The Results Are In: Here’s What the Future of New York Fashion Week Might Look Like

The president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Steven Kolb, called fashion week as we know it a “broken system.” In December, WWD reported that the CFDA hired Boston Consulting Group to conduct a seven-week-long study to “define the future of fashion shows.” Today, the results are in and the question remains: could these be the steps that fix it?

The full report can be found here, but it’s long. Below, a summary of the CFDA/BCG’s final paper before spring break:

1) There are three main problems, with a little bit of blame being put on the weather. (I’m considering that a personal victory.)

A. Early store deliveries aren’t lining up with what’s actually going on outside. (Oh cool! Suede! Oh crap. Sweat. Oh yay! Lace! Oh no. Snow.) 

– No one wants to buy what they can’t immediately wear out of the store. This means new stuff is going on sale faster — great for the savvy, season-ahead shopper who doesn’t worry about whether or not she’ll still want a fuzzy purple coat next year; bad for anyone trying to make money.

B. Nothing feels new and it’s kind of technology’s fault. Technology has opened up fashion shows to a wider audience who can (and will) watch the clothes in real time. That’s so nice. But…

– This means we get sick of trends and “it” items faster. They’ve been everywhere by the time the real things land in stores.. Think about those gold Gucci shoes…

– Fast fashion brands are faster than the original designers. This adds to the overexposure. It also feeds those who are so hungry for the item they just saw on the runway that they’ll choose Zara over the real thing.

C. Burnout “The confusion of the fashion cycle, coupled with the increased importance and complexity of pre-collections, leaves less time for the creative process and artisanship and puts immense pressure on critical design and creative talent.”

– The designers want more downtime to think, breathe and you know, actually design.

2) One proposed solution was ‘in-season relevancy.’ AKA: What’s shown on the runway can be bought ASAP.

Designers who tried it during the February showing of Fall/Winter 2016: Rebecca Minkoff, Tom Ford, Burberry.

Designers who sort-of-tried it: Michael Kors, Proenza Schouler, Lela Rose, Theory and Tory Burch, all of whom “featured a selection of clothes immediately available for sale.”

This off-the-runway-and-into-your-shopping-cart* model won’t work for everyone, so the CFDA is encouraging designers to do what’s best for their brands.

*Not the official name, in case you were wondering.

3. So let’s say everyone got on board. How would this ‘In-season relevancy’ thing work? Some proposed ideas:

 A. “More intimate retail / press appointments or presentations 4-6 months before deliveries, with an option to then have in-season activations when collections are delivered to stores and available online for sale.”

– This would allow buyers to place their orders and offer long-lead press enough time to plan content without putting pressure on the manufacturers.

– If you’re wondering, “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SHOW?!” Of the press and buyers interviewed, no one needs the confetti and hoopla.

– Something to consider: there would have to be some sort of control over/embargo on the images and information. No one seemed too worried about this though. The CFDA feels confident the industry will cooperate as it benefits everyone involved. Say goodbye to that oversaturated Instagram feed…

B. “Consider creating bi-annual, in-season consumer-relevant activations during or after New York Fashion Week around the main and pre-collections to be delivered to stores immediately and for the next several months.”

– This will be totally optional.

– It may not mean a traditional show. If it does, the show doesn’t have to feature buy-now looks.

– Those words “consumer-relevant” are open for interpretation. “Examples could range from digital campaigns to small parties / events, to short films, to large-scale, high-production entertainment shows.” It also doesn’t mean consumers will be guests at these events. (Consumers: there in spirit!)

– Timing and location may become less rigid, too. Designers don’t necessarily have to show “in their city” nor during traditional fashion weeks. Hedi Slimane is like, “Way ahead of you guys.”

C. The Hybrid

– Designers would show in the traditional season-ahead format, but a capsule collection reflecting the clothes on the runway would be available for purchase in real-time. Apparently, this proposed method was preferred by many of the luxury brands surveyed.

4. So that’s the fashion week stuff. Next up on the docket: in-store delivery dates. 

“The majority of people interviewed highlighted the need to rethink the delivery cadence to better match the actual, physical season and boost full-price selling. To achieve the goal, retailers and brands need to engage in a targeted dialogue.”

AKA, they’re working on it.

Questions, comments, concerns, ideas on what I should order for lunch? Add ’em below!

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.


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  • mollie blackwood

    Thanks for the breakdown. I think option A would be good. They could have private showings or appointments before season. THEN have the traditional runway shows in season where everything is available for purchase. I don’t know if that would work but it feels good in my mind.

    • ReadER451

      I agree, feels good. That is what they do for the H&M collections.

  • Laura

    “a summery”

  • Yvonne Dunlevie

    I think you should get Organic Grill for lunch

  • Well done! I think this is a great conversation to have after your recent one about the evolution of street style! I’m glad to see the industry is aware of the problem, and doing what it can to try to adapt.

    I wouldn’t be upset if people were no longer allowed to use phones during shows. For one, I don’t like when my Instagram feed is flooded with crappy, often obnoxiously loud video of shows when I’d much rather read about it later (or watch it later in full). We get it, you were there…but I can see where sending out these images before the show is even over can hurt a brand and their sense of creative ownership.

    Oh, and man wouldn’t it be so much more fun if NYFW was in, like, May? I feel so bad for all the people who are schlepping from place to place in 1 degree weather (not to mention it kind of kills the glamour element). 😉

  • This is the best breakdown I’ve read so far. Thank you! (I mean that sincerely!)

  • I’m not a really a consumer of current/next season runway fashion, as my budget is more along the lines of “The Real Real Sale Section, Sort by Price Low->High,” but I would definitely appreciate viewing shows that actually have something to do with the weather I am experiencing. I understand from a practical/business perspective why things are so off season-wise, but it’s always bothered me.

  • Dani Heifetz

    I think the problem with option A is that it is ignoring the fact that one of the main purposes of fashion week nowadays is to give brands more exposure- they want your Instagram feed to be oversaturated with photos of their show. Also, fashion is slow to change, so I don’t think the traditional runway format will go away completely, but it needs to change to be more relevant. Thanks for the breakdown!

  • aspiringsocialite

    I completely agree with this. I also feel that the economic downturn has made fashion shows and high fashion in general less relevant. It used to be that the people who were considered the most stylish were wearing the most expensive fashions and now it’s people who style less expensive brands well that are considered the most fashionable.


  • Aizeboje Isabemon Monday
  • It’s definitely a perplexing multi-functional issue and any immediate changes seem unlikely. I think alternate show times and locations like Saint Laurent and Tom Ford (before Hedi in LA and then the video presentation with Gaga) are great, but there’s no denying that the fashion weeks are convenient because it’s lumped together (albeit it chaotic). Do you think retailers and press would be willing to fly all over the world for a million different shows? Not likely.

    xoxo – Kelly

  • Ellie Goodman

    Really great breakdown!
    I think, while the fashion system does need some fixing, this might not be the way to go about it. Eugene Rabkin’s op-ed analysed the issues well, voiced some incredibly sound opinions and offered some ideas that might actually work!