Fashion Week in New York ended last night like it always does on the third Thursday of February following a Marc Jacobs show, but this season more than ever feels like the end. It seems too reductive to blame the weather for the overarching sense of fatigue that filled the air last week. Certainly we’ve seen worse. And for a season that showed a fair amount of really strong clothes — I’m thinking particularly of Prabal Gurung’s stunning collection of dresses and snap pants and knits, Rodarte’s reimagined sinister fairy bride and Michael Kors’ minor burst of delight — what gives?
It’s almost like for the past however many years, editors and buyers and venerated show-goers have sacrificed their long holiday weekends, smack in the middle of the coldest month in New York, to attend fashion shows because, repeat after me: I love my job, I love my job, I love my job.
There is a certain adrenaline rush that invariably comes with lights dimming, chatter quieting and the loud music that indicates a starting show — the ostensible world of opportunity that will definitively change you at its best, provide a talking point at its worst.
It’s not difficult to grow addicted to it. But in the past three years — six seasons not counting resort and pre-fall — what we’ve found more than anything is that this adrenaline too often fails to provide the anterior change. Instead you’re left with a talking point that starts to mute itself out. So you wonder: why am I here? And if that question mark gets loud enough, no matter how good the clothes are, they’re tainted by your lack of purpose.
Of course, we’ve also become a dedicated legion of skeptics. Are the clothes here to share an idea, or to “break the Internet?”
Cue the eye roll.
The people seem tired! And frustrated, too. Bridget Foley of WWD tore Diane von Furstenberg apart following her multi-level presentation. Cathy Horyn accused Fashion Week of making many of us its bitch. I’m afraid to read any of Vanessa Friedman’s reviews; I feel like she may as well ram an axe through my screen. But can we afford to lose purpose? What do we have without it?
Possibly just blame. And there is plenty of that to go around. When in doubt, it’s the Internet’s fault, right? Here we’ve seen fashion turned up to a ridiculously high volume. It became a megaphone, and whether you wanted to hear it or not, it caught you. You had no choice but to consume it. So you did. Then the beast continued to grow. It hit an apex. Then it exploded like a balloon over-injected with helium. But for the people who work in fashion, an assemblage of creatives who live and die by the matriculation of trends, this picking up the pieces of latex has offered a confusing inflection point where we have no choice but to stand.
Because here’s the thing: maybe we’re reading fashion week as a trend. And maybe we feel like the “trend” of fashion week has ended. Are we deluding ourselves into believing that fashion week is “out of style”? It sounds ridiculous but if you think about it, the establishment by definition revolves itself around trends — identifying new ones, discarding old ones, turning the interim ones on their heads and so forth. So we’ve muddled the pieces with The Thing that houses them but! — and there’s a big but — as is always the case with any trend, it’s cyclical.
That ravenous craving always comes back. And when it comes back quickly is often when you know it’s not exactly a trend.
So what to do until then? Stick it out, pursue the silver lining, intellectualize the shit out of the clothes and remember what brought us here in the first place. It was never even actually about the clothes. It’s the characters we project! The decisions we make! The lives we get to orchestrate and ultimately, live in the clothes.
So live we shall.
Photographs by Phil Oh for Vogue.com and Krista Anna Lewis for Man Repeller; collage by Emily Zirimis