Le Roi est Mort, Vive le Roi : Is New York Fashion Week Dead?

by Omi 

One of the current and prevailing realizations among fashion insiders is the realization of the continuous decline of NYFW. Ever since the decentralization that took place a few years back the NYFW scene has been hemorrhaging home grown designers to Paris. Rodarte, Proenza Schouler, Altuzarra, Thom Browne are just a few of the hometown talents that have decided that Paris is a far better destination to show their work. So it is no surprise that the gloomy predictions about NYFW is slowly but surely taking hold. The fragmented scheduling, the decentralized venues along with a ton of bureaucratic mess have rendered the most commercially viable fashion week into a most bankable nightmare. The exodus of young designers has added considerable skepticism to the idea that New York is still the crown jewel of the fashion weeks. So what went wrong? Is this the end of NYFW as a force? 

Before we mourn the demise of an institution or celebrate decentralization of exclusivity, we must first realize what brought on this exodus of designers from NYFW. The primary reason most if not all designers who left the NY circuit is because of commercial reasons. The amount of money you have to spend to have a show in New York renders any long term profit nearly impossible and the return of investment is never a sure thing. The exuberant price of admission does not equate to comparable commercial success. And since all designers would prefer artistic expressions complementary to commercial success and vice versa, the leap into such a colossal financial commitment does not make sense commercially. So instead of showing in New York, the home grown talents decided that it is financially more viable to show in Paris, Milan or even London, as the exposure is comparable and the cost of such exposure is far less intolerable. 

Brand's own commercial strategy aside, one of the major points of contention is the decentralization of NYFW. The fact there is no main venue for the fashion week is a cause for a lot of headaches for editors, photographers and almost anyone who covers fashion weeks in any capacity. It is not a viable model if you have 30 mins or less between shows but the shows are miles apart. Even with New York's fairly easy public transportation, such an ask is asking too much. The decentralization factor has made NYFW somewhat unbearable but not completely without irredeemable, as both Paris and Milan along with London suffers from the same sort of dilemma but NYFW's decentralization issue is far more problematic as it is a far bigger city than any of the other big three cities, and ultimately not having shows within a designated zones create a lot of unhappy buyers and press. Fashion weeks are all about perception and if the perception sets in of inefficiency and chaos for a fashion week, it affects the commercial value of such an event. 

Logistical issues aside NYFW poses an interesting philosophical question about the future existence of Fashion Weeks in general. NYFW along with all other big fashion weeks are ripe for disruption. The system of 'show and tell' is built on a very traditional organizational foundation which to many young designers, editors and photographers would seem outdated and worth rebelling against. In an Instagram-Facebook heavy world, the once exclusive peeks into the fashion world is not exclusive anymore and that in itself devalues a lot of the old traditions and customs which hammered out ideas of fashion weeks as necessary for commercial success and creative appreciation. So ultimately the NYFW may be the lower half of the Titanic that is about to run into the iceberg. And if that is the case, without reorganization, without reinvention, all fashion weeks are in trouble and NYFW is just ahead of the curve as it descends into unknown territory. And may be that is really where the crux of the matter is... Fashion weeks (with the high cost of entry and low return of investments) are ripe for a rebellion from within. The disruption, the decentralization, globalization are just a few forces that are making fashion insiders rethink and retool fashion weeks. And the sooner NYFW realizes that its current model is obsolete and a new model (that focuses on the experience as opposed to exclusivity) is needed, the better off it will be. And if NYFW is able to address this 'come to Jesus' moment, they will be well-equipped to address the challenges that will be knocking on all fashion weeks' door before we could say, "disruption".