Have Fashion Shows Become Fashion Week-Basic?

Leandra and Amelia text the arguments for and against.

09.15.16
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Leandra Medine: So many designers opted out of showing this season — I kind of feel like fashion shows have become fashion week-basic. Is that a ridiculous thing to say?

Calvin Klein, Derek Lam, Suno…and a lot of the younger designers too. It makes sense, and I don’t think it’s unwise.

Amelia Diamond: Yeah, when Katie Ermilio (who has recently done a cross between a show and a presentation) told me that she wasn’t doing anything this season I told her I thought it was smart.

I don’t think the smaller brands aren’t showing because it’s basic, I think it’s a lot of money and effort for not a *ton* of return (especially when there are now, what, 100 seasons to create collections for a year?). But I do think the larger brands might think it’s basic.

Leandra: Oh, definitely re: young designers. It’s extremely expensive and it’s really, really hard to cut through the clutter during fashion week.

What’s the point? Also…it’s ALWAYS fashion week on the Internet if you want it to be.

Amelia: Yeah the clutter. Too much clutter but I have to say — and maybe it’s because I went to less this year (because less people were showing and we had Haley at some shows) — I was reminded of why I think they’re important. They aren’t important for everyone but when they count, they really count.

I didn’t go to the Wang show. I was able to write the review…but GOING to the party helped the review. I caught more of the vibe of the show and his thought process.

Leandra: Can you give an example of another collection that you think wouldn’t have been as strong without the show?

Amelia: If Altuzarra didn’t show, and therefore I didn’t get to hear the injection of that metal song (which I think is the song from the trailer of the Nic Cage movie he referenced), then I wouldn’t have been like, “OH. I get the hardware and the tights and the python,” because that music, that very harsh jolt after what was your standard twinkling Altuzarra music, told me: “This is on purpose.”

I thought the show was beautiful but not your standard Altuzarra styling. If I saw it online, without the show notes, without the full effect, I would have been like… Oh, okay! Are we… are we wearing fishnets with python jackets and bra tops and rock belts now? I need the mood, the music, the effects of the audience’s mood. All of that helps me work through my opinion.

At Tome, too. There is something about being in the presence of a fast-moving collection, seeing the clothes do what they do on the body, how they hang, that I just don’t get from a photo. Some clothes are just more self-explanatory than others? Which isn’t a bad or good thing, it just is.

Leandra: Well, totally — that’s the thing about fashion week in NY.

Amelia: I don’t need to see a show of slip dresses.

Leandra: So many of our labels are contemporary and the clothes are really good and our designers are really exceptional at taking hard, interesting topics and trends and simplifying them for consumption, but I don’t know that those collections need to be seen in the show format. Yes, its important to see how clothes move.

But I don’t think that distracts from a trend that bubbled to the surface, which is that less and less designers are feeling like they have to show AND FURTHERMORE! That if they do show, it needs to be a spectacle. Case in point: Kanye West. Or even Michael Kors. Rufus Wainwright performed, it was so incredible and I’m so grateful I was there, but how can anyone compete? I ask that question not because I think anyone needs to compete but because that’s what all of this is now: a race to see who gets the most photos, tags, likes. I think about it from the perspective of the editors, too. By this point in the week, don’t all the clothes start to look like each other? And there are three more weeks ahead. It is a very long season!

Amelia: It is. It’s too long. Which is why not everyone needs to show!

Leandra: The other thing, though —

Amelia: And I was just talking with Leslie about this, but following the shows are the re-sees, where you get to go and see the clothes up close. So that’s an added step.

Leandra: Is that you really CAN feel like you were there because of Instagram Stories.

Amelia: Disagree.

Leandra: And if the designers staged shows as videos that they released through their social media right before the collection was to launch for customers…would that be so bad?

Amelia: Not bad, but not the same. BUT if I were a fashion editor, calling in clothes for photo shoots and trend pages and style stories, I don’t think I’d need to go. When I was at New York magazine doing market work, I mostly referenced photos from private appointments and runway shots. And if I were a buyer, I would only need to see the clothes in person, on a model, but in an appointment setting.

Maybe because I write, I need the whole thing. The ambiance. (In order for my thoughts to be genuine as opposed to scrapped together for a deadline).

Also, too, this isn’t a logical argument but it’s mine: I think there is something to the nostalgia of fashion week. That, fine, not everyone needs to nor should show, and that the smaller the better, the less of a circus and run-around, the better.

But can’t there also be an argument for tradition?

Leandra: Not when it costs enough to put you out of business.

Amelia: Again, that’s why I say not everyone needs to nor should show.

Leandra: Your comment about the writers, though, that brings up something else. Does anyone read these reviews?

Amelia: Knew you were gonna say that.

Leandra: I love writing them. I think they help me process how I see the clothes and then view the world, and I hope they do that for our readers. But we also know, statistically, that the readers who marvel in our reviews are a small number relative to the ones who are curious about the benefits of drinking mushroom powder (equally important!).

Amelia: Reviews are for press, for relationships, and then for anyone who still cares.

Leandra: Why do you say “still”?

Amelia: I think people used to read reviews because they felt like they had to. That if you didn’t know what Suzy Menkes said about a show, you didn’t do your homework.

That maybe your opinion was wrong, so you better check what Tim Blanks said. Designers based collections off of reviews. They took that criticism seriously and I think buyers did, too!

Now it’s just like a big ass you-do-you. From speaking to friends, it seems like most designers are influenced by buyers (in terms of ‘remove a sleeve’, ‘up the hem’) and buyers are influenced by the numbers they have to hit. Ultimately and cynically.

Leandra: Maybe what we’re both getting at, but not saying is that yeah, the show format might not work the way it does now, but shows still need to be held, maybe they just also have to be smaller.

Or maybe they don’t! Maybe they’ll get bigger and bigger and turn into the fashion equivalent of a rock concert.

Amelia: BLAH. No way. I think the big designers would do well with tightening up their invite edit — which I realize could mean eliminating my dumb ass seat, too! And I don’t think the smaller designers need to do a runway show.

Leandra: To the point where we’re back to reading what Tim Blanks has to say and building our opinion for Man Repeller on that?

Amelia: BUT I DO THINK that it all stays important. The shows stay important, the presentations stay important. You can’t get what we did get this season in terms of Rosie’s presentation and J.Crew’s presentation (the vibe, the emotions, the standing movement) from IG or Vogue.com.

Leandra: Yeah, you can’t really approximate heart warmth through an app. Yet at least.

Amelia: For me, making everything small is not about removing the democracy that has blanketed this industry. Or the New York arm of it at least. That’s here to stay. It is about removing the spectacle a bit. Toning down the craziness. Eliminating what has come to be called, so dramatically, “The Madness.” I don’t think we should be asking one another if we’re SURVIVING fashion week. And the toning down of it could help.

Leandra: Haha, someone asked me that yesterday and I was like, what are we? At war?

Amelia: Yeah! And to be fair, this season overall feels way more civilized: less shows, less fanfare, less runaround. More food.

Leandra: Even the street style and photographers don’t seem as abrasive. But I’m not sure if that’s just because I am really used to it.

Amelia: Can I say one more thing? It’s kind of my closing thought: When done right, a fashion show or presentation reminds you that fashion/clothes/design can change the way you see something. It can make you reconsider what you thought you knew — although I’m not sure I’ve felt that reconsideration in a long while — and gives off some magic.

For what it’s worth, that’s important. Maybe not wholly practical, but important.

Photograph by Victor Virgile via Getty Images.

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