Big changes are afoot for New York Fashion Week. After February, the official event will move from its main location at Lincoln Center, following a legal dispute over its use of a nearby city park. The main sponsor, Mercedes-Benz, has pulled out and WME-IMG, the company that owns and produces NYFW, is set to acquire MADE Fashion Week, which stages shows in and around Milk Studios and is considered a competitor to the main event.
But the most important change involves the way the week’s calendar is managed. The CFDA has bought Fashion Calendar from Ruth Finley, who, each season, cobbled together a massive schedule of over 350 shows — over 200 of which happen at independent venues across the city. And while July will see the launch of New York’s first menswear week, which will corral the men’s shows into an event better aligned with the international menswear calendar, that still leaves hundreds of womenswear shows to contend with every February and September. How are editors and buyers supposed to sift through them all?
Thus far, the CFDA has been tentative about any sort of vetting process at the event — curating a fashion week schedule can be a highly political process, fraught with fashion drama. This season, the new, CFDA-owned calendar will offer ‘NY Fashion Highlights’, a list of 30 ‘defining’ shows anonymously selected by editors and retailers. While this will help attendees to sort the wheat from the chaff, it will exist in the context of the overall 'official schedule', which will still include over 350 shows.
The CFDA has taken promising steps to give its logistics a Spring clean, making the new online calendar searchable, adding maps with subway routes and linking up with Uber. Going forward, new designers will have to formally apply to the CFDA to be considered for a slot on the official NYFW schedule. But designers already involved in the event need not apply. “We can't go backwards and tell people they can't show anymore,” Kolb said at a demonstration of the new digitised New York Fashion Week calendar in January.
On the contrary. Fashion Calendar as it was originally conceived was not an official fashion week schedule, but rather an amalgamation of hundreds of independent decisions about when to show and where. Like everything in fashion, from the collections to the magazines, New York Fashion Week needs an edit — a more tightly curated, recommended list of events. 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, co-ordination and quality assurance.
In an interview with BoF back in 2011, CEO Steven Kolb queried, “Who is the voice of God? Who’s to say that the CFDA or some committee with an opinion should decide who has more talent than somebody else?”
But limiting the number of fashion shows on an official schedule does not mean stripping out all of the lesser-known designers in favour of big names. The essence of a good fashion week is healthy biodiversity and it is the job of organisers to make fashion week a dynamic and varied ecosystem comprised of established brands, high potential brands, some new faces, and a range of different aesthetics across the collections.
Of course, there should still be room for independent, off-schedule shows to happen around the main event. If the CFDA sets up a fair selection process and really considers the mix across the overall event, it could actually turn NYFW into a richer fashion environment — and one where the shows actually have a better chance of being seen.
What NYFW needs now is a good, old-fashioned edit.
What do you think would improve NYFW the most? Have your say, powered by State.