New York Fashion Week was, in Internet time, years ago. But once the whirlwind of parties and our own personal FOMO has subsided, we at R29 were left thinking: When did this become such a crazy, sensationalist event? When did Fashion Week start to feel like Coachella?
Once upon a time, the general public had no idea what happened on a runway. Fashion shows were trade shows, after all. There was no reason for those outside of the industry, as it were, to see the garments pre-production.
Then, along came the Internet, the great democratizer. With the advent of Style.com in '00, it appeared that no one needed exclusive invites when what happened inside the tents was, captured, photographed from every angle, and instantly posted online. By 2009, Lee McQueen was beaming his entire spring '10 presentation directly into our homes. Amazing, right? So egalitarian and fashion for the people.
So, why is it that today, in the wake of all of that, NYFW feels more divided and exclusive than ever? More access, popular interest, and quickly updating sites should empower us, not force us to strain our necks to spot the garments on the runway. Why is the gap between the front row and "everyone else" growing into such a wide gulf?
Fashion has a history of following social and political trends, and, in a strange imitation of the current economic climate, the space between the "haves" and the "have-nots" is now bigger than ever. We don't mean, of course, those with literal affluence or the impoverished, but the individuals who fashion welcomes and panders to...and, erm, everyone else. It is, following the economic metaphor, like fashion has lost its middle class. People's Revolution PR President/Partner Emily Bungert points to a distinctive change: "The seating charts now are totally different, as a lot of the regional newspapers cut their fashion editors, so there is a decrease in regional reviewers, which have been replaced by multitudes of bloggers."
Fashion Week, at its core, is an industry event that, lately, seems to be missing the industry piece of the puzzle. Buyers, stylists, and editors once sat to watch shows without consideration of the row or seat they were given. Now, their seats have been filled by celebrities on a publicity blitz, B-list socialites dying to see and be seen, locals hoping to score a really rad Facebook update. You sit in the front row, or, well, you don't matter. You aren't on Tommy Ton, you won't tweet something as clever as the Fug Girls, and Daily Front Row isn't interested in your story. If you don't matter, you are just a part of the herd wrangled by an exhausted PR team when the lights begin to dim.
Yet this season, with the continued confusion about where to seat bloggers, the shows made it clear: Either you are there to make a spectacle, or you are there to bear witness to it — any middle ground ceased to exist. While the Victoria Beckham show is a notoriously tough ticket to come by, the belt was even tighter on her friend Katie Holmes' Holmes & Yang presentation. The designer reportedly didn't invite any online media, extending the guest list to a very meager few.
On the other hand, the absence of Milk Studios as a presentation space was notable — while the venue's Saturday night smorgasborg was a must-crash event, the general hang-out-with-a-free-drink vibe was seriously nipped in the bud this season. In fact, once jokingly referred to as Lincoln Center Jr., Milk Studios only hosted a handful of runway shows this season, instead of the plethora of presentations…which would often turn into impromptu parties. Perhaps Holmes was right to choose to lock down her show instead of having 600 onlookers and hungry street-style photographers rushing the doors on 15th Street. Amy Odell, formerly of The Cut and now editor of Buzzfeed's Shift (who recently penned a great piece on how social media is impacting fashion) points to the notoriously closed-off Tom Ford, saying, "While it personally frustrates me, I can kind of get where he is coming from, and why he wants to lock it down."
And then, there was the slap. When noted Italian publishing exec Marie-José Susskind-Jalou — along with her daughter and L'Officiel magazine editor, Jennifer Eymere — accidentally had their seats cut at Zac Posen, Eymere's frustration culminated in physical violence against a PR rep. The details are scant, but when a catfight erupts over a seating fracas, you know the seat-assignment-as-status-symbol situation has become dire.
A senior account executive at PR group that chose to remain anonymous explains: "There's an ever-growing sense of entitlement. Don't get me wrong, the evolution of the blog and plethora of social media channels is invaluable. But now there's a host of self-proclaimed 'style experts' who attribute everything they know to spending hours watching reruns of Project Runway, and cause a scene at the front door in some outlandish outfit (you know, for street-style pics, duh) demanding entry. At the end of the day, fashion is a business."
Photo: Dave M. Benett/Getty Images
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