NEW YORK, United States — New York Fashion Week is finally slimming down.
Starting this September for the Spring Summer 2020 season, runway shows and presentations will last five days and five nights instead of the current seven-day, eight-night format, according to the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). The shorter week will run from the evening of Friday, September 6 through Wednesday night, September 11.
The condensed schedule marks Tom Ford’s first major move in his new post as CFDA chairman, and addresses one of the chief critiques of New York Fashion Week — that it drags on longer than its equivalents in other cities, increasingly without the roster of marquee brands that draw international press and buyers to those events.
Ford could not be immediately reached for comment.
A tighter lineup will better accommodate buyers and editors, who could cut down on their travel budgets and move on to London for the next round of shows without having to scramble, said Steven Kolb, the CFDA’s chief executive. Improved turnout would in turn potentially lure back designers who have decamped for Paris and other cities in recent years, a small but steady exodus that has diminished New York’s status among the fashion elite.
The decision was welcomed by some larger brands that show in New York.
People coming in from all over Europe, all over Asia, whether they’re editors or wholesale buyers, I think they will applaud.
“If we think of fashion week as the opportunity to show product to trade, I think that anyone who is visiting New York for that opportunity would love to see things as efficient and as condensed as possible,” said Victor Luis, chief executive of Tapestry, Inc., which owns Coach and Kate Spade New York. “People coming in from all over Europe, all over Asia, whether they’re editors or wholesale buyers, I think they will applaud.”
But a shortened fashion week also means that fewer labels will make it onto the official calendar, which will favour well-known designers with global businesses. A tighter schedule will inevitably include overlap in shows, and designers may face heightened competition in casting models and securing the attendance of important buyers and customers.
“The one problem that we have being a New York-based brand is that if we have a lot of bigger brands showing on the same day. There’s always a conflict,” said designer Maria Cornejo. “If even more shows get rammed into one day then it’s hard to get the right models. You’re all fighting the same casting, and a lot of buyers too don’t go to shows because they can’t be going to appointments and shows at the same time.”
She added that while she supports the decision, “I just wonder who’s going to end up suffering ... I hope it’s strictly vetted and that they’re being mindful.”
According to Kolb, the CFDA will prioritise talent, creativity and demonstrating international interest when organising the calendar. Applications to show for the upcoming fashion week can be submitted starting May 15.
“There are a lot of relevant contemporary brands that are international and will be part of the schedule, but there are other contemporary and streetwear brands that don't have an international presence that don’t need to be a part of it, and they’re going to be the ones that are impacted,” Kolb told BoF.
“People who fall out of that [schedule], it’s not that we’d be abandoning those designers. We’ll continue to support them,” he said.
Spring Place in Soho and Pier59 Studios in Chelsea will continue to serve as hubs for shows, with the newly opened Shed at Hudson Yards acting as a potential third location, Kolb added.
Despite — or perhaps because of — the absence of smaller brands, proponents of the plan say that a shorter week will give it more energy and urgency.
“New York Fashion Week needs an edit — a more tightly curated, recommended list of events,” StyleZeigeist editor Eugene Rabkins wrote in 2017. “As the Chambre Syndicale does in Paris, and the British Fashion Council does in London, the CFDA should compile a tightly edited schedule of events and impose some form of curation, coordination and quality assurance.”
An edited schedule of events is precisely what Kolb and Ford are aiming for, with hopes that catering to the international crowd will help propel American brands onto the international stage — Ford’s foremost priority as chairman.
"Coming back from Europe, what's stunning to me was the isolation I feel here. I feel that America is one of the most isolated countries in the world. We're very inward looking," Ford told BoF in March. "What American fashion needs to become in order to be more relevant in the world is to think of itself as not just American but as international."
Ford’s official tenure as chairman begins in early June, succeeding Diane von Fursternburg in her 13-year term.
The CFDA, with a stated mission to “strengthen the impact of American fashion in the global economy,” aims to cultivate the community of designers in the US through awards, scholarships, mentorship, networking opportunities and, most notably, a showcase for their work at New York Fashion Week.
In recent years, the council has come under fire for not adequately providing support to its 500-odd members, especially those who are mid-career. Currently, the organisation offers young labels high-profile awards such as the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund — which grants winners $400,000 and two runners up $150,000 every year — and numerous guides to running a business, such as its sustainable materials index and the Elaine Gold Launch Pad program, a residency that supports emerging and young design talent.
For the group of designers that often are not validated by the industry, it’s hard for us to make that validation happen.
“It’s difficult sometimes to service designers beyond fashion week in a way that’s fulfilling,” Kolb said. “Not everyone can get a big collaboration or a big company sponsor, or get editorial pulls … We do a lot to service for them — at least once a month we have business development programming that’s open to members on all types of topics. For the group of designers that often are not validated by the industry, it’s hard for us to make that validation happen.”
With e-commerce, labels have struggled against changing tides in retail and consumer behaviour. The wholesale model through which luxury fashion has long operated is now crumbling in the emergence of online and fully vertical direct-to-consumer brands.
While Ford and Kolb have yet to lay out their vision for this next era of American fashion, the designer’s immediacy in chopping the fashion week calendar suggest that he didn’t take the chairman role as a vanity play — that the seven-time CFDA award winner is seeking speedy and substantial impact as head of the council.
“This is something the industry has been saying for a while. The [Fashion Week] challenge existed before Tom got elected, and he is a doer,” said Kolb. “I wasn’t sure it was possible for this September but he felt confident that this was something the CFDA could accomplish. You could shuffle papers on your desk all day and get nothing done, or you could dive right into it and that’s the approach we took.”