYFW officially comes to a close today the traditional runway and presentation method of showing a new collection felt a bit outdated this season. There was a theme this year that we have seen before in small doses, but this season really took it to a new level. The immersive fashion show experience – otherwise known as getting the audience in on the action. Brands like Rachel Comey, Thom Browne, Opening Ceremony have historically had more theatrical ways of presenting a new collection. But brands like Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Tommy Hilfiger, Tom Ford, J. Crew, found a way to get their audiences involved in a new way.
MNZ staged a performance piece-style presentation with models dressed in the new collection, and while guests watched, began to throw tableware to the floor and shatter around the room. She said it was a nod to her Iranian culture, as breaking dishes wards off evil spirits. However, the performance reminded me of the final scene of the immersive show Sleep No More. I have no idea how the clothes looked.
J. Crew invited friends of the brand, or more specifically, Jenna Lyons to model during the presentation. Women like Tamu McPherson, Ramya Giangola, Jenny Kang all wore the SS17 collection for their colleagues. Tom Ford showed his Fall 2016 collection during a seated dinner with a performance by Leon Bridges. This was essentially the same format Rachel Comey has been doing for awhile at Pioneer Works in Red Hook – diners can eat a real meal and enjoy the new collection while models walk among them. However, this year, Comey celebrated 15 years in business with a sidewalk presentation of the new collection worn by her friends. The collection was filled with favorites of seasons past and in the show notes described the How and When of each look: drop off, brunch, date night, etc. It was as unpretentious as the brand itself.
Tommy Hilfiger staged a far more elaborate event at South Street Seaport’s Pier 16. More than 2,000 people were invited and took part in carnival activities before the show began. I read more about Alexander Wang’s afterparty McDonald’s catering than I saw about his new collection.
Other designers are setting themselves apart in different ways. Christian Siriano added plus-size models in his runway show – this being his way to demonstrate his brand’s part in the more inclusive approach to dressing women of all sizes. Rebecca Minkoff showed her see-now, buy-now collection on Greene Street and then opened her store so guests could shop what they had just seen. Ralph Lauren did the Upper East Side version of this on Madison Avenue last night.
Now, to what I think about all the above hubbub: I appreciate that brands are doing their own thing. At this point fashion shows have become purely an extension of brand building. Everyone is leaving their mark, disrupting in some way, in order to be remembered later for more than just the clothes. Obviously the goal for such statement-making events is to make an impact on social media in a compelling way. Being the sort of purist that I am, I do miss traditional shows and presentations. When I spoke to Mona Kowalska of A Détacher last year she told me she uses the same group of people and venue every season to show her new collections. I admire the loyalty and really respect that she feels so secure in the brand’s position within the market to keep doing things the same. And A Détacher is doing better than ever.
My point is is that while the spectacles are entertaining and exciting, at the end of the day, isn’t it still just about the clothes? Doesn’t it all come back to whether or not the brand actually sells on the retail floor? Likes and reposts are fleeting – if they don’t convert into a dollar amount does it even matter? This is something I have struggled with for awhile; does the illusion or lifestyle the brand is selling during fashion week mean more than actual sales? What does the see-no, buy-now mean at a deeper level? I’m also still sorting out if waiting for something you love means anything anymore. I have so many questions…